The Chicago Fire will look to take their nine-game unbeaten run across all competitions when they welcome sort-of, kind-of, Midwest rivals Sporting KC to Toyota Park Sunday afternoon (LIVE 2pm CT on ESPN)...
Here are five things you should know about today's match...
Austin Berry Bobblehead Day
The day has come. After long hours of using Fire staff to make sure he won the bobblehead contest, Austin Berry will be immortalized as one of sports great giveaway items this afternoon when the Fire take on Sporting KC.
The first 7,500 supporters into Toyota Park Sunday will receive an Austin Berry bobblehead, courtesy of Quaker (distributed at all gates, except Gate F) and just like when he ended up on a Life cereal box last season, Austin isn’t getting too big a head about it (see what I did there?).
“It’s fun. Fun for the family and all the people who supported me growing up in youth soccer. Just like the Quaker Life cereal box, it’s another fun way for my family to enjoy it.”
I think Austin is well on his way to becoming a Quaker corporate spokesperson.
It seems fitting…
Athletico Coaching Corner with Mike Matkovich
…that as today is Austin Berry Bobblehead Day (presented by Quaker), that the 2012 MLS Rookie of the Year will make his 50th competitive appearance for the Men in Red vs. Sporting KC.
Berry of course had a turbulent debut, stepping in for the suspended Jalil Anibaba on May 4, 2012 at Chivas USA.
On that night, the Cincinnati native conceded a penalty to Alejandro Moreno (which Juan Pablo Angel converted) before earning the equalizer just two minutes later.
Ever since then, Berry has never been left off the team sheet in a competitive Fire match, making the half century mark possible so early in his career.
Nothing new on the injury front…
There has been lots of talk as to whether or not Fire winger Patrick Nyarko, who suffered a tight hamstring in the win vs. San Jose at midweek, would be available for Sunday’s match but he hasn’t been listed on the Athletico Injury Report all week.
Nyarko told me this week that he hopes to play some part in the match but if not, it seems likely Joel Lindpere would come in for him and play on the left while Dilly Duka would set up on the right side of midfield.
Fire captain Logan Pause was also hopeful to target Sunday’s game as his return from SI Dysfunction (i.e. a lower back injury) but the 11-year veteran didn’t train in full this week and both he and manager Frank Klopas indicated it was unlikely he’d be in the 18.
Playoff Picture Update…
The six-game league unbeaten streak the Fire are currently shows both how good they’ve been of late and how much of a hole they dug themselves at the beginning of the MLS campaign.
The idle Fire went into Saturday’s games just two points out of the last Eastern Conference playoff spot but saw both New England (2-0 win over San Jose) and Houston (1-0 win over Philadelphia) come away victorious.
The results pushed the Fire back down one spot to seventh (21 points) on the Eastern Conference table and leaves the team’ five points behind fifth place Houston for the last playoff spot in the East (26 points), albeit with two games in hand. The Fire can jump back into sixth and cut the Dynamo point lead back to two.
It would also further tighten the East playoff race as Sporting would remain on 27 points with idle Philadelphia and New York sits just one point ahead of them...
Sunday’s game is expected to be one of the better crowds of the season for the Fire and that also means that we’ll get a visit from our friends from Kansas as an estimated 350-375 sporting supporters are making the trek to Toyota Park for today’s game.
Hope you bring your flags!