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Sounders hope to maintain mastery of Fire

The Sounders are unbeaten in seven matches against Chicago all-time, including a win in last year's Open Cup final.

Since the Sounders FC joined Major League Soccer in 2009, they have dominated their matchup with the Chicago Fire to the tune of an unbeaten 3-0-3 record in MLS play.  Seattle even had one of the club’s signature moments against the Fire – a 2-0 victory to win the 2011 US Open Cup title.

After a pair of draws in 2009, Seattle won both meetings in 2010 on goals in the waning moments of the matches by Fredy Montero in a 2-1 win in Seattle and Blaise Nkufo in a 1-0 win at Toyota Park.  The Sounders added another victory at CenturyLink Field last year before a scoreless draw on the road.  The pinnacle meeting came in Seattle last October when the Sounders ousted the Fire 2-0 to claim their third straight US Open Cup title.

They will look to continue that run of success on Saturday when they meet the Fire at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois, in their only matchup of the season.

It also pits two well-rested teams who have both had success through their first five matches of 2012.  While Seattle is 3-1-1 and Chicago is 2-1-2, they both sit in the middle of their respective conferences after playing two and three fewer matches than the division leaders.

That’s about to change, though, as both teams will pick up the pace to their schedule in the month of May.  That means five games in the next 15 days for the Sounders and getting off to a hot start in the first match in that stretch is important.

“You always want to get off to a good start when you’re going to play a stretch of games,” Sounders FC head coach Sigi Schmid said.  “We know this is a tough place to play and that teams that come in here are going to have a difficult time.  So if we can get away with points here, we’re going to be very happy.”

The Fire are led by the lightning-quick forward tandem of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko.  The two Ghanaian speedsters have played well off of each other ever since Oduro came to Chicago in an early-season trade with the Houston Dynamo last year.

Never was that speed more evident than last week when Nyarko forced Toronto FC into a turnover and Oduro stuck it in the back of the net just 25 seconds into the Fire’s 3-2 road win last Saturday.

It marked the 15th goal in 38 matches in a Fire uniform for Oduro, while Nyarko has ten assists in 35 games since pairing with Oduro.

“We have to be honest with them,” Schmid said.  “Those are dangerous guys that we have to make sure to keep an eye on.  The best way to cut them down is to cut off the service.”

Much of that service comes from Argentine midfielder Sebastian Grazzini (5 G, 4 A in 11 games in 2011) and he is joined in the midfield by Mexican Pavel Pardo (1 G, 5 A in 13 games in 2011), Guatemalan Marco Pappa (8 G, 2 A in 29 games in 2011) and the captain holding down the defensive midfield role, American Logan Pause.

In addition, the Fire may also feature newly acquired forward Chris Rolfe, who played five seasons with Chicago from 2005-2009, highlighted by a 9-goal, 8-assist campaign in 2008.  He returns to MLS after two and a half seasons with Aalborg in Denmark.

“It’s going to be a tough game,” Seattle midfielder Osvaldo Alonso said.  “Chicago is a tough team and they’re going to be looking to beat us.”

Kickoff is slated for 5:30 pm Pacific with television coverage live on KONG 6/16 and the radio broadcast on 97.3 KIRO FM.