Reunions highlight Sounders-Fire match

don.ruiz@thenewstribune.comJune 6, 2014 

TUKWILA — There will be four familiar faces in less familiar uniforms Saturday when Seattle Sounders FC visits the Chicago Fire.

Longtime Seattle defenders Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Patrick Ianni play for the Fire, while Sounders midfielder Marco Pappa and defender Jalil Anibaba played most of their Major League Soccer careers with Chicago.

“I think it’s going to be weird for both sides,” Pappa said. “When I was playing there, I tried to do my best, and now that I’m here, I try to do my best also. ... Chicago is a big part of my career, for sure, but business is business.”

Pappa, 26, was a starter for the Fire from 2008-12 before joining SC Heerenveen of the Dutch first division. He was acquired by the Sounders through the allocation process in January and has played in 12 of the club’s 14 games this season.

Anibaba, 25, was a regular starter with the Fire from 2011-13.

The Sounders traded for him in January. He has appeared in five games at his new address.

“Chicago is where I became a man,” Anibaba said this week. “It will be nice to return to Toyota Park. I’m just more excited to be back there — being a place I’m familiar. But obviously the main focus is to get three points.”

The trade that brought Anibaba to Seattle also sent Hurtado and Ianni to Chicago.

Both had been with the club since its 2009 expansion season, but the Sounders juggled salary cap issues and expressed a desire to get younger along their back line.

“Difficult decision for us at the time because JK was very good for us and a very likable player for us within our group,” coach Sigi Schmid said Thursday before the Sounders flew to Illinois. “But we felt (it) was a move we had to make as well. It will be good to see them again.

“I like JK, and I like Patrick.”

Hurtado, 30, has played in all 13 of Chicago’s matches this season. Ianni, 28, has been limited to four appearances at defense and midfield.

The Fire played to a scoreless draw Wednesday at Colorado, moving its record to 2-3-8, good for ninth in the 10-team Eastern Conference.

Hurtado played 90 minutes in that match, but Ianni was held out because of illness.

“They played a different lineup,” Schmid said. “It was just good to see the game and see the rhythm of the game, how they defended. They’re a team that makes it very difficult to break them down because they often defend with a block of four and a block of five.”

The Sounders are 9-3-2 and are assured of having the best record in MLS when the league begins its World Cup break next week. Schmid has said the club would like to go into the break in good form and in a good mood.

If the homecomings of Pappa and Anibaba provide extra incentive, he said, all the better.

“I’m happy for both of those guys,” he said. “And that gives us a little extra motivation, too, to put on a good performance so they can hold their heads high.”

Don Ruiz: 253-597-8808 @donruiztnt

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