After a winless April, the Chicago Fire are in desperate need of a win in front of Toyota Park on Saturday night against the Vancouver Whitecaps. The Fire haven’t won since defeating Sporting FC on March 26th and have slipped to eight place in the Eastern Conference. The Whitecaps, one of two newly expansion teams this year, come to town also in need of a result after winning just once in eight attempts so far this season. Coach Teitur Thordarson’s side currently sits in eighth place in the West, just a single point ahead of last placed San Jose and with both teams in such indifferent form and in dire need of a win, look for both sets of players to really have a go tomorrow.
5 things to watch for:
Defense – Neither team boasts a particularly strong defense and both clubs have been culpable of numerous defensive errors this season. In fact, a worrying statistic for the Fire is that they have yet to register a clean sheet this season. Carlos de los Cobos will certainly hope to see that chance on Saturday, although the absence of Josip Mikulic will be a huge blow. Meanwhile, the Whitecaps have yet to find consistency in the back too and will once again be hampered by injuries this weekend, particularly to US defender Jay Demerit. We could see defensive errors decide this one.
From Columbia to the Windy City – The Chicago Fire announced on Tuesday the signing of Christian Nazarit. The Columbian striker brings a decent goal ratio and could make his first appearance for the club on Saturday. Keep an eye out for how well he links up with Diego Chaves as well as the Fire midfield. It may take him a few matches to settle, but Toyota Park will certainly be anxious to catch an early glimpse of the 20-year-old’s capabilities tomorrow night.
Shea Salinas – After being sidelined by injury for the majority of the season so far, the Whitecaps midfielder recently made his debut and will look to settle in the team and make an impact. His speed and skill will make him an important dimension to a Vancouver attack that has still yet to really get going this season. The Fire will have to keep tabs on him.
Midfield dilemma – Eight games into the season now and de los Cobos is still yet to find a midfield shape or lineup that he is pleased with. Logan Pause’s injury last weekend forced Carlos to employ a five man midfield including Paladini, Bone, Oduro, Pappa and Puerari. The plan backfired as the Fire completely failed to maintain possession and grab a hold on the match. It will be interesting to see what de los Cobos opts for on Saturday. Strangely, de los Cobos was happy with the midfield last weekend. Judging by that, he may even play the same lineup. If he does, he better hope they have a better collective performance than they did last weekend.
Hold on tight – The past two matches have seen the Fire take the lead only to surrender their advantage in the second half. Against Houston the Fire were 10 minutes away from earning a much needed victory before conceding from a set-piece and last weekend saw the Rapids capitalize on some poor defending soon after the restart. If the Fire can score first tomorrow, they will have to ensure they have learned their lessons and maintain that lead. It’s time for the Fire to show some mettle, get the win, and hopefully look forward to a good run of form.