The last time Chicago saw Seattle was the 2011 Lamar Hunt US Open Cup Final, and it was not a night to remember for Fire supporters. Although Chicago was on the upswing making a last ditch run for MLS playoffs, the team that faced off against Seattle in the US Open Cup final, it could be argued, reverted to playing as the Carlos de los Cobos’s Fire and not the Frank Klopas’s Fire. In that final, Chicago played spastically, failing to maintain possession by frustratingly playing head-tennis rather than orchestrating any kind of attack.
At least, this is what I remember screaming about on my couch as well as Twitter-complainin’. This demonstrated that though the team was turning their season around they were still a muddled squad. Fortunately, Chicago gained their footing and has a better sense of who they are as a team. Yet there are still muddied waters.
The give-and-go between striker Dominic Oduro and forward Patrick Nyarko was well showcased last week in Toronto, each with a goal created by the other. Nyarko’s pressure was able to turn a horrid goalkeeping decision by Toronto’s Milos Kocic to rollout the ball into an assist to Oduro who scored the fastest goal in Fire history and 5th fastest in MLS history at 25 seconds into the match. Later, Oduro would be able to collect the ball and dish a pass to Nyarko as he split Toronto’s ‘defense’ to slot in the game-winner over Kocic.
And while supporters have, for the most part, convinced themselves that this is a great up-top duo, I’m still unconvinced Nyarko is a forward. Is Nyarko Chicago’s number 9? No. Is Nyarko Chicago’s number 10? No. Can Nyarko hold up the ball and dishing it out to his strike partner? Yes. So then what? Nyarko, to my mind, works best up high and out wide right, an attacking winger.
But with the current resources available to Chicago, that would make the starting lineup quite unbalanced with the left side of the field significantly outweighed if not inconsistent. While the Ghanaians do have chemistry, if Nyarko is going to master the forward role I suspect he would greatly benefit from a mentor.
One hopes with the arrival of Chris Rolfe that Frank Klopas will deploy three up-top, which would in all likelihood cause opposition defenders a headache. Also, it would be an opportunity for last season’s ‘super-sub’ Orr Barouch to long minutes. Rolfe probably won’t be available for the match with an ankle sprain and (left-ish) midfielder Marco Pappa will be with the Guatemalan national team which means Fredrico Puppo may get the start.
Both teams will be looking to dig deep as they inaugurate gauntlet-like runs of matches. Seattle will play nine matches over the next month, and Chicago will play seven. What this means is that Chicago is going to have ample time to get into a groove, to get minutes down the depth chart, and to collect points as spring turns to summer.
Seattle is the favorite for this match though they’ve had just one goal over the last three matches, simply because they have player more minutes than the Fire and against tough opposition. Most MLS power rankings see Seattle in the top third with Chicago in the middle third. Fire supporters are accustomed to getting no love from the league and would love to confound expectations.
It was great to see Chicago leave Toronto with three points and three goals but the match really just confirmed the league’s belief in Aron Winter’s failure to win. Seattle will be Chicago’s chance to send a message to the league: they’re ready to play.
Written by Daniel Casey. Follow Daniel on Twitter @winslowbobbins.