Scouting report: A breakdown of what to expect from the Chicago Fire

Injuries, slow start have the Fire looking for a spark

Union-Chicago walkout

Photo Credit: 
Greg Carroccio

 

Simply put, Chicago endured a brutal start to the 2013 season.

The campaign opened with a 4-0 loss in Los Angeles and a 1-0 home loss to New England.

Not the best way to get going.

In game three, the club scrapped for a scoreless draw at Kansas City, then got blasted by Chivas USA, 4-1 at Toyota Park.

Frank Klopas' team, which went to playoffs in 2012, scored one goal and earned just one point in the entire month of March.

April was respectable though. The team enjoyed good home wins against New York and Columbus. Both April losses came on the road to better overall teams. Through eight games, the Fire now have seven points and a 2-5-1 record.

Philadelphia is 3-3-1 all time against Chicago and went 1-2-0 against the Fire in three games last season. The Union are 2-1-0 vs. Chicago at PPL Park.

Fire Attack

Chicago is looking for more from Sherjill MacDonald, who has been splitting time up top with fellow forward Maicon Santos. MacDonald looks likely to start on Saturday, as Santos is dealing with a hyperextended left knee and missed several days of training this week. The pair have combined for just two goals and two assists in more than 700 minutes this year.

Chris Rolfe will sit just behind the main striker, hovering around the edge of the box and looking for seams to exploit. He leads the team with 19 shots this year and scored a brace in Chicago's visit to PPL Park last August.

Look for wingers Joel Lindpere and Patrick Nyarko to get forward and help the attack. Former Red Bull Lindpere should play wide left, with the speedy and skilled Nyarko on the right. Both have plenty of experience playing against Philadelphia.

The central midfield might be an issue, with Jeff Larentowicz set to miss his first game of the year due to red card suspension. It's likely that veteran Logan Pause fills that role, playing alongside Daniel Paladini.

There's not a ton of offensive depth on this squad right now. Dilly Duka is a decent option on the flanks. Quincy Amarikwa might be the first striker off the bench if Santos does not make the 18.

Fire Defense

The biggest blow to the Chicago defense is the season-long absence of Arne Friedrich. The injury-prone German international hasn't played this season because of a hamstring issue. He did return to training this week, but only took part in running and light ball work.

There are other injuries hurting Chicago's defensive depth. Hunter Jumper is questionable with a right groin strain. Steven Kinney is out with a quad strain.

Austin Berry, Chicago's reigning MLS Rookie of the Year center back the key piece in the reshuffled defense. Right back Jalil Anibaba has been moved inside to cover for Friedrich, with Gonzalo Segares on the left and Wells Thompson filling in on the right. Playing in front of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, the piecemeal defense has allowed 14 goals in 8 total matches this season. They've improved in April however, allowing just one goal in the pair of wins against New York and Columbus.

Possible Starting XI: Johnson(GK), Segares, Berry, Anibaba, Thompson, Paladini, Pause, Lindpere, Nyarko, Rolfe, MacDonald

Contact Union writer Kevin Kinkead at k.kinkead@hotmail.com