Fire-Sounders Preview


The Seattle Sounders believe they are one of the deepest teams in the league, and the Chicago Fire aren't about to argue.

Chicago has never beaten the Sounders, who haven't lost at home since their season opener and are on a roll heading into their matchup with the Fire on Saturday night.

Seattle (13-8-4) is tied with Los Angeles for second place in the Western Conference, five points behind Real Salt Lake but with three games in hand on the leader.

Despite missing several key players, the Sounders recorded their third straight 1-0 victory as they beat Chivas USA on Wednesday.

Clint Dempsey and Eddie Johnson, tied with Obafemi Martins for the team lead with seven goals, missed that game while training with the U.S. national team. Martins (sprained ankle), Brad Evans (calf strain) and Shalrie Joseph (MCL sprain) also were unavailable. Leo Gonzalez sat out due to a one-game suspension for a red card.

"We have a pretty deep team," midfielder David Estrada said. "When some of those guys are missing, it's a big void to fill in, but I think we have the quality to fill them."

Defender Marc Burch started at midfield, and his free kick led to Lamar Neagle's goal in the 24th minute for the Sounders, who have won six of seven.

"It doesn't matter who's on the field," Burch said. "We have 25 guys healthy right now and I think every single one of them can step on and put in a good performance."

Dempsey and Johnson won't be with the team Saturday, and it's unclear if Martins, Evans or Joseph will be able to play.

Martins, who last played Aug. 10, is a game-time decision.

"He wants to play, and he's frustrated because he's hurt," coach Sigi Schmid said. "When he's healthy I'll get him on the field, but if he can't, someone else will be ready to step in."

Seattle is 4-0-3 all-time against the Fire (10-10-5), who are two points behind New England and Houston for the East's final playoff spot with a game in hand.

Chicago missed a prime opportunity to boost its postseason chances Sunday, allowing the tying goal in the 90th minute of a 1-all draw with Houston. The Fire can't afford to dwell on the tough result as they head to Seattle, where the Sounders have won eight of nine and are 8-0-3 since a March 2 defeat to Montreal.

"We had the points in hand and let them slip away, but we've got to move forward," defender Gonzalo Segares said. "We've got a very tough game coming this weekend. It doesn't matter if they're missing guys or not, because the guys that will come in for them I'm sure will do a great job as well."

The Fire, 2-6-3 on the road this year, have lost their last three games in Seattle.

"We're in a good spot, but we need to keep pushing and a result up there is going to be key," defender Jalil Anibaba said. "They're one of the deepest teams in the league for sure, but we're up for the match. It's going to be a great atmosphere and it's a tough place to play."

Schmid knows the Fire, 4-1-2 in their last seven, will come prepared to pick up points.

"It's a team that's rested but also primed to try and win the game," Schmid said. "They're in a desperate need for points and want to stay in the hunt in the East, so for them it's a very important game."