I recently chatted with Hot Time In Old Town's Ryan Sealock about the upcoming game in Chicago. He was nice enough to answer a few questions, including what it would take to win at Toyota Park (listen up Crew staff).
1. What elements do you attribute to Chicago's recent surge in the standings?
A lot of factors contribute, but the big ones that stick out are good, consistent defense and goal scoring). Sean Johnson has solidified into a top keeper at the young age of 23. Our backline, featuring German International Arne Friedrich, has been playing steady and well. Austin Berry is the favorite for rookie of the year, Gonzalo Segares is good like always, and Jalil Anibaba has had his ups and downs but is starting to find his footing at a position (RB) that is not his natural position. Right now, there isn't room for him at CB, but I suppose that any team would like to have the problem of too many good CB's and not enough spots to play everyone in.
Goal scoring has been a key the past month. I don't have to tell anyone that last year and the early part of this year featured the Fire as a "one trick" pony. Shut down Dom Oduro, and you have a good chance to win. Game planning for only 1 guy is not too complicated. The Fire have spent the last couple of months strengthening the roster. Arrivals of Chris Rolfe (his 2nd stint with the team), Sherjill MacDonald, Alvaro Fernandez, and Alex have injected new life into the Fire attack. We now have a handful of players that can put the ball in the net, and they have been doing so lately. It's great to have a wide cast of players that can contribute offensively so other teams can't just key on one or two players. Frank Klopas has assembled this sort of team now and it is starting to flourish.
2. Kansas City and Chicago are both surging right now. Do you think they have what it takes to overtake KC before the end of the season?
Definitely. In my article the other night ahead of the NY/SKC matchup, I stated that if the Fire had to play either team, I think we match up better and would do better against KC. Not to say they aren't good, but Chicago has long held SKC's number. We are 2-0 vs. KC this year, notching wins at home and at Livestrong. We will go for the sweep on September 28th. I would say beating the #1 team in the East 2 (and hopefully 3) times in the regular season is pretty impressive. The Fire seem to find that extra gear when they play KC and that's not something I see changing soon.
3. What do you believe Columbus needs to do in this match to get a win? What does Chicago need to do?
For us, score goals. If we can get a consistent 2-3 goals every game, we will be hard to stop because our defense is certainly capable of keeping opposing teams to less than that. We have only given up more than 2 goals in a single game 1 time this season (an off game vs. DC). That includes games against some high scoring offenses like New York, San Jose, and Seattle). In other questions exchanges this season, when asked the same thing, lack of scoring was usually my answer. Not enough output from Oduro. That has been fixed and multiple players are contributing goals. Sherjill MacDonald has been great for us so far, and Flaco seems to be finding his footing now.
For Columbus to win, I think you will need Higuain to get back to the form he was in previously. I think a win is going to take 2-3 goals. The Fire do occasionally have defensive lapses but this is more the exception than the rule. The Crew will need to create goals and find a way to beat the Fire defense.
Prediction: I am going with a tough fought Fire win 1-0. Sherjill with the goal.
Thanks again Ryan. Look for my answers over at HTIOT.