Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. Montreal Impact #3

If the back line shouts “Marco?!,” will he answer “Di Vaio!” to let them know where he is?

OTF’s Jon Denham remains in Hunter Jumper’s corner while Sofiane Benzaza brings you le dossier a l’Impact…

Which way is Chicago Fire Soccer Club’s proverbial arrow pointing this week? Up? Down? Both? Neither?

The last streak of any kind put together by the Men in Red was two wins. Those were early August triumphs over Philadelphia and Montreal. Since then, the team has continued on a particularly bumpy seven-game stretch on the rollercoaster ride we like to call the 2013 regular season.

Montreal’s arrow certainly appears to be pointing down this week. They limp into Toyota Park, having slipped to third in the East with back-to-back MLS losses to Columbus and Vancouver. The home side has won the both matches in this series so far in 2013. The Impact scored twice on April 27th and the Fire scored twice (early) on August 10th.  

This is one of two remaining home games for Chicago. This is an opportunity to win a season series against an Eastern Conference playoff team. This is an opportunity to show that last Saturday was a fluke – a game turned sideways by one red card. It is also an opportunity to earn another home shutout with Hunter Jumper at center back.

Call me crazy, but I want Jumper to crack a joke in the pregame players-only huddle about the bald(ing) heads of Marco Di Vaio and Justin Mapp. Do something to ease the tension before kickoff. There should definitely be a noticeable urgency from the Fire to pursue the game’s first goal and put Montreal on their heels. I’d just prefer to see it implemented without the team collectively steering this rollercoaster off the tracks out of sheer panic.

The team still has not been shut out at home since the May 11 game against Philadelphia. If a Fire goal is a strong possibility, then we’ll be forced to wonder when it will come. Will it be early on like the last time the Impact was in town? Will it be to pull even like two of the strikes against New England were? Will it be just enough for a draw like the Houston heartbreaker? Or will it be just enough, as it was when Jumper’s bump gave the Men in Red a 1-0 win over Kansas City?

How They Stand in the East

Below the red line (image:

Below the red line

If the Men in Red are “standing” after last Saturday night’s gut-punch from Columbus, I hope they’re prepared to stay on their feet for a while. They simply can’t afford another knockdown over the next month as the MLS regular season comes to a close.

The 39 points Chicago Fire hold at this point put them back below the red playoff line. Philadelphia remains tied at that point total with the Fire, but trail by one win (tiebreaker). Columbus Crew now sits just one point behind Chicago and the Union.

NBC Sports Network has Sporting Kansas City hosting the Union on Friday night if you’re interested in scoreboard watching from your couch. Houston Dynamo and New England Revolution will kick off in Foxboro an hour before the Fire’s battle with the Impact on Saturday.

Columbus will be in Toyota Stadium on a busy MLS Sunday to play FC Dallas. 

Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries

Bakary Soumare will be in street clothes following his dismissal from last Saturday’s game in Columbus.

In last month’s win over the Impact at Toyota Park, the French Canadians held a 66% to 33% possession advantage with Marco Di Vaio and Felipe Martins coming off the bench in the second half. Let’s be honest, these stats below are a bit scary.



Montreal is also coming off a mid-week CONCACAF Champions League home victory. They rested goalkeeper Troy Perkins and Marco Di Vaio saw 33 minutes of action as a sub.

So what does all this mean for the Fire?

I say it translates to a chance to beef up the midfield.

I call the formation below a 4-4-Magee-1. 

The 4-4-Magee-1

The 4-4-Magee-1

The two most successful players on this team (by my own unofficial, unscientific measurement) are Cacha Rios and Mike Magee. I’d even posit that Jeff Larentowicz is third on that list. My suggestion at this point is to put them in the middle of the field and let them dictate play. With another three-pronged attack likely from Montreal, Larentowicz and Rios can offer support to Jumper and Berry. Magee has the freedom to go wherever he wants in my scenario. He can join the midfield duo as far back as he’d like and can roam forward to help Anangonó press Montreal’s back like as often as he’d like. Work your magic, Mike! 

Projected bench: 

Tornaghi; Videira, Pause; Paladini, Lindpere; Alex, Amarikwa

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the Sports Information Director and goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging.

The View from Mount Royal with Sofiane Benzaza

With back to back losses in MLS, the Montreal Impact travel to the Windy City to face the Chicago Fire. With zero points out of Toyota Park since joining the league in 2012, the Impact should enjoy the absence of Bakary Soumaré. The Central Defender is suspended for the game, hence making Marco Di Vaio’s job much easier.

This is where the good news stops for the Les Bleus, or almost. A big concern hovers over Montreal as it travels to Chicago without Felipe Martins. We pretty much know the Impact’s lineup by heart – especially since Hernan Bernardello’s ankle injury.

A member of French Canada's Blue Man Group? (photo:

A member of French Canada’s Blue Man Group? (photo:

With an expected 3-man-midfield, Marco Schallibaum will have high expectations and hopes towards Justin Mapp and Marco Di Vaio being as perfect and efficient as they can be. More importantly, if the Impact takes a lead, it also needs to score more than one goal to hope to get out with at least 1 point.

Playing away from Stade Saputo, Montreal will need to get back to some kind of defensive discipline and stop conceding so many goals. With newcomers Anangonó and Rios, Chicago has the tools to hurt Montreal. I didn’t even mention Duka and Nyarko, as both will make sure to use their speed to wreak havoc.

Montreal’s mission? Be disciplined, stay tight, and avoid the brain cramps.

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

Chicago Fire vs. Montreal Impact
Saturday, September 28th at 7:30pm cst at Toyota Park
Television: My50 Chicago
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

#cf97 Nation


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