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Match storylines: Fire continue road swing in Seattle

MATCH INFO

 
Matchup Chicago Fire (6-14-9, 27 pts.) at Seattle Sounders (11-13-5, 38 pts.)
Date Wednesday, September 27 • 9:30 p.m. CT
Location Seattle, Wash. • CenturyLink Field
TV CSN Chicago
Radio (Spanish) 97.5 FM Poder
Fire Field Vision Watch Now

The Chicago Fire continue their three-match road swing in Seattle on Wednesday night when they take the field against the Sounders. Coverage of the match begins with kickoff on CSN Chicago at 9:30 p.m. CT. The Fire will be looking to bounce back from a tough visit to New York City over the weekend and cool down a Sounders side currently making waves in the Western Conference playoff race. Here are five keys to the matchup that could factor into the result come Wednesday night:

Westward Bound
Despite the challenge of traveling to the Pacific Northwest on short rest, the Chicago Fire will surely look forward to a chance to put their latest result behind them come kickoff in Seattle. The likely reintroduction of Michael de Leeuw (ankle) could provide a boost up front for the Men In Red, and further squad rotation is possible depending on travel, form, artificial turf, and preferred matchups. The Fire have not lost back-to-back MLS matches since July 16-23, and will certainly look to prove itself a resilient side once more.

READ: Vincent ready to face college teammate Jordan Morris

On the other hand, Seattle is riding a wave of momentum into this one, having emphatically taken all three points from a weekend matchup in LA. A brace from rookie forward Jordan Morris helped power the Sounders to a 4-2 victory to help keep their postseason hopes afloat. Seattle rests in seventh place in the Western Conference, three points shy of Cascadian rivals Portland with two games in hand in the race to finish above the red line.

Waves of Rave Green
It has been an up-and-down year for the Sounders in front of the CenturyLink Field crowd so far this season. Interim head coach Brian Schmetzer’s side owns a decisive 8-5-1 record in Seattle, a record that includes the league’s highest amount of home losses and lowest amount of home ties. If trends continue, Wednesday night’s contest could end up being a low-scoring affair. The Sounders attack has scored just 19 goals in 14 home matches this year, while their defense has allowed just 11 (0.79/game, second-fewest in MLS).

Additionally, the Fire would do well to get out ahead of Seattle early on Wednesday. The Sounders boast MLS’ second-worst first half goal differential (-8), but seem to strike lightning after halftime. Their differential of +7 in the second halves of games is MLS’ fourth highest, a stat boosted by their three second half tallies against the Galaxy over the weekend.

Baby Geniuses
Wednesday's clash is likely to bring together some of the top young American talent in MLS. The aforementioned Morris -- signed as a Homegrown Player in January -- is leading the charge for the league’s Rookie of the Year award, having paced the class in scoring with 12 goals to his name. Should the Stanford product be in the team Wednesday, he may find himself matched up with former Cardinal teammate Brandon Vincent and Chicago's other rookie standout defender, Jonathan Campbell. Campbell -- selected at No. 12 overall in this year’s MLS SuperDraft –- was a second-half sub in the team’s season-opening match against NYCFC and has rarely left the field since. Over the course of the season, the 23-year-old has worked his way into the top-10 among all league defenders in defensive blocks, clearances and interceptions in becoming a mainstay along Paunovic’s back line. It may be the first of many run-ins at the pro level for Morris, Vincent and Campbell.

The Playmaker
Seattle's playoff chances were a distant dream in late July, when longtime manager Sigi Schmid left the club and play-making Uruguyan Nicolas Lodeiro entered it. But things have changed drastically since the introduction of the former Boca Juniors midfielder, who has been a revelation in his team’s current push for a Western Conference postseason berth. Lodeiro, who is currently riding a league-best streak of eight consecutive matches with either a goal or an assist, has ably filled the playmaking ability of Clint Dempsey, who on Tuesday was ruled out from club competition for the remainder of 2016. Containing Lodeiro and his linkup play with Jordan Morris will be priority No. 1 for a Chicago Fire back line with something to prove after last Friday's performance in New York City. 

#SEAvCHI All-Time
Wednesday marks the only time these two teams will face each other in 2016. They last met at Toyota Park in July of 2015, when a dramatic stoppage time finish from Jason Johnson secured victory for the Fire. The Sounders own a 6-1-3 record in the all-time series, and are undefeated (3-0-1) against Chicago at home. Former Fire defender Joevin Jones is likely to line up against his former team in this one, having earned a place as a regular starter at left back with his ability to get forward into the Sounders attack, along with onetime Fire midfielder Alvaro Fernandez

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