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Saturday, Toyota Park. I think it's the Fourteenth of July? Saturday, Toyota Park. Pappa's still their big scoring guy. Odura's scoring, nicely shooting; good forward combination. Grazzini's passing is always on.
(Okay, that's about as long as I can keep that up. It's too bad Boston never did a song with lyrics that rhyme with "Gillette Stadium".)
The Chicago Fire are a better-than-half-decent soccer team which hasn't got a single player of real note. It's true. You look at the Fire roster and you see a number of quite good players; co-leading scorers Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro, for example, both of whom are skilled-but-not-too-skilled smaller forwards in their physical prime who've been getting decent goals in this league for a couple years. Sebastian Grazzini is the veteran, a good player with some goals and plenty of playmaking chops but, again, not among the league's leaders. Defenders are good players like Jalil Anibaba and Gonzalo Segares but, again, nobody you'd beat down the front door trying to get an autograph from.
Chicago's succeeding with that "team concept" that every team in MLS talks about but very few achieve. They're sort of the eastern version of Real Salt Lake; not as good, of course, but at the same time there's no one player of whom you can say "without them they're screwed".
They're also fresh. Their last game was at home last Saturday against the LA Galaxy (Chicago lost, but other than that they're in a decent vein of form: three wins and a draw from their last five including a highly credible 3-1 home victory over New York). As for the Whitecaps, well, we all remember their epic of transcontinental travel and their heartbreaking inability to mark Terry Dunfield. Dane Richards, new to the team but said to be available tonight, might have the freshest legs of any regularly-playing Whitecaps.
Will we see some squad rotation, then? Unlikely, beyond the obvious departed players and a potential injury; Martin Rennie sticks with his lineup through thick and thin. It's not like his troops look horribly out of shape, either. But it'll be interesting to see how he copes without his certain-90-minutes comfort blanket that is Sebastien Le Toux, as well as his other athletic superfreak Young-Pyo Lee fighting a knock from Toronto.
My expectations are modest. Chicago is good and unless Vancouver has really pulled themselves together they might be in for another nul points. These are the sorts of road trips that show what the Whitecaps are made of, and so far they aren't made of steel. This, right here, is a game that even very good teams lose and Vancouver hasn't looked like one of those.