The Chicago Fire begin one of their toughest two-game stretches of the season on Wednesday when they host Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park. The Fire then have a short rest before hosting the Eastern Conference-leading New York Red Bulls on Sunday.
"We're at home and we're going to try to impose our will," Fire captain Logan Pause said. "It's going to be a great challenge."
Midfielder Marco Pappa returns to the Fire (2-4-9) after playing for Guatemala in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. How much of an impact he will have right away remains to be seen.
"Patrick and Dom have been playing well in their roles," Pause said. "Marco is a very important player, and we'll see how Frank will incorporate him into [Wednesday's game]. He's had to play a lot of games. We want him back and want his services back. He's a great player and a great guy in the locker room."
Pause is not certain to go for the midweek match. He is listed as questionable on this week's injury report with both a hamstring strain and a concussion.
Making noteworthy, and at times necessary, lineup adjustments have been the nature of the business for Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas. In his four-game tenure after replacing Carlos de los Cobos, Klopas' squad has not posted a loss, and he has made some needed personnel adjustments along the way.
Klopas made four starting lineup changes heading into the Fire's road win against the Columbus Crew. Klopas also showed that he is quick to go with his youth up front, inserting forwards Orr Barouch and Gabriel Ferrari during the second half of last week's 1-1 draw against the New England Revolution.
On Tuesday, the MLS Disciplinary Committee handed a one-game suspension to forward Jean Alexandre of Salt Lake (6-3-4). Alexandre's reckless tackle in the 49th minute (he did not receive a booking) of RSL's June 18 match against D.C. United led to the committee suspending him for Wednesday's match.
RSL is in the midst of a three-game winless stretch and a 1-2-3 record over its past six matches. Salt Lake has had its ups and downs ever since the CONCACAF Champions League run to the finals, seeing its unbeaten home run come to a close three days later against the Portland Timbers. RSL also blew an early lead against Columbus on June 8, posting a 2-1 loss.
Salt Lake touts MLS's top defense, allowing a league-low eight goals so far this year. Four of those goals have come during RSL's current three-game winless stretch.