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Seattle Sounders Lock Horns With Freddie Ljungberg's Chicago Fire

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Seattle Sounders Lock Horns With Freddie Ljungberg's Chicago Fire
Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images
Freddie Ljungberg of the Chicago Fire faces his former Seattle Sounders' teammates in an important MLS match Saturday on Chicago's pitch.

The Seattle Sounders FC concludes a long and winding series of road matches in Chicago on Saturday before settling in at home for the majority of its remaining matches. The Sounders tackle the Chicago Fire at 5 p.m. PT at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Illinois.

Saturday’s confrontation is not only an important match for both teams regarding MLS playoff implications in a season that has reached its late crucial stage.  It is also round two in the competition pitting the Sounders against its former star midfielder, Sweden’s international star Freddie Ljungberg.

Round one of the competition, August 28 in Seattle, against Ljungberg and his mates went to the Sounders 2-1 on an exciting game winning header by Fredy Montero two minutes into stoppage play.  The Fire is now poised to return the favor on its home pitch.

Saturday’s match features teams heading in separate directions in recent MLS play.  Sounders FC come into action with a 10-9-6 league mark and 36 points.  The Sounders stand sixth in the West on goal difference, but have lost only once in their last 10 league matches with an impressive 6-1-3 mark.

Chicago, conversely, is struggling to remain in the postseason hunt. The Fire come into play at 6-9-8 with 26 points.  The Fire are fifth in the East and winless (0-2-2) in four matches since losing, 2-1, on the Xbox Pitch at Qwest Field on August 28. It was the first win in the series after two draws a year ago.

Wednesday night the Sounders were defeated 3-2 at Mexico's Monterrey in CONCACAF Champions League play.  With its chances to advance out of Champions League Group C dwindled after dropping its fourth straight match, Sounders FC must win in its final two CCL dates and rely on additional help to stay mathematically alive.

The prospect of reaching the quarterfinal knockout stage in Group C is exceedingly slim.  The Sounders, however, as a team in only its second year of existence that possesses many promising young players has benefited from CONCACAF play through opportunities to take on some of soccer’s most talented teams on an international stage.  

With a 0-4 mark thus far, the Sounders would love to break into the CONCACAF win column.  Two matches remain and both are at home in the friendly confines of the Xbox Pitch of Qwest Field.  Seattle faces Honduras' Marathón on September 29 and Costa Rica's Saprissa on October 19.

In regard to the MLS Cup Playoff picture a much brighter picture emerges.  An impressive 4-0 victory at Eastern Conference leader Columbus last week kept Seattle in the fourth and final wild card playoff position.

With Saturday’s important match on the road, it is significant to see how the Sounders are faring away from home against MLS opponents.  The Sounders on the season are 4-5-3 on the road.  The important recent statistic, however, is that three of those wins have occurred in the last five games.  Chicago stands at 3-2-6 at home.

Seattle sent shock waves through the MLS landscape on Saturday, dealing the Crew its worst home loss in five years. Furthermore, the three goals of striker Blaise Nkufo may signal the awakening of a potentially ferocious three-pronged attack featuring the veteran Swiss international alongside the speed and scoring punch of Fredy Montero and Steve Zakuani.

Beginning September 29 when it hosts Marathón at 7 p.m. PT in the Champions League, Sounders FC plays three contests in a row at home. On October 2 at 12:30 p.m. PT Toronto FC comes to town.  Columbus confronts the Sounders in an October 5 rematch, this time not in MLS play but for the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final.  Action begins at 7 p.m. PT.

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