by Charles Therrell (DISK DOKTOR)
Greetings to my brothers and sisters in Green. Gird yourselves as the Sounders FC travel to Harlem Avenue, in the heart of Bridgeview, Illinois for a Saturday night throwdown with Chicago Fire. It just keeps getting better. With slightly over a quarter of the league schedule played both we and Chicago have struggled to find a rich vein of form. The difference with tonight’s match, though, is that if either team drops points, they could find themselves near rock bottom in the league table, just as Chicago found themselves at the end of last season. Both sides are trying to find some sort of rhythm as they attempt to incorporate all of the new faces in their respective squads, but not so fast, MLS is a harsh master. The seemingly impenetrable salary cap, twistingly draconian transfer protocols and the single-entity business model have allowed little latitude for error. It’s a street fight of epic proportions with the relative safety of mid-table obscurity potentially at stake. I feel our boys in Green can win the day, but we’ll just have to see. We’ll just have to will the lads through. “When it’s us/versus them/you can always count on me…” Join me Saturday night in the auld toast: TO THE SEATTLE SOUNDERS FOOTBALL CLUB…AND VICTORY.
The Good News
Despite our teetering inconsistency, there are actually a few bright spots within the analysis. We and the delinquent fire brigade that are Chicago have had six opponents in common. Six! For those of you who work with statistics, you realise immediately that this sample size is incredibly tiny and no scientist sound of mind would attempt to draw conclusions from a data pool that thin, yet I’m going to make an auld-fashioned educated guess anyway. In my defence, we have not yet played an opponent who has played six of the same opponents we have this season. So this tiny sample is actually quite robust considering what we’ve had to work with for previous matches. I digress. Our opponents in common this season are as follows: Atlanta United, NY Red Donkeys, Montreal, New England, Toronto, and Los Angeles. Finally the good news bit. We have taken 9 points from these games out of 18. Chicago have only taken five. In other news, we lead the all-time series between the sides to the tune of 7-3-1 (That’s W-D-L, the only way to fly). We are scoring roughly a tenth of a goal more per match, and conceding two-tenths of a goal less than our red-shirted opposition. These are narrow margins, but narrow margins in our favour none the less. The last three matches have been rocky for Chicago as they’ve dropped seven points out of nine, a stark contrast to the two clean-sheet wins that preceded them. We have injuries still, but other than Tolo, who is nursing a dislocated shoulder, any of our wounded might pass a late fitness test to play.
The Bad News
Neither of these sides has managed to win three in a row. As for our boys, they haven’t managed to even win two in a row, which Chicago did at the beginning of last month. Chicago is unbeaten at home (3-1-0). All-time away at Chicago our record is 2-2-1. This season we’ve only one once in five tries on the road (1-2-2). Chicago has two more points than we do from the nine matches we’ve each played. With both teams on such spiky form, the result may come down to intangibles…
If either team drops points, they risk being overtaken by any number of teams currently beneath them in the table. Management and supporters have some patience with the team’s results, and with our Sounders, we’ve come to expect flat starts and epic late-season surges, but I’d say patience is beginning to wear thin in both boardrooms with a bit more than 25% of the season played. I expect a scrappy match with high potential for at least one ugly display. Sounders football is winning 1:0. Chicago is coached by a Serbian national who played for Hungary. Eastern European football is a notoriously stingy brand of football. With this in mind, I don’t exactly expect a tonne of high-press football. If the metrics and intangibles are any indications, this will likely be a match with numbers forward only on the counter with clear-cut chances few and far between. With that said, the sample sizes are so small, and the metrics haven’t really been accurate at all. For example, the metrics painted a gloomy picture for us a few weeks ago at Avalon Boulevard. At the end of the day, we had a 0:3 win against our chronic tormentors, LA Galaxy. By the numbers, Sounders FC escape Bridgeview with a draw or narrow win. Unless you go by Chicago’s home record, in which case we haven’t a chance. In the world of right here, right now, that today’s match will be played in, you’d have to say it could go either way. Both sides are struggling to find consistency. It’s a crapshoot. Synergy may be a factor as well, as it seems there are some players in the Chicago squad that played at North Carolina (NCAA), Videoton in Hungary, and FC Groningen in Netherlands.
