Join Now | 
HomeAboutContact UsPrivacy & SecurityAdvertise
Soccer America DailySoccer World DailySpecial EditionAround The NetSoccer Business InsiderCollege Soccer ReporterYouth Soccer ReporterSoccer on TVSoccer America ClassifiedsGame Report
Paul Gardner: SoccerTalkSoccer America ConfidentialYouth Soccer InsiderWorld Cup Watch
RSS FeedsArchivesManage SubscriptionsSubscribe
Order Current IssueSubscribeManage My SubscriptionRenew My SubscriptionGift Subscription
My AccountJoin Now
Tournament CalendarCamps & AcademiesSoccer GlossaryClassifieds
RSL rolls into Chicago full of confidence
by Ridge Mahoney, November 13th, 2009 7AM

MOST READ

MOST COMMENTED

[MLS PLAYOFF PREDICTION] Chicago hosts a conference final for the first time since 2003, which is also the last time it reached an MLS Cup championship game, when it plays Real Salt Lake Saturday at Toyota Park.

EASTERN CONFERENCE FINAL
SATURDAY
CHICAGO vs. REAL SALT LAKE (8 p.m., Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports en Espanol)

Though the Fire is at home, RSL has reeled off three straight victories, and actually matches up very well. It may have peaked last week in winning, 3-2, in Columbus, yet is riding such a wave of confidence and momentum it can certainly prevail again. Chicago is just as pumped after thumping New England, 2-0, in front of a roaring, sellout crowd, which the team is hoping will show up again for one more Saturday night.

RSL has a vast range of talent in midfield - Javier Morales, Andy Williams, Kyle Beckerman, Will Johnson - and two forwards in good form, Robbie Findley and Yura Movsisyan, as well as Fabian Espindola and Clint Mathis. Morales is one of those irritating playmakers who can stroke a through ball, clip a cross, or loft a chip over the back line, and moves so intelligently he's hard to track. RSL surprises teams by pinching in its outside midfielders and creating chances simply with greater numbers, as it did to spring Morales for the goal that started the comeback from a 2-0 deficit in Columbus.

Chicago, of course, has one of the league's best game-breakers, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, who can mesmerize and freeze an opponent by floating around the attacking third in search of the right ball at the right moment. Beckerman and Johnson must monitor him but also pass him off to defenders while making sure there is cover, otherwise Brian McBride or Patrick Nyarko or Chris Rolfe will spring through a gap. Nyarko, like Findley and Movsisyan, is blazing fast, and in his second pro season is finding more ways to get in behind the opposition's back line.

Both Beckerman and Chicago's John Thorrington are tough in the tackle, can run all day, and can sneak forward on a late run, as Thorrington did to stab home a Blanco pass against the Revs. This is the biggest pro game for a few players on both teams, so how a Marco Pappa (Chicago) or Tony Beltran (RSL) responds at a critical moment might decide the outcome.

Injuries and the transfer of Bakary Soumare to French club Boulogne in midseason has forced Chicago to revamp its back line, though central defender Wilman Conde may be fit enough to play. Daniel Woolard played left back and Dasan Robinson lined up in the middle alongside C.J. Brown with Brandon Prideaux at right back to subdue the Revs, but RSL is a far more potent team.

"If you look at our stats from last year and this year," says keeper Jon Busch, "they're pretty much identical: 10 clean sheets in the same amount of games, one more goal against this year (34) than we gave up last year, so it's pretty amazing to see that we're right there even with the amount of changes we've had in the back line."
Prediction: Fire 3, RSL 2.

Ridge Mahoney's Playoff prediction record: 4-4.

 



No comments yet.

Sign in to leave a comment. Don't have an account? Join Now




AUTHORS

ARCHIVES
FOLLOW SOCCERAMERICA

Recent Soccer America Daily
What They're Saying: Sigi Schmid    
"We've got to make sure we right that and get them back for that. I don't ...
August brings no change to Sounders' fortunes    
The way things are going, the Seattle Sounders' season may remembered as before and after Tukwila. ...
Farfan hero, Alvarado goat in Mexico    
Gabriel Farfan came off the bench and scored the winning goal five minutes later to lead ...
Ontario's K-W United FC takes PDL crown    
Top-seeded Kitchener-Waterloo United FC became the third Canadian team to win the PDL championship in the ...
MLS: Seeing isn't believing after 39-goal Saturday    
On a day when Frank Lampard, Shaun Wright-Phillips and Tranquillo Barnetta, among others, made their league ...
What Thay're Saying: Chris Rolfe    
"That was the craziest game I've ever been a part of, in pro soccer." -- D.C. ...
Video Pick: Mourinho tosses medal to young Arsenal fan    
Jose Mourinho brought a smile to the face of a young Arsenal fan when the Chelsea ...
What They're Saying: Economics professor Bruce Corrie    
"There are a number of positive benefits it could have to engage youth, build values, provide ...
Crowd Count: Chattanooga FC draws record 9,236 fans    
For the second year in a row, Chattanooga FC set a National Premier Soccer League attendance ...
Charlotte snaps Rhinos' USL unbeaten streak at 19 games    
The Charlotte Independence got goals from brothers Alex Martinez and Enzo Martinez as well as Pole ...
>> Soccer America Daily Archives