FC Dallas looks to close out August with another win as they travel north to battle their Brimstone Cup rivals, the Chicago Fire.
Frank Yallop’s team is currently tied with Montreal for the fewest wins this season (four) while they lead MLS with the most draws (14). Two of their four wins have come in the last ten matches.
Chicago is coming off their latest draw last weekend, a 2-2 decision against Toronto FC. Newly acquired forward Robert Earnshaw scored in his first game back in MLS against his former side while forward Quincy Amarikwa scored the game-tying goal.
The Fire have had some recent success against FC Dallas however, as they have won the last two meetings in the series. Before those last two wins, FC Dallas had controlled the season series with the Fire, winning the Brimstone Cup 10 years in a row between 2002 and 2011.
Chicago has been fairly lucky with the injury bug as of late with only one player listed on the most recent injury report.
Forward Mike Magee was a late scratch to last weekend’s draw with Toronto with a calf injury and this week he is listed as questionable with right hip tendinitis.
Fabian Castillo vs. Lovel Palmer– The key for FC Dallas continues to be going wide with Castillo and letting him run at players in open space. Palmer is an athletic defender that could give Castillo fits in this one. But given how Castillo has done in the open field, the Fire may not have a defender that can currently keep up with him.
Matt Hedges vs Quincy Amarikwa - Should Magee not be fit to go again this weekend for the Fire, the offense will run through Amarikwa, who is tied with Magee with the most goals on the Fire’s roster this season with seven. Amarikwa is a scrappy forward that has improved a lot this season. Hedges will want to keep him away from being able to poach goals like he has this year.
Key Player for Chicago
Jeff Larentowicz - Magee and Amarikwa will get a lot of praise for the goals that they score but the success of this team still falls on the shoulders of “Big Red.” Larentowicz is the one guy that holds up the defensive side of the ball for the Fire. If he has an off day, so will the rest of the defense.
Yallop has largely stuck it out with a 4-4-2 this season, similar to what he used as the manager of San Jose with one striker sitting just above the other.
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson; RB: Lovel Palmer; CB: Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare; LB: Gonzalo Segares; RM: Sanna Nyassi; CM: Matt Watson, Razvan Cocis; LM: Alex; FW: Harrison Shipp, Quincy Amarikwa
Keys to three points
While the Fire’s 4-6-14 record doesn’t appear to be anything special, the fact that they have drawn so many games lets you know that this is a team that doesn’t give up easy in matches.
FC Dallas will want to play things simple with Michel and Blas Perez suspended for this game. As long as they can find ways to get the attack to go through Castillo, Tesho Akindele and Andres Escobar, they still have a good shot at getting points out of this game.
The Fire do not have the speed on the outside to stay with Castillo and Escobar, which should allow space up front for Akindele to spread them out even further. Chicago gives up a lot of goals off crosses and in the open play which should play into FC Dallas’ style.
Defensively, FC Dallas will want to remain compact and not allow the Fire to break free in the penalty box. Keeping a strong line in the back will go a long way in keeping the Fire off the board in this one.