Friday, June 3, 2011
Klopas' Fire host confident Sounders
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The post-Carlos de los Cobos era begins for the Chicago Fire, and it is no secret that interim head coach Frank Klopas' squad has a deep hole to climb out of.
The Fire are 1-4-6 and have tied a franchise-worst nine-game winless streak (0-4-5). Chicago attempts to end the ongoing skid when it hosts Seattle Sounders FC on Saturday at Toyota Park.
"Everybody's definitely wanting to get back on track," said Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who returned to the starting role last week for the first time since April 14. "We're always optimistic that we can progress toward getting to the playoffs. The reality is we're 1-4-6, so we've got to get out of this rut."
The Sounders (5-4-5) are coming off of one of their biggest victories, a 2-1 decision over Real Salt Lake, ending Salt Lake's dominant 29-game home winning streak at Rio Tinto Stadium. Lamar Neagle tallied the game-winner for his first MLS goal.
Seattle also has been in the driver's seat throughout its all-time series against the Fire since joining MLS in 2009. The Sounders are 3-0-2 against the Fire, defeating Chicago twice last season and posting a 2-1 victory over Chicago this year on April 9 at Qwest Field.
The April 9 match marked the start of the Fire's current nine-game winless stretch and was the team's first loss of the 2011 season. Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller was the difference maker with several clutch saves in the second half to preserve the one-goal advantage for Seattle.
The Fire have a jam-packed June schedule, and they start the month without midfielder Marco Pappa, who is away with the Guatemalan national team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Pappa is tied for the team lead with four goals.
"Marco's a very talented and important player," Klopas said. "But I believe in the other players to step in and perform because it's all about the team. When you lose one guy and you bring in someone else, it's all about the ideas and how we want to play. It's not one guy taking the ball. How we attack and defend, it puts more emphasis on the group."
There is curiosity as to how things will be different under the Klopas regime. Clearly the team did not get the game-time results under De los Cobos, and Klopas said that he will "fine tune" things in the Fire's game plan. Klopas' leadership of the team will be viewed under a microscope since the majority of the squad was assembled with him in the technical director role.
From a personnel standpoint, the Fire already made one move Friday by loaning second-year defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe to FC Tampa Bay of the second-division North American Soccer League. Watson-Siriboe had not seen a single match this season after playing in 10 matches (seven starts) during his 2010 rookie campaign.
"Sending Kwame to FC Tampa Bay for the remainder of the 2011 season allows for Kwame to play games and continue to develop as a defender," Klopas said.
The weak performances from the bulk of the Eastern Conference bring some element of optimism from the Fire's standpoint. Chicago enters the weekend second-to-last in the East and 11 points behind the first-place Philadelphia Union. Philadelphia and D.C. United are the only two East teams that have posted two victories in their past five matches.
"I guess there's always time until you're mathematically out," Fire captain and defensive midfielder Logan Pause said. "If we continue to say we've got time, we'll wake up and it'll be like, 'oh man, I wish we had more time.' We've got work to do."