Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. L’Impact de Montreal #2

Let la bataille commence! (image: http://static.guim.co.uk/)

Que la bataille commence! (image: static.guim.co.uk/)

OTF’s Scott Fenwick and L’Impact spécialiste Sofiane Benazza have a look at round two of a pivotal Eastern Conference matchup…

Both the Fire and L’Impact need a win this weekend. While Chicago’s trying desperately to rise, Montreal’s looking to stop its fall. What is more, both squads are gassed, as this Saturday’s game will mark the third in seven days for each.

After rising to the occasion to earn a needed road win at Philadelphia last Saturday, the Fire fell flat in front of its home crowd last Wednesday with an ignominious exit from U.S. Open Cup tournament play. Montreal also felt the wrath of DC United (don’t blink, keep reading) last weekend, going down 3-1 at RFK, but L’Impact redeemed itself with a 1-0 win over San Jose at Stade Saputo in Concacaf Champions League group play mid-week.

For Fire Nation, it now seems silly to dwell on perhaps one of the most disappointing losses in club history, a humiliating 2-0 loss to the Dirty Birds from DC. Because after all, a new, high-profile Designated Player should be the tonic to cure what ails us, right?

Indeed, After a couple weeks of speculation, the Tweetosphere blew up on Thursday after the rumors came true: Egidio Raúl Arévalo “Cacha” Rios, formerly of Palermo (Italy), and a man who went the full 90 in all seven of Uruguay’s matches in the 2010 World Cup (fourth place), is the newest member of Chicago Fire.

From all I’ve heard from those in the know, Rios is a quality player and an excellent pickup. The guy has skills, and is a friggin’ bull. 

Have a look for yourself…

Historically, Rios is a defensive midfielder. However, according to Frank Klopas, the Fire’s new loanee (from Palermo, through 2013 with a 2014 option) will be used as a box-to-box man, which doesn’t bode well for Alex. If the gaffer sticks with the double-pivot 4-4-2, expect to see Rios paired with Jeff Larentowicz.

It seems to me that Alex’s only chance to remain in the starting lineup would be for Klopas to go back to his trusty 4-2-3-1, bench Chris Rolfe, and slot the young Brazilian underneath the lone striker (Anangono). Knowing Frank Klopas though, I doubt this will happen. But whatever the formation, it seems the Fire will look to Rios to fill the void left by El Generalissimo, Pavel Pardo.

Muy fuerte (photo: @ChicagoFire)

Muy fuerte. (photo: @ChicagoFire)

Here’s the rub though: Rios can’t play until the Fire frees up or secures an additional international roster spot. Currently, three viable options exist to get this done:

  1. The Fire sells or loans Sherjill MacDonald before the September 13th roster freeze deadline
  2. The Fire makes a trade of some sort to secure an additional international roster spot from another MLS club
  3. Paolo Tornaghi gets his green card

How long we’ll have to wait until one of the above happens is anybody’s guess. Until then, Chicago must fight for its playoff life without Rios, a man who has excelled at the highest levels of international football; a man who is now, arguably, the Fire’s best player.

How They Stand in the East

table

With a win on Saturday night versus Montreal, combined with a New England loss or draw at Kansas City, the Fire can take sole possession of sixth place and travel with a game in hand to Foxboro next weekend when they face the Revs in yet another pivotal Eastern Conference matchup.

Other teams within Chicago’s reach are Houston (at Salt Lake) and Philadelphia (vs. DC United). Encouragingly, the Fire still holds two games in hand on the Union, which demonstrates just how big last Saturday’s win for the Men in Red was.

Conference leaders New York head to Crew stadium this weekend. 

Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries

After suffering a blow to the head on Wednesday night, Patrick Nyarko is out due to concussion symptoms. Considering Montreal’s weakness, this hurts the Fire’s chances. Add to that a banged up Mike Magee & Chris Rolfe (minor knocks, day-to-day), and signs point to a modified starting XI. 

At the same time though, OTF friend Jeff Krause reported that Rolfe practiced with the first squad Friday, so he may get the start after all. Magee was inside however, so he’s more of a question mark. Whatever the case, we’ll likely see some platooning at the forward position, with J.L. Anangonó and Quincy Amarikwa seeing minutes.

Expect Joel Lindpere to get the start at left mid, with Dilly Duka on the right. Finally, with Saturday’s being the Fire’s third game in a week, I expect Daniel Paladini to see some action at center mid.

For a positional breakdown of the Fire’s opponent, as well as a tactical plan for victory, have a click below…

READ: Know Your Enemy – L’Impact de Montreal

La vue depuis le Mont-Royal avec Sofiane Benazza

What is new with the Impact? The club needs to get back to winning in MLS and start stringing together wins. The Eastern Conference is very tight as expected, and the Impact have invested in two young players (26-27 year olds) for the immediate future and the long-term vision of the club.

Montreal has endured a couple of winless streaks since the month of June. With only two MLS wins in its last nine games, getting a win against the San Jose Earthquakes gave the club a needed boost. Unfortunately, it did not count towards the MLS standings, as it was part of CONCACAF Champions League group stage play.

The other good news in Montreal is Hernan Bernardello played all 90 minutes against the Quakes. L’Impact’s new Argentinean Designated Player was the “hero’’ of the game, as he had the assist on Hassoun Camara’s goal. Bernardello displayed the technique, vision, and defensive awareness that Sporting Director Nick De Santis saw when he scouted him in Argentina.

Tous Pour Gagner (photo: impactmontreal.com)

Tous Pour Gagner (photo: impactmontreal.com)

Bernadello’s impact on Montreal’s overall play should be significant, no pun intended. He will be the launching ramp for the team, linking up the midfield and the defense. One would say that Patrice Bernier was already doing that, but the MLS All-Star should be repositioned higher up the pitch to provide more precise passing in the final third. Both Bernadello and Bernier should link up very nicely with the latter quite capable of playing deeper when needed.

Defensively, the Impact midfield needed the arrival of Bernardello, but so do the back four of Les Bleus. Another new comer, Adrian Lopez, will provide more options to central defense with Alessandro Nesta needing some rest during the MLS schedule in August and September.

Keeping more of the ball and being more efficient is key for Montreal, a team looking to produce a highly technical game. Davy Arnaud is the odd man out in the center midfield, though he might be used on the flanks when injuries occur and during squad rotations.

Sofiane Benzaza is Founder/Editor of Mount Royal Soccer and Co-host of Soccer Sans Frontières. Follow Sofiane @sofiane_benzaza

Thanks Sofiane. You’re a top man.

Finally, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the Chicago Fire Foundation’s White Party on Thursday night. Unfortunately, I couldn’t attend. But, the good news is that there are many opportunities and ways for you to give to their worthy cause each year. If you’d like to learn more about the foundation, or perhaps donate, check out OTF’s Chicago Fire Foundation sidebar widget and click through.

Looks like it was one hell of a party...

Looks like it was one hell of a party…

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
Saturday, August 10th at 7:30pm cst
Local TV broadcast on Chicago’s My50
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

Tickets still available here

#cf97 Nation

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