1) Mike Magee was always a solid player when with the Galaxy, but what has the difference been in Chicago to make him great?
When Magee got to Chicago, he went from being a canny, striving third option to the unquestioned first, last and only option. He was in the form of his life, and he joined a team that created chances at a steady clip but finished precious few - an ideal scenario for a guy who poaches like Mike. He's always the player he has been - crazy competitive, a great thinker of the game, strikes the ball well, a fantastic teammate. What we haven't seen is whether he can push himself to that level routinely, or whether that was a high-water mark of a good, not great career. We're hoping it's the former.
2) The Fire has tied plenty this season. Are the fans optimistic, pessimistic, or somewhere in between?
Depends which fans! There are still pockets of severe gloom; those tend to be supporters who have had to suffer through the slow dissolution of the club's aura of supremacy. For the most part, though, the complete changeover in the front office, the dramatic reworking of the roster, and the refreshing emphasis on playing youth has people seeing the glass half-full ... for now. Frank Yallop surely knows that, in terms of fan support, the ice he's standing on is thin, and the water beneath it brutally cold.
3) What is the perception of Real Salt Lake to the Chicago Fire faithful?
I can't speak for everyone, but I view Salt Lake as the model franchise in MLS at this point. Garth Lagerway is as good as it gets. The Royals have established a tactical template which is flexible, identifiable, and allows them to use a huge variety of players to change the impetus and look of the thing. The academy is big-time. There's kids pushing into the first team. They draft well. They're hard to play against. And they can be pretty to watch when it all comes together. Take all of that, and add a dash of "f--k you, anyway," and you'll have a reasonable simulacrum of the feelings in the city of big shoulders.
Predicted starting XI (4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Gonzalo Segares, Bakary Soumare, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, Lovel Palmer; Harrison Shipp, Jeff Larentowicz (c), Alex, Patrick Nyarko; Mike Magee, Juan Luis Anangonó.
Predicted score: Chicago 2, Salt Lake 2. Fire un-draw the draw record by drawing one of the better teams in the league, and postpones feeling anything conclusive about 2014 for another week.