Fire desperate for turnaround at Rapids

April, 29, 2011
4/29/11
12:00
PM CT
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire, winless in four straight games, are not the only ones in MLS in need of a momentum shift. The Fire face the defending MLS champion Colorado Rapids this Saturday at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo., and the host Rapids are in a three-game skid of their own.

The major difference is that Colorado has three victories in its pocket this season, while Chicago sits with only one.

"We're both desperate for points," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. "We're not going to settle for a tie up there. We're going in for the win. We desperately need the points, and we've played well up there the last couple of years. But we're just unfortunate to not have come out of there with a win."

The Fire (1-3-2) will be without their captain, however. Defensive midfielder Logan Pause strained his hamstring on Wednesday and will not see the pitch Saturday. Also missing from the fray again is defender Cory Gibbs (hamstring), who played for Colorado in 2008 and 2009. Gibbs' replacement, Yamith Cuesta, performed admirably during the Fire's recent 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo.

Colorado (3-3-0) will have some key absences, as well, with forward Conor Casey expected to miss the match with a hamstring injury. The big story resonating throughout the league is the 10-game suspension of Rapids midfielder Brian Mullan, whose severe tackle caused Seattle Sounders FC midfielder Steve Zakuani to break his leg. Mullan was red carded for the incident and would have missed Saturday's match against the Fire anyway. But the league tacked on nine games to Mullan's suspension, and he was fined $5,000.

The Fire and Rapids squared off during a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifier match in which Chicago pulled off a 2-1 victory on March 30 at Bradley University in Peoria, Ill. Chicago defender Jalil Anibaba tallied a memorable game-winner from approximately 40 yards away.

That marked the Fire's last taste of victory. Since returning to league play after that Open Cup match, Chicago has posted three losses and a draw.

"Mentally, we all need to get a win back in the locker room and make guys happy," Nyarko said. "It's going to be a good game. We played them in the Open Cup and we beat them, so they're not going to allow us to beat them two times in a row. It's going to be a dog fight."

It will be a vastly different Rapids squad compared to the Open Cup match. Former Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens did not make the trip for Colorado, and the Rapids also played without forward Omar Cummings and midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Pablo Mastroeni, just to name a few.

Chicago is coming off a draw against Houston in which the Fire carried a 1-0 lead deep into the second half, only to see the Dynamo net an equalizer. Diego Chaves contributed his team-leading fourth goal of the season for the Fire, but Houston's Bobby Boswell scored on a set piece in the 83rd minute to take a point on the road.

"We just really need to impose ourselves," Nyarko said. "Sometimes I think we get naive, like the last game. We scored a goal and then we just shut it down. We just decided to defend for the entirety of the game, and that's not going to help us."

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