1) FIRE LOVE NBC SPORTS… If you didn’t already know, tonight’s match can be seen LIVE on NBC Sports Network and that’s a good thing for the Fire. The side has won both previous matches on the national sports network earlier this season (3-2 at Toronto April 21; 3-1 vs. New York June 17) and had three different players score in both matches. Will the good ride on NBC Sports continue tonight?
2) GRAZZINI OPTION PICKED UP, ALEX ELIGIBLE FOR DEBUT… It was announced Thursday that Sebastian Grazzini’s option to stay with the Fire has been picked up by the club but the Argentine midfielder wouldn’t be in the 18 because of a lack of training this week. That all coincides quite well with Brazilian attacker Alex, who trained with the side the past three weeks, now being eligible for the team upon the opening this week of the summer transfer window.
3) WHETHER OR NOT WE SEE HIM START… It’s probably not likely that Alex will slot directly into the starting lineup to replace Grazzini in his debut. The most likely to move into the attacking hole would be Chris Rolfe, who has replaced Grazzini in the position in each of the past two matches. The returning veteran looked best there on June 17 against New York when he scored the icing goal and setup what should have been a Dominic Oduro goal from the spot.
Other options include Rafael Robayo, who played in the spot on May 26 in Columbus and Daniel Paladini who has filled in previously when Grazzini was injured.
4) SEGARES RED CARD… Fire defender Gonzalo Segares will miss Friday night’s match after receiving a straight red card for a mis-timed challenge on Tony Tchani in Saturdays 2-1 victory over Columbus. The third red card of the Costa Rican international’s MLS career, the Fire have actually faced Kansas City before when Segares was suspended from an ejection in the previous match. The team earned a 2-0 win over the Kansas Wizards on August 25, 2007 after Sega was ejected in the 66th minute of a 3-2 loss (also against Kansas City) three days earlier…
5) THE LEFT (and right) BACK QUESTION… Segares last missed a match to suspension (yellow card accumulation) on September 10 last season, falling 2-0 at San Jose at the small pitch at Buck Shaw Stadium. In that match, first-choice right back Dan Gargan played on the left while midfielder Logan Pause replaced him on the right. That was the same shift Frank Klopas made to the Fire back line after Segares’ sending off Saturday but is it good for 90 minutes?
Fire rookie Hunter Jumper is a natural left back but is he ready for his first start? If not, Gargan likely moves back to the left for this one.
If that’s the case, who does Klopas use on the right? In the 2-0 loss at Colorado, we saw earlier this year how much not having Pause in midfield to break up attacks hurt the team. With Arne Friedrich back, is it prudent to instead move Jalil Anibaba back out to the right and leave the captain in the middle of the park? Is Friedrich good to go 90 minutes?
The decisions across the back will be the most interesting to come out tonight…
PREVIEW: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC