The 2013 edition of the Brimstone Cup is finally here. FC Dallas will host their long-time rivals, the Chicago Fire on Saturday evening at Toyota Stadium.
Chicago won the only meeting between the two clubs a year ago, 2-1. The win was the first time since 2001 that the Fire won the Brimstone Cup.
Dallas last beat the Fire back in October of 2011 and has lost just once at home to Chicago since 1999.
Frank Klopas’ team is still in the playoff hunt in the Eastern Conference, currently sitting two points out of the fifth and final spot. The 12-12-7 Fire are coming off a 3-0 win last weekend over D.C. United. Chicago got goals from Jeff Larentowicz, Bakary Soumare and Quincy Amarikawa in the win.
While FC Dallas will be without Je-Vaughn Watson and Blas Perez this weekend, the Fire will also have some key players missing from their attack. Joel Lindpere (Estonia) and Arevalo Rios (Uruguay) have been called up for World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
The Fire had plenty of injuries to deal with this season but lately they’re only down to one player on the shelf, with Brendan King out with a hamstring strain.
WATCH: Chicago-Fire.com previews Saturday's match
Kenny Cooper vs Bakary Soumare – Cooper finally broke his scoreless streak last weekend in Salt Lake and will immediately be thrown into the mix in this game with Perez out on national team duty. Soumare is a physical defender that will put a body on Cooper from the early going in this game.
Jeff Larentowicz vs Mauro Diaz – Should Schellas Hyndman elect to go with Diaz in his starting lineup again for the third straight week over David Ferreira, he’ll have to go up against one of the most underrated defensive midfielders in MLS. Larentowicz is a player that does well at controlling the middle of the field and is also a constant threat in the offensive end of the field due to his long-range shot abilities.
Key Player for Chicago
Mike Magee – Ever since coming over from Los Angeles earlier this season, the Fire have turned their season around. Magee’s 12 goals in 19 appearances for the Fire (18 goals total), is second in the league’s Golden Boot race.
Klopas typically uses a flat 4-4-2 midfield. The big question will be whether or not he makes any big changes following the Open Cup final.
Goalkeeper: Sean Johnson; RB: Jalil Anibaba, CB: Austin Berry, Bakary Soumare, LB: Gonzalo Segares; RM: Patrick Nyarko; CM: Jeff Larentowicz, Logan Pause; LM: Chris Rolfe; FW: Mike Magee, Jean Luis Anangono
Keys to three points
Crunch time may not even be the appropriate term to describe this weekend’s game for Dallas. It is a win or go home type of game in the sense that anything less than three points will eliminate them from playoff contention.
Chicago is a team that has been up and down this season. Offensively, they are very good with Magee up front. They’ve scored nine goals in their last five games thanks to their ability to move the ball on the wings to create open chances in the penalty box for their forwards.
Dallas will need to limit the possession on the wings for the Fire. Taking away their attack from the wings will limit what they are able to do going forward.
On the flipside, Dallas needs to maintain the pressure up front as the Fire have been prone to give up some easy goals this season when under pressure. While their offense has done well in the last five games, their defense has also given up eight goals.
Dallas will also want to make the most of their set piece chances as well. The Fire have given up seven goals from set pieces this season.
The desperate nature of this game for Dallas will show the true character of this team too. For Dallas fans, they can only hope the team continues to fight until the very end.