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Friday, May 27, 2011
Fire vying for 2-game sweep of Quakes

By Charlie Corr

The Chicago Fire, fresh off of a victory to clinch a 14th straight appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, are hoping they achieved some bit of momentum.

Chicago edged the San Jose Earthquakes, 5-4, in a shootout on Tuesday during an Open Cup play-in match. Now both sides return to MLS play this Saturday as the Fire host the Quakes at Toyota Park.

"I'm very pleased because the team is doing well again," Fire midfielder Marco Pappa said after the play-in victory. "The players are happy because we won, and we hope to beat them again at home."

The play-in match consisted of a 2-0 halftime deficit for the Fire, followed by two regulation goals to tie the match, then two scoreless 15-minute overtimes and the eventual shootout win.

It marked a long-awaited victory for Chicago (1-4-5), but the Fire still are in the midst of an eight-game winless streak (0-4-4) in league action dating back to the team's 3-2 victory over Sporting Kansas City on March 26.

For San Jose (3-4-3), there is a bitter taste after Tuesday's match, allowing the Fire to come back from a two-goal deficit, while not capitalizing on a one-man advantage when Fire defender Gonzalo Segares was issued a red card.

"After a loss like this, you couldn't wish for anything more than a rematch," Quakes midfielder Justin Morrow said following the play-in game. "We need to bring the fight for the next match and do everything we did in the first half over a full 90 minutes."

That is a familiar phrase for the Fire. The team has not pieced together a complete game this year (even its lone victory). And aside from a scoreless draw against Vancouver on May 7, the Fire have had to play from behind in every other match this month.

Chicago fell behind, 2-0, against Toronto FC but managed a 2-2 draw on May 14. The Fire allowed the first goal during a 2-1 loss to the Philadelphia Union on May 21. And then Chicago trailed, 2-0, against San Jose this week before a huge comeback.

The scenario for the Fire has not changed since late May. This team needs points in the worst way to start climbing out of its second-to-last stance in the Eastern Conference.

With the CONCACAF Gold Cup on the horizon, key absences will affect MLS clubs across the board next month, so this is an important weekend for both the Fire and Quakes to capitalize with their full crews. For the Fire, they will be without Pappa (Guatemala) following Saturday's match, and for the Quakes, Chris Wondolowski will join the U.S. squad after the weekend.