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Friday, June 17, 2011
Fire, Revs gear up for East battle

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire's dreaded winless streak has passed. Now the Fire have the task of building off of a long-awaited victory when they take on the New England Revolution on Saturday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Chicago's team-record 11-game span without a victory was an unavoidable talking point over a two-and-a-half-month stretch. But with a road win against the Columbus Crew last week, the Fire are now switching gears for a second straight positive outcome against another Eastern Conference foe.

"We feel like if we match their intensity, the soccer part will take care of itself and we can get a result," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said of the New England match. "Especially on their home field."

Over the past several seasons, the Fire have had the upper hand against the Revolution in regular-season play. Chicago's last regular-season loss to New England was on May 6, 2007, at Gillette.

The Revs had a short recovery time this past week, playing Toronto FC to a scoreless draw on Wednesday at New England.

The Fire and Revolution have some work to do in climbing up from the bottom third of the East standings. Chicago (2-4-8) and New England (3-7-5) are tied for seventh place in the conference with 14 points apiece.

With Marco Pappa's continued international duty for Guatemala in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, the Fire will continue to go with their outside midfield combination of Dominic Oduro and Nyarko. Nyarko had a strong second half against Columbus last week, and he will have a few battles this Saturday against the Revolution's Kevin Alston.

"With Kevin, even if you're aggressive, you still are going to pick your moments to go forward," Nyarko said. "It's just playing smart, basically, going into the offensive end. When we get on the break, we should be lightning quick."

The Fire are healing up a bit among the defensive group, which has not surrendered a goal in the three matches with interim head coach Frank Klopas at the helm.

Center back Josip Mikulic (clavicle fracture) trained this past week. But don't expect Klopas to change anything on the defensive line, especially with those three straight shutouts in the books. Yamith Cuesta and Cory Gibbs should remain the center back duo heading into Saturday.

"I think he feels better, but I think physically he's still a little bit away, just from a fitness standpoint," Klopas said of Mikulic. "But it's good that he's out here training."