Know Thine Enemy
Goalkeeper – By all rights, you’d expect Jorge Bava to be starting. At 35 years, he has 250 matches of professional football under his belt. Over 100 of those playing for Nacional of Uruguay. The starter in last week’s draw at Dominguez Hills, Lampson, has only 35 appearances as a professional, 28 of those at MLS level.
Defence – Conner, 23, though listed as a midfield player on the roster, was listed in last week’s matchday lineup as a defender. He signed a Homegrown contract with Chicago two years ago and has played only five times in the first team. Kappelhof, 26, has over 160 appearances as a professional in his career, over 120 of those for FC Groningen. Meira, 30, is a prototypical Euro-ringer, playing nearly 170 matches in Portuguese football before moving to Bridgeview. Vincent, 23, has played 32 times for Chicago, and once earned a single United States cap.
Midfield – Juninho, 28, if he’s fit, was produced by Sao Paulo. Currently, on loan from Tijuana, he’s played nearly 230 times as a pro and played nearly 200 times for our auld nemesis, Los Angeles Galaxy. McCarty, 30, the Ginger Ninja, over 300 appearances as a professional, and earned six United States caps. Can cut you apart on set pieces. Solignac, 26, the striker no one wanted. 129 times played as a pro, but could never stick more than 41 matches at any of the eight clubs he’s played for. Greatest claim to fame was once scoring 20 goals in a season for a Finnish team in 2015. Schweinsteiger, 32, once the beating heart of Bayern Munich and the German national team. Impeccable resumé. High skill level. So only questions of age and fitness cast a shadow of doubt over Chicago’s most visible Designated Player signing. Accam, 26, once scored 30 goals in 62 matches for Helsingborg in Sweden, the Ghanian is now a designated player in Chicago’s renovated frontline.
Forward – Nemanja Nikolic, 29, all you need to know is that he’s scored 178 goals in 296 professional matches. Once scored 41 in 56 matches at Legia Warsaw. Wherever he goes, he scores a tonne of goals and leads the Fire with six this season to prove it. Hopefully, Torres and Svensson or Marshall are up to to the task of trying to mark him.
Chicago defender, Jonathan Campbell, played 12 times for Sounders U-23s in 2015. Midfielder, Brandt Bronico, played nine times for Sounders U-23s in 2015.
Selections for Last Match
Chicago: Lampson, Conner, Kappelhof, Meira, Vincent, Juninho, McCarty, Solignac, Schweinsteiger, Accam, Nikolic.
Bench: Bava (gk), Harrington, Campbell, Alvarez, de Leeuw, Johnson, Mihailovic.
Sounders FC: Frei, Delem, Torres, Svensson, Jones, Alonso, Roldan, Lodeiro, Dempsey, Morris, Bruin.
Bench: Miller (gk), Shipp, Alfaro, Fernandez, Mathers, Adekoya, Evans.
OUT: Goossens (ankle surgery).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Juninho (ankle), Polster (hip).
OUT: Tolo (shoulder).
MATCHDAY DECISION: Fisher (hamstring), Marshall (back), Kovar (groin).
No players suspended from either side.
Karma or not Karma? Chicago midfielder, Danny Goossens, is out recovering from ankle surgery. Twelve years ago in the 2005 FIFA U-17 World Cup, Then Netherlands U-17 midfielder, Goossens, clattered into USA defender Corey Ashe, breaking his leg. Goossens was punished with only a booking, Ashe was carried off on a stretcher to hospital. The Netherlands would finish third in the tournament. Ashe had only rehab to look forward to.