Friday, September 11, 2009

Real Salt Lake vs. the Chicago Fire, some pregame thoughts

The race for the playoff’s continues this weekend as both RSL and the Fire find themselves in need of points. Real Salt Lake have accrued a mere 33 points in 24 games and currently sit tied with New England and Chivas USA for the eighth and final playoff spot; however both Chivas and New England have only played 22 games and should move up the ranks once they catch the rest of the league in number of games played. For the third game in a row a win is needed by Salt Lake just to stay alive in the playoff race.

Meanwhile Chicago has put together an impressive year that has them currently sitting in second place in the East but with only Columbus and Houston ahead of them, and by a meager 2 points at that, the Supporters shield is still a real possibility for the Fire. The Supporter Shield is given to the team with the best regular season record in the MLS each year. While Columbus is probably the favorite to win it both Chicago and Houston are still very much in the mix.

Salt Lake will play this game without team Captain Kyle Beckerman or backup D-mid Ned Grabavoy. Both will be out on card suspensions. Javier Morales is also a big question mark having sprained his ankle in practice. The return to form of Andy Williams couldn’t have come at a better time for the team as he will probably get the start for the 3rd straight game. Will Johnson will also be back for this one after sitting out one game due to yellow card accumulation as will Yura Movsisyan who is coming back from an injury.

The Fire also come in to this game a bit under the weather as three Defenders have all gone down for them to injury. Gonzalo Segares, Daniel Woolard, and Tim Ward will all be left home leaving their side with a makeshift backline that has allowed five goals in their last three games. With Blanco returning from international duty somewhat rested and Brian McBride potentially suiting up for the first time in 2 months though don't expect the Fire to be to reliant on their D to win this game. Wilman Conde is another Defender who has been out with an injury and should suit up and possibly start this game.

Both teams have been off for two weeks while World Cup qualifying matches have been going on and should be well rested. The altitude is always a factor when anyone but Colorado comes to play at Rio Tinto and RSL has used that to its advantage with one of the better home records in the league. Chicago should have the midfield advantage this game while RSL looks to enjoy an advantage in the attacking third. Both teams have some big questions they will need to answer this week if they hope to win. Can Chicago find some consistency in its attack this week against an RSL side that has only allowed the other team nine goals at home? Should Yura get the start over Pablo Campos now that he is healthy? Does Salt Lake have any depth in the midfield with three of the four guys that have played significant minutes this season all out? Will McBride be able to impact the game should he be healthy enough to play? Its going to be fun to find out.