The Chicago Fire welcome the Montreal Impact to Toyota Park Saturday night in a match chock full of Eastern Conference playoff implications. Catch the game live 7pm CT on My50 and Time Warner Cable Sports in Wisconsin.
Here are Five Things You Should Know...
Friday Night Lights
Sporting KC loves a good Friday night game at home but not so much when they lose like they did in last night's 1-0 defeat to the Philadelphia Union.
Despite holding a 19-8 advantage in Attempts on Goal, Sporting couldn’t muster an equalizer as Philly took a huge step for themselves, momentarily moving into fifth place (42 points) in the East and poured even heavier pressure onto the Fire, New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo ahead of the remaining weekend games…
Of course the Fire face a pivotal clash tonight vs. a Montreal side that has lost its last two matches (both at home) and has just one win from the last four. There’s not a large sample size (just two games) but the Fire have never lost to the Impact at Toyota Park and have the opportunity to go for double-digit home wins for just the second time since 2003 (2012 being the other) with a victory over Montreal Saturday night.
Elsewhere in the East, New England and Houston kickoff an hour before the Fire/Impact match from Gillette Stadium. The Dynamo are coming off a 2-0 Champions League win over W. Connection Wednesday but fatigue shouldn’t be a great issue as they used a number of reserves to earn the three points.
Best result for the Fire’s playoff hopes tonight? A win at Toyota Park and a draw at Gillette Stadium would see the Men in Red go back above the thin red line as they head to D.C. next week.
Do players pay attention to playoff math?
I’ll admit it, I enjoy the heck out of my Playoff Math pieces. Trying to provide some kind of clue to this game that often times has no reason seems like a good balance for me – even if I have to readjust after every weekend.
But do players pay attention to the math of making the playoffs down the stretch? According to Fire vice captain Jeff Larentowicz, the answer is no.
“I haven’t looked, other guys might have,” he told me this week. “I think when you get into that you start to worry about what other people are doing as opposed to what we’re doing. If we take our home games and compete well against our conference rivals we’re going to be in a good spot.
"I don’t think there’s a team in the remaining four or five games that’s going to win every game. The story changes every week so if you get caught in all these mathematical possibilities you’re going to be doing a lot of work other than concentrating on soccer.”
Concentrate on the soccer Jeff, I’ll continue to crunch the numbers.
Suspensions and what happens?
We’ve spoken all week about the fact that Bakary Soumare is suspended for tonight’s game following his straight red card last week in Columbus and the question around whether Larentowicz or Hunter Jumper would replace him in the center has been argued to death.
Less talked about though is if Larentowicz does move back from the start, who slots into central midfield? The likely candidates of course being Logan Pause or Alex.
- TACTICAL: Who matches up best in the back vs. Di Vaio?
No doubt Frank Klopas tested both Pause and Alex paired with Arevalo Rios in training this week but with most sessions closed, there was no indication given either way about who would pair with the Uruguayan Saturday night.
With the arrivals of Larentowicz and Rios as well as the emergence of Alex this season, Pause has been used much more sparingly in the Fire midfield this year. I will say it was the 11-year Fire veteran that stepped in and partnered amazingly with Larentowicz in the 2-1 win over the Impact back in August.
Pride Night and Rock Out Against Racism
Two pretty awesome themes to get behind tonight at Toyota Park… Head over to the Section 8 Chicago tailgate pre-game where Whiskey Brothers Aught Five are in charge of the menu and the ISA will be holding a “Rock Out Against Racism” concert featuring local acts The Crombies, Flatfoot 56 and Brick Assassin.
It’s also Pride Night at Toyota Park and the club is happy to welcome local recording artists Isaiah Grass and Jess Godwin to sing “The Star Spangled Banner” and “O Canada” ahead of the game.