Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago Fire vs. Sporting Kansas City

Mike Magee will try and lead the team to consecutive wins on Sunday. (chicago-fire.com)

Mike Magee will try to lead the Fire to consecutive wins this Sunday. (Photo: chicago-fire.com)

OTF’s Jon Denham thinks it will be a bumpy (but successful) ride on Sunday at Toyota Park, while Down the Byline’s Mike Kuhn tells us of a crippled Sporting Club…

The first paragraph of last week’s Prime Your Fire Pump ended with, “Hell, the Fire may even bring home three points if they can slow down the charging Red Bulls.” Turns out, it was more outrunning them than it was slowing them down. Just like that — five goals, three points, Frank Yallop’s first win, and the team no longer resides at the bottom of the table. 

Is Brian McBride the Fire Whisperer? Did Frank Yallop finally raise his voice during a halftime speech? Or maybe it was simply the sorta-offside Mike Magee and a Patrick Nyarko cross-shot that kept the Fire from another loss? Regardless, it is time to turn our attention to the team leading the Eastern Conference, the defending MLS Cup Champions, the team with nearly twice as many points Chicago.

In doing so, our friend Mike Kuhn tells us below that Sporting Kansas City will be without a number of key players, and will likely be forced to field a makeshift back line. Plus, they just lost to the Union at home a few days ago.

Grant Ward is stateside according to the team's Twitter account...

According to the Fire’s Twitter account, young Grant Ward is stateside…

The anticipation of the pre-World Cup training camp in California, a fresh three points, and a Wizards Sporting KC roster at far less than full power sounds fun. But we know better, don’t we? If I told you before last weekend the Fire would net five in New York, well…

Lineup & Tactics

Chicago Fire scored five goals last week in many ways: controversial, header, and high pressure, to name a few. Now, the Men In Red have to back it up with a home performance against the league’s reigning champions. Frank Yallop is likely to keep his front six intact. With Bakary Soumare’s now two-week long headache [insert joke here] the back line that gave up four last week should stay.

Let the big dogs eat against the depleted KC back line

Let the big dogs eat against a depleted KC back line

The Fire’s lineup now boasts two legitimate goalscoring threats at the forward positions in Amarikwa and Magee. They’re just the right amount of scary, and difficult to game plan against. The midfield could still benefit from an increased willingness to knock the ball around. If the forward tandem is stretching the field north to south, the Fire should use the additional space to impose its will on the game. 

Benji Joya can and should dictate the pace of the attack going forward. Wide players or outside backs should only do so based on cues from the central players. Joya (and Larentowicz at times) get the keys to the car. If Benji’s good enough to be in there, he’s good enough to direct traffic. His is not a position for a passive or under-skilled player. If he’s in the starting XI, Yallop can’t expect him to be perform like a remote control car pushed around by the staff or veteran players for 90 minutes. There’s too much at stake in there. I think #BenjiTime is a real possibility on Sunday. 

Along the back line, Yallop should do whatever he wants at this point. Let Sean Johnson pick names out of a hat if there’s six healthy players who can be in there. It’s a crap shoot. I believe Palmer and Hurtado stay on the right side. Patrick Ianni will get another shot in there too. Gonzalo Segares can’t possibly be ready to play 90 minutes against a 4-3-3, so I suppose trotting Cochrane back out there and sending Segares in off the bench is probably the best way to go.

And is it possible to say less about Grant Ward than the team has said this week? One tweet? He’s better than that.

My bench: Reynish; Segares, Jumper; Pause, Duka, Pineda; Anangonó

Prediction to argue about in the comments section below…

Chicago Fire (2), Sporting Kansas City (1)

In the end, its midweek stumble and thin roster are too much to overcome for Sporting. Three more points for the Fire, and back-to-back wins.

I had Harry Shipp with one goal last week and he turned in three. I’ll mark him down for two assists this week – one to Magee and one to Joya. I’m not sure how the artists formerly known as the Wizards crack the scoring column — I just know I’m not expecting a shutout. That Dom Dwyer guy seems pretty good, so let’s go with him.

My 2014 record = 2-7

Down the SKC Byline with Mike Kuhn

Sporting heads to Chicago this weekend with a couple of problems that need to be addressed quickly. KC looked disinterested Wednesday night against Philadelphia Union and were out played. Philly deserved the three points they took from Sporting Park — a feat most visitors aren’t able to accomplish.

Peter Vermes and players were all very critical of their collective performance against the Union. Though on the bright side for Sporting, this means they know they played poorly and are not sugar-coating it, which should help them refocus for Sunday.

(photo: zimbio.com)

(photo: zimbio.com)

The bigger issue, however, is injuries and call-ups. KC lost Aurelien Collin Wednesday night to a hamstring injury he says will keep him out a few weeks. Combine that with the long term injury to Ike Opara, and Matt Belser’s departure to join USMNT, and KC is down to just two healthy center backs: Lawrence Olum, who’s normally more of a defensive midfielder, and 17 year-old Erik Palmer-Brown. And while Olum’s fit, he’ll be out on national team duty with Kenya. All told, Vermes will be forced to field a back line that won’t fill KC fans with confidence, nor strike fear in a Chicago Fire team that scored five last weekend.

Instead of throwing the young Palmer-Brown to the wolves, I think Sporting will go with an emergency setup: Chance Myers and Oriol Rosell slotting in at center back. So, the Sporting team that takes the field Sunday is likely to be far from its best, and a team that’s taken a bit of a confidence hit to boot.

OTF friend and guest contributor Mike Kuhn is the man behind all things Sporting KC at downthebyline.com Follow Mike on Twitter @downthebyline

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 goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, your go-to guy for t-shirts and promotional products at Envision Sports Designs, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging. Follow Jon @Denham_Jon

Chicago Fire at New York Red Bulls
Saturday, May 10, 6:00 pm cst at Red Bull Arena
Television: My50 Chicago, TWCSC Wisconsin
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

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