So if you look at the Fire so far this year it is a very average team, they are 3-2-2 with 9 goals scored, and 9 goals allowed, even at home they are just 1-1-1 with 3 goals scored and 3 goals allowed. For RSL their 7-3-1 record with 18 goals scored and 12 goals allowed is a solid start to the season, on the road RSL have a 2-2-1 record with 8 goals scored and 8 goals allowed. It is important that the road is always a tough place in MLS, and for RSL the team has never won more than 5 matches on the road since joining the league in 2005. The Fire have struggled the last few year, in fact last year was the first time since 2009 that the team won more matches at home than they did on the road, but they have failed to win more than 6 home matches each of the last 3 seasons. So if one simply looks at the current state of the two sides you can believe that RSL should be able to get a result on Wednesday.
Whatever was done or said to Kyle Beckerman on September 28th of last year by Daniel Paladini that caused Kyle to head butt him, is in the past but you have to believe the impact of those 11 minutes last fall will probably serve as a motivation for a number of RSL players on Wednesday. Then end of that day saw RSL end up on the wrong end of a 3-0 scoreline at home, a place that RSL simply doesn't accept losses without consequences. Can RSL despite being a bit short handed find a way to get another big win on the road, and force the hands of Seattle and San Jose as the teams battle for the top spot in the Western Conference.
The Fire find themselves sitting in 4th place in the East, and with just 7 matches played so far this year they have matches in hand on every team except the Houston Dynamo, so a result on Wednesday would help them secure a hold on one of the playoff spots in the Eastern Conference, something they have as a goal of the 2012 season.
After the jump my Key Match Up, Wildcards, and more
Key Match Up:
Dominic Orduro vs Jamison Olave
It isn't often when you get two of the best pure athletes in a league matching up, beyond just speed which both of these guys has in droves, you have two guys who are in great shape and have a very solid skill set on and off the ball. Both are dangerous players, Orduro has scored 3 goals against RSL in 665 minutes of action, Olave actually one of just two current RSL players to have scored against the Fire, he has 1 goal in 630 minutes. Both players are over 6 feet tall and both are surprising agile in the air.
Orduro has been the top offensive player for the Chicago Fire at this point of the season with 3 goals and 1 assist and we saw against Toronto a couple weeks ago that he can strike very quickly as he scored a goal just 25 seconds into the match, which Chicago held on to win 3-2. Olave hasn't found the back of the net yet this year, but he is always a very dangerous target on set pieces and occasionally when he gets the ball at his feet when he is pushed up into an attacking position.
One this is going to be clear these two will likely know each other much better after battling for 90 minutes at Toyota Park than either of them would like. It should be a fun match up for fans to keep an eye on.
Marco Pappa - I firmly stand in the camp that for the Fire to be the best they can be, they need Marco Pappa to be the best he can be. Last year he found the back of the net 8 times and added 2 assists, 3 of those goals came against Real Salt Lake in the September match between the two sides. So far this year Pappa has played both in the midfield and as a second striker, the results are 2 goals and 1 assist in 479 minutes of action. Overall he has 22 goals in 97 matches for the Fire, he also has 12 assists to add to that total. If Marco Pappa is on, he is a match changer, keep your eyes on him.
Jonny Steele -One has to wonder what might have been if Jonny Steele had accepted the first offer that RSL made to him back in 2009? Yet I think the strange, long journey is part of what makes Jonny such an interesting character, he has played all over North America and at 26 has earned the label of a journeyman. I think after seeing his abilities in Portland and against Toronto a couple weeks ago, many RSL fans are hoping his journey are over and that he has found the home that he deserves in MLS. Jonny has quickly become a fan favorite, not only for his stoppage time game winning goals, but for his scrappy nature on the pitch and for his happy go lucky personality off the pitch. I love following him on twitter @jonnysteele22 where he provides fans with a great look at the life of a MLS player who is enjoying every moment of it. No matter if he starts or comes off the bench, when number 22 is on the pitch you need to pay attention because he can do some very special things.
Jair Marrufo - Wow it is kinda sad that when I see Jair is going to be in charge of a RSL match I actually consider it a good thing. Yes MLS officiating has become that bad, and while Jair is not always the best official we know that with 131 matches under his belt that you often know what you are going to get with him. He calls an average of 24.3 fouls per match, he issues an average of 3.2 yellow cards per match, and he has shown 29 red cards and pointed to the PK spot 41 times. Still given the levels of inconsistency we have seen from some of the younger officials, with Jair you know most likely what you are going to get.
My RSL Starting XI:
RSL will need to deal with speed, and I thought we looked a bit week in that category recently against Toronto FC as well as against New England. So while we will have some changes of our lineup due to injuries, suspensions and I expect a little rotation, I think you will see our defenders hold back a bit more than what they might normally do. I still think the reality of passing, possession and creating chances will be the keys to the match for RSL. If we can get 450+ passes with a 80% or better accuracy rate that should allow us to control the possession and create some good chances. The Fire have just one clean sheet on the season and RSL has only been held without a goal twice this year. So I expect that we will see 3 goals in this match, and I am going to go with a RSL 2-1 win in a match that will be important for RSL to keep pace with the rest of the Western Conference.
OFF MY SOAPBOX