Fire out to restore home-field advantage
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The skipping record of the 2009 MLS season was the Chicago Fire's mediocre home record. The Fire managed a 5-4-6 mark at Toyota Park last season, and they would like to restore their home dominance right off the bat when they take on the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday.
"We're hoping this year that it will be very different," Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic said. "Last year it felt like our road games were our advantage. We were more successful on the road than at home. So I hope we can turn it around this year."
It was a frequent conversation for many reasons, but the Fire's five-win total at home -- which tied for second-lowest in the league with the New York Red Bulls -- did not sit well with the organization, the players and fans.
"A lot was made of it because we were tying a lot of games," Fire forward Brian McBride said. "The most important thing for us as players is not getting involved in the mental side of home-field advantage, and really just build off of the fans, rather than worry about what your record could or should be."
This will be the first home match for new Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos, who led the team to a 0-1-1 start on the road this season.
"I'm very excited," De los Cobos said. "We have a very big commitment, playing in front of our fans. I know they have big expectations of the team."
One element that might not have any bearing on the game itself, but is interesting nonetheless, is the return of goalkeeper Jon Busch. San Jose signed the former Fire goalkeeper shortly after he was waived by Chicago in a surprising move less than one week before the start of the 2010 season.
Playing against a former teammate is nothing new to McBride.
"That happens all the time in soccer," McBride said. "A lot of times you get kicked by your former teammate, and you're a good buddy. But that's a part of the game. I think everybody involved understands that."
Busch is expected to back up Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon.
In San Jose's lone match this season, the Quakes fell to defending MLS champion Real Salt Lake, 3-0. Chris Leitch was red-carded in the second half of that game and will miss Saturday's match.
The Fire's defense should be completely healthy for this match. Wilman Conde missed last week's 2-all draw against the Colorado Rapids, but he was taken off the injury report. In the midfield, however, Chicago is stretched a little thin with John Thorrington (questionable, quad strain) and Logan Pause (questionable, knee sprain) on the injury report. De los Cobos said Thorrington would not be ready this week or next, and Pause is a question mark for Saturday's match.
The Fire are 3-0-1 in Toyota Park home openers. The team expects to maintain that trend on Saturday.
Prediction: Chicago Fire 2, San Jose Earthquakes 0