Sounders FC vs. Chicago Fire
MLS Regular Season
Saturday, June 6; 5:30 pm PT; Toyota Park
TV/Radio: JOEtv (KZJO, channel 22/cable 10); KIRO Radio 97.3 FM; THIS-TV (KOMO2, Spanish); ESPN Deportes Radio, 1490 AM (Spanish)
After facing the Chicago Fire on Saturday, it will be three weeks before Sounders FC plays another MLS match. Finishing the first part of the schedule before that break on a positive note is important for Seattle as it tries to strengthen its hold on first place in the Supporters' Shield standings.
"We've been a good team on the road, so if we can get three points and get ourselves to 32 points, that would be nice," said Sounders FC Head Coach Sigi Schmid, who has led his side to a 3-1-2 road record this season. "But we want to end on a positive result so that we go into the break with that good feeling."
With a break on the horizon, many players have vacation plans and are rightly looking forward to some time off. However, the challenge of keeping them focused on Saturday's match before that break hits is not a concern for some of the veteran players on the team.
"It's the same it's been from week to week. We've been very good about looking at who we face in the next game," defender Zach Scott said. "The team has a lot of veterans and we understand that if we look ahead we'll find ourselves in a hole."
Seattle leads the league with a 9-3-2 record and has not been swayed by distractions thus far in the season.
For all of Sounders FC's success this season, it has also been dominant against Chicago, going unbeaten in nine prior meetings with the Fire at 6-0-3, including the 2011 U.S. Open Cup final, but this is a new Chicago team led by former San Jose Earthquakes Head Coach Frank Yallop. While the Fire has struggled in the early-going, it has also proven to be a tough beat at 2-3-8. That is due, in large part, to the club's defensive commitment.
"They're a team that makes it awful difficult to break them down because they often defend with a block of four and a block of five," Schmid said.
Both clubs are coming off of clean sheets, though a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake was the fourth shutout of the year for Seattle while Chicago's scoreless draw with Colorado on Wednesday was the first of the year for the Fire.
Seattle hopes to keep that defensive sturdiness, though it will not be easy against the East's highest-scoring team in the Fire. The trio of Mike Magee (4 goals, 2 assists), Quincy Amarikwa (5 goals, 1 assist) and rookie midfielder Harrison Shipp (3 goals, 4 assists) has made Chicago potent in the attack, although Magee has missed the last three matches with a calf strain.
To maintain that strong defense, Seattle will need to rely on more than just goalkeeper Stefan Frei and the back four, though.
"Anytime you get a shutout it's good for your team. We want to cut down on our goals against. We always want to play to zero and it's the 11 players on the field that defend," Schmid said. "We need to continue to do that."
After a thorough performance against Salt Lake last week, captain Brad Evans points to the match against Chicago as something of a proving ground to show that Sounders FC can put together those types of matches each week.
"We wanted to have that 90-minute complete game. Now it's just a test if we can keep it going," he said. "These moments are key. They're looking for results at home and they're going to be hungry."
Kickoff for Saturday's match is scheduled for 5:30 pm PT from Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois.