The Sounders will face a stiff test from the Fire at CenturyLink Field on Saturday night. Here's the match-ups to focus on.
Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire
September 7, 2013, 7 pm PT; CenturyLink Field
TV/Radio: NBC Sports; 97.3 FM; La Gran D 99.3 FM (Spanish)
Sounders FC has dominated the Chicago Fire since the first meeting back in 2009, going 4-0-3 in MLS play while adding in a victory in the 2011 US Open Cup final for good measure.
However, the 2013 edition of the Fire is a much different team than the one Seattle beat 2-1 at Toyota Park last season. Here are three matchups with the new-look Fire that will be important in their only meeting of the season.
Jeff Larentowicz vs. Osvaldo Alonso
In the absences of Joel Lindpere and Arevalo Rios while they are away on international duty, Larentowicz will take over the primary responsibility of distribution in the middle of the park for Chicago. The nine-year MLS veteran has been called into U.S. National Team camps, but has not broken through to become a regular. This season he is second behind Lindpere on the Fire with four assists. He will meet Alonso, who has been a destructive force for opposing midfielders looking to get their teammates involved.
Lamar Neagle vs. Bakary Soumare
Neagle has been a consistent scoring threat when he plays forward for Sounders FC. In 12 starts in the forward role for Seattle this year, he has six goals and two assists, including the game-winning score on Wednesday against Chivas USA. In fact, four of his six goals have been game-winners, one shy of the league lead. Soumare, like Seattle’s Djimi Traore, plays internationally for Mali. Known for his speed in the center back role, Soumare was an MLS Best XI defender in 2008 in his first stint with the Fire. Midway through the 2009 season, he left MLS for US Boulogne in France, where he played in Ligue 1 and Ligue 2, but returned to MLS after the club was relegated following the 2011-2012 season.
Mike Magee vs. Seattle center backs
With the Los Angeles Galaxy, Magee played interchangeably in the midfield and as a forward. He is doing the same in Chicago, but is now positioned much closer to goal. With Chris Rolfe, who is similar in his ability to swap positions and transition from distributor to scorer on the fly, Magee buzzes around the opposing defenses. He scores opportunistic goals and has racked up 14 this season – eight of which have come in 13 matches with the Fire. Seattle has used all four center backs in the last two matches, so who Head Coach Sigi Schmid starts in that role will likely depend on who he thinks can best contain Magee and keep Seattle’s 286-minute shutout streak alive.