One team is playing as well as it has all season and is closing in on a playoff spot. The other team is facing the possibility of elimination by the end of the night.
A hot Seattle Sounders team hosts the struggling Chicago Fire on Wednesday on CSN. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.
Seattle (11-13-5, 38 points) is 5-1-2 in its past eight matches. The Sounders have been boosted by the arrival of Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and likely Rookie of the Year winner Jordan Morris has been red-hot. Lodeiro has three goals and eight assists in nine matches. Morris is up to 12 goals on the season after scoring four in the past four games.
“Of course we are very, very careful with their transition with guys like Morris up in front,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They can be very dangerous in attack.”
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The Fire played at New York City FC on Friday. The team returned to Chicago before making the trip to the Pacific Northwest. All that travel in a short period of time plus facing a surging team in front of a big crowd at CenturyLink Field is not a good recipe for success for the Fire.
While the Sounders are closing in on the playoffs — they sit three points back of sixth-place Portland but have two games in hand — the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) are trying to get out of last place. The Fire are five points below the closest teams in the standings, Columbus and Houston. If Montreal beats San Jose and D.C. defeats Columbus, both games that will finish before kickoff Wednesday in Seattle, the Fire would need to get at least a tie to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.
Despite the long odds to make the playoffs, Paunovic says motivation is not a problem.
“That’s part of our job, keep them motivated and work on that,” Paunovic said. “So far because of their commitment, I think that was easier to do. We of course have to continue doing that. The team is already addressed on that.
“We have the responsibility for ourselves. We have the responsibility for our profession and we have a responsibility for our supporters.”
The Fire arrived in Seattle without goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who is out for the second straight game with a toe injury. Lampson hasn’t started in MLS play since Aug. 6. The only other injury listed by the club is John Goossens, who has missed the past two matches with a back injury. Goossens is questionable.
The big news out of Seattle is that Clint Dempsey’s irregular heartbeat, which has kept him out of the past five matches, has ended his 2016 season early. Dempsey’s loss is massive, but Seattle still has plenty of talent for the Fire to worry about.
“They like to keep the possession, especially in the opponent’s half,” Paunovic said of the Sounders. “They have very quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro I think the team improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home I think they have very good support and they feel more confident, but they are a team that is not unbeatable. They also had early in the season their issues and there are some weaknesses we can say that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of.”
Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders
When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday
Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle