Here we go again. What once looked like a ho-hum matchup of reserves in the second game of the Simple Invitational suddenly carries much more significance for Portland in light of the Timbers’ search for a central-midfield partner for Diego Chara and a spark plug for their sputtering attack.
To get to know a little bit more about things from Chicago’s end, we got in touch with Sean Spence at our SB Nation sister site in Chicago, Hot Time in Old Town.
SF: The Fire have a lot of new faces (especially in the attack) from the last time the Timbers saw them in March of last year. Are Fire supporters enthusiastic about the changes?
SS: Fire supporters are a fractious group, and it's unlikely that anything short of recruiting Zeus, Amun-Ra and Kali as our three DPs would result in universal acclaim. That said, yes, the tenor of the conversations around the club is very much more positive going into 2015. Instead of betting that this time we were gonna find the mythical South American player-just-ready-to-blow-up-and-ride-that-success-to-moneyville, Frank Yallop, Brian Bliss and ownership spent a bit of actual money on players with both some pedigree and some upside. There's many a slip 'twixt the cup and the lip, but at least the cup seems to be filled with tea this time, not a combination of horse manure and a liquid almost (but not quite) entirely unlike tea.
SF: Frank Yallop is entering his second season in Chicago. After a disappointing season in which the Fire set an MLS record for draws, what does Yallop need to accomplish in 2015 to keep his job?
SS: The staff have repeated "playoffs" so many times that I'm starting to believe that's the litmus for a successful year. For me, a great deal would depend upon the manner of Chicago's involvement - backing into and then promptly losing a one-game wild-card playoff would not prompt the hanging of any "Mission Accomplished" banners.
SF: What kind of lineup can we expect to see from the Fire on Wednesday evening? Will Yallop play his starters, a lineup of primarily reserves, or something in between?
SS: Tsk, tsk. If you'd read my game preview on Hot Time, you'd realize that I have no idea! It could be mostly starters, mostly depth players, or any combination in between. Were I forced to put money on it, I'd say we're unlikely to see much from the three men who limped off against Stabæk - David Accam, Shaun Maloney and Lovel Palmer - although of the three, only Accam's difficulty was termed an injury and not simply a cramp.