In goal for the Fire could be Lilburn’s Sean Johnson. In front of him could be defender Steven Kinney, who is from Norcross. On the sideline will be assistant coach Clint Mathis, from Conyers. Johnson and Kinney estimate there could be almost 200 fans in 5,000-seat Silverbacks Park just to watch them play as pros in Atlanta for the first time.
“It’s super exciting to be able to come back to my home state and play in front of family and friends,” Johnson said. “It’s a fantastic opportunity.”
Kinney, in his fifth season with Chicago, said buses may be needed to get everyone who has asked him for a ticket to the game. The Fire haven’t announced which players would travel for the game. Kinney wasn’t sure if he would make the squad.
While the thought of playing at home may be enjoyable for the Silverbacks and for some of the Fire, each team comes in with issues.
Playing without Chavez and Poku, who have scored three four of the goals in the past two Open Cup wins, will be a challenge.
“It will cause us to play a different way,” Wynalda said.
The team is expected to have midfielder Lucas Paulini back from an injury, and is working to sign a forward before Wednesday’s game.
Overcoming difficulties such as injuries isn’t new to the Silverbacks.
They scored in the final second to defeat Real Salt Lake 2-1 in the fourth round of the Open Cup. They followed that performance by holding on for more than 20 minutes after the ejections at Colorado to secure that win.
“Funny part about it to me, probably the most gratifying moment as a coach, is we’ve trained for that,” Wynalda said. “It’s ironic that we had to finish the game with a practice that we’ve done hundreds of times.”
Because he and assistant Ricardo Montoya won’t be allowed on the sidelines, they also won’t be allowed to communicate with the coaches on the sidelines. Wynalda and Montoya are expected to watch the game from the stands.
While the Silverbacks will try to overcome that problem, Chicago will try to figure out how to earn a positive result.
The Fire will play the third of four games in 11 days. The results from the first two are like most of the previous for them this season: ties. Chicago has two wins, four losses and an MLS-leading 10 ties this season. They both score (24) and allow goals (27) at a similar pace.
“We have all the tools necessary to get to where we need to be,” Johnson said. “Hopefully that’s the semifinal after this game and really put a complete game together. We’ve done a good job in the Open Cup so far.”