Following Wednesday night’s 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union at ToyotaPark, the Chicago Fire remain tied for last place in the Eastern Conference table and look set to put every Fire bookmaker out of work. The midweek draw was Chicago’s 13th of the season and has become a predictable result for this team. The Fire’s tally of 13 draws is a league high and is already four more than the team managed last season. To make matters worse, the Fire are also winless in seven matches.
Despite the lack of wins and the abundance of draws, there is a new found hope in Bridgeview. And despite two more dropped points on Wednesday (or one gained?), we were gifted with an impressive preview of what that hope might entail in the next few months and beyond. That hope rests on the shoulders of two of Chicago’s recent signings: Pavel Pardo and Sebastian Grazzini.
Pardo announced himself in style on Wednesday by scoring the equalizer for the Fire ten minutes into the second half, preventing what would have otherwise been a third straight loss for the men in red. Grazzini, meanwhile, demonstrated exactly why he’s the type of player the Fire have been missing by linking up well with the rest of the Fire midfield as well as lone striker Dominic Oduro. The former All Boys midfielder also come inches away from scoring a truly spectacular debut goal with a powerful left-footed drive that grazed just over the crossbar.
If ever the Fire have needed a glimmer of hope, it’s now. And if ever the Fire have needed a win, it’s certainly now. With Pardo and Grazzini, the time has come to ease the pain of being winless in MLS play since June 12th and prove that this is a team that can make a run for the MLS playoffs. With just two wins all season, the odds are fully stacked against Chicago, but with Pardo and Grazzini, the Fire have two players ready to take hold of the mantle and spur a struggling club on to greener pastures.
The Chicago Fire have yet another great opportunity to put their winless woes behind them with a crunch match against expansion side Vancouver Whitecaps, who also find themselves rooted to the bottom of the table in the Western Conference. As the only team in the league who find themselves in a worse predicament than the Fire, the Whitecaps are just as desperate for a win having gone six matches without a win and most recently suffering a 4-0 home loss to the LA Galaxy.
Empire Field is the setting for Sunday’s match, a place that has only seen the Whitecaps win once all year. That win arrived on the opening weekend in a 4-2 win over Toronto FC, ensuring Vancouver fans have faced an even longer wait for a home win than Chicago. The Whitecaps will be confident of seeing their winless streak at home finally come to an end this weekend, especially with former Fire midfielder John Thorrington returning from a calf injury just in time to face his former teammates.
There will be no favors from either side on Sunday. Needless to say, both teams are desperate for a win and rightfully so. The MLS playoffs are quickly approaching and a quick turnaround is essential for both sides if they wish to have any chance of prolonging their season. With the Fire’s new look midfield, the odds look good for a rare Chicago win, even if the bookies will tell you otherwise.
6pm CT, Empire Field.
Chicago: 2-13-6 (19 points, 8th place)
Vancouver: 2-9-11 (15 points, 9th place)
Chicago: Goals – Oduro 5, Pappa 5 | Assists – Nyarko 3
Vancouver: Goals – Hassli 8, Sanvezzo 6 | Assists – Chiumiento 6
The Fire and Whitecaps met for the first time in MLS play on May 7th atToyotaPark in a 0-0 draw. Ironically, both clubs fired their head coaches on the same day later that month.
Players to watch:
Pavel Pardo – After a vital debut goal on Wednesday, look for Pardo to continue to make a big impact for the Fire on Sunday. Despite being just 90 minutes into his Fire career, Pardo already looks at home in the Fire midfield.
Sebastian Grazzini – The Argentinean also enjoyed a successful debut on Sunday. If the Fire hope to earn a win againstVancouver, Grazzini will play a big role.
Christian Nazarit – Used as a substitute on Wednesday, Frank Klopas would be wise to partner Nazarit up front with Oduro, who was often too isolated on his own against theUnion. If given the chance, Nazarit could really benefit from playing alongside Grazzini and Pardo.
Eric Hassli – A bonafide goalscorer, Hassli has been in fantastic form forVancouver. Look for him to continue his rich vein of form on Sunday.
Shea Salinas – His ability to break down defenses will be vital. The Fire run a tight ship in defense and the home side will needSalinasto create opportunities for Hassli and Camilo.
John Thorrington – Having played just 52 minutes all year for the Whitecaps, Thorrington will be desperate to play on Sunday. If he does receive the start, the Fire are well aware of his capabilities.
2-1 to Chicago. Pardo and Grazzini to make the difference in a tightly contested match.
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