Prime Your Fire Pump: Chicago vs. Houston Dynamo #3

Each team has 24 games played, 10 wins. Is a draw the most likely outcome?

Each team has 24 games played, 10 wins. Is a draw the most likely outcome? (USA TODAY Sports Images/chicago-fire.com)

OTF’s Jon Denham and Dynamo Theory’s Stephen Eastepp bring you the third and biggest matchup of the season between the Men in Orange and the Men in Red…

Are the Chicago Fire, on the field, broken? Do they therefore need to be fixed?  If you’re in the camp that says yes, then you probably don’t want to hear that they are 8-2-1 at Toyota Park since the calendar turned to April. You are probably also quick to recall a lineup without Cacha Rios, Mike Magee, Bakary Soumare, and Juan Luis Anangono.

Are the Houston Dynamo broken? Do they need to be fixed following their worst loss in team history at the hands of Montreal? They’ve followed their eight losses with these eight results – in order; W, W, L, D, D, W, W, and a TBD on Sunday.

Frank Klopas, Leo Percovich, and Soumare are all back from their one game timeouts in the corner following the Foxboro flop.

Since these teams fought to a 1-1 draw in steamy Houston, the Men in Red are 3-1 and the Dynamo are 2-2. The Fire are +1 in goal differential since then, with last week’s Jumper bump the difference. Houston are all over the map, literally and figuratively since then, scoring three goals in their two wins before taking one on the chin last week north of the border.

The fact remains that these teams are both on the outside of the playoffs looking in with two months to play.  If the Fire roster can continue to come together on the practice field and Sean Johnson keeps making big saves, then, editorials aside, there is plenty to look forward to as the calendar turns to September.

It might not be pretty on the eyes, but three points on Sunday will likely come from moving Tally Hall side to side on crosses and corner kicks. If the Dynamo squad with bite in the attacking third shows up, we’re in for another battle. If the Dyna-meh shows up, with a back line spinning in circles, then the Fire just might be above that playoff line on Monday morning.

How They Stand in the East

east

Chicago Fire SC are five points clear of eighth place Columbus and two points behind Sunday’s opponent – the “sixth place” Houston Dynamo. Houston is tied with “fifth place” New England with 36 points. Both teams are playing their 25th games of the season on Sunday at Toyota Park, and hold two games in hand on New York, Kansas City, and Philadelphia. Right now it is 10 wins apiece for the Union, Revs, Dynamo, and our beloved Fire. The Union’s eight draws have them in fourth.

New England is in Toronto on Friday night. Columbus (vs. Seattle), Philadelphia (vs. Montreal), New York (vs. D.C. United), and Sporting Kansas City (vs. Colorado) are all at home on Saturday. Depending on which Red Bulls and Kansas City teams show up, the Union (the Union!) could potentially be in first place come Saturday night if they can claim three points at home. I’m going to give that a second to sink in…

Houston continues their late-summer zig-zagging of the map with a game in Columbus next Wednesday.

Tactics, Lineup, & Injuries

Add me to the list of folks who hope Patrick Nyarko is in the starting lineup on Sunday. His concussion symptoms appear to be in the rear view mirror. When asked after Friday night’s game against Sporting KC how he felt, he mentioned emotions to chicago-fire.com, not physical ailments. He took a couple fouls and finished strong, mentioning his efforts to “calm the game down”. He completed seven of his nine passes in his 25 minutes.

This will be the Dynamo’s first look at big, bad, stay-away-from-my-goalkeeper Cacha Rios. He was clearly a speed bump in front of Hunter Jumper and Austin Berry as the Sporting KC possession moved into the attacking third. Alex seemed more than interested in connecting with him when the Fire had won the ball back.

Magee and Rolfe were paired together up top last time these two teams met. Keep them together and hopefully Chris doesn’t leave a big goal out there like he did late against KC. Magee garners a lot of attention pre-match and Tally Hall will likely be shouting at anyone who leaves his hip pocket. He’ll gladly find teammates quickly – and I suspect he’ll log another assist Sunday.

What do you want to do in the back? Leave hero Hunter Jumper alongside Austin Berry? Is Bakary Soumare back into his spot without discussion? I think this might best be discussed with Sean Johnson, Berry, and the coaching staff. Oddly, I think I’m OK with either.

Sean Johnson and Tally Hall are sporting identical 1.17 goals against averages. Johnson’s save late on Friday reminded Fire Nation just how important he is to the team’s overall success.

I don’t see any reason to abandon the 4-4-2 for the abmitious 4-2-3-1.

 

Chicago Fire 4-4-2 football formation

Projected bench: Tornaghi; Pause, Paladini, Anangono, Larentowicz, Lindpere, Amarikwa

OTF’s Jon Denham grew up about seven miles north of The Harlem End. He now lives in Dubuque, Iowa, and may be its only resident with the MLS Direct Kick package. Jon’s the Sports Information Director and goalkeepers’ coach at Loras College, and writes some other stuff at Inclusive Beechwood Aging.

Dynamo Theory with Stephen Eastepp

I’m typically not one to use the term “must win”, but this weekend’s game at Toyota Park is just that – for both teams. Sure, both Chicago and Houston have ten games left and that’s plenty of time to grab a playoff spot, but this game is more about confidence and character.

Both teams ended last week with opposite results – Chicago upset SKC and the Impact derailed the Dynamo. Will Chicago build on that confidence of an ever-important three points and be able to capitalize on a Dynamo team that limped out of Canada after their worst loss in franchise history? Or will Houston come out with a new attitude and make this a statement game?

With two points separating the clubs from playoff positioning, it will surely be a must-watch game.

Dynamo Diesel (photo: 5mtko.com)

Dynamo Diesel (photo: 5mtko.com)

Houston has to fix two essential issues to right the world and start that magical postseason run our fans are accustomed to – fix the ridiculous defensive errors and our forwards need to remember how to finish.

Chicago is going to be a hostile environment for the Dynamo (but I promise I mean good clean fun). Week after week, Houston has repeated last season’s poor road results and this is a game where they desperately need to reverse that trend. They managed to do that in the playoffs last year and they’ll have to dig deep to conquer Toyota Park again.

BIG. STATEMENT. GAME. Both clubs need it.  Who wants it more? We’ll see…

OTF’s compadre Stephen Eastepp is the managing editor of SB Nation’s Dynamo Theory. He also writes English-language coverage of Liga MX and is a devout Pumas supporter. Follow him @OrangeFanBlog

Chicago Fire vs Houston Dynamo
Sunday, September 1st at 2:00pm cst
Television: My50Chicago and UniMas
La radio en Español: La Ley 107.9 FM en Chicago

#cf97 Nation

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