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Saturday, June 25, 2011
Fire meet Red Bulls' offensive force

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire's short homestand has featured the league's top defense in Real Salt Lake. Now the Fire take on MLS's top offense as the goal-heavy New York Red Bulls and Thierry Henry head to Toyota Park this Sunday (1 p.m. ESPN).

Henry is coming off a suspension after receiving a red card against the Portland Timbers. He has been the driving force of the Red Bulls' offense with eight goals. New York is averaging a league-best 1.6 goals per game (26 goals in 16 matches).

"For sure, we're looking forward to it," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said of the challenge. "It's just another opportunity for us to gain some momentum. The guys will be ready."

The Fire defense has held its ground under Klopas, allowing only one goal over his five games at the helm for a 1-0-4 record.

Chicago has had its success against the Red Bulls at Toyota Park, posting a 5-0-2 record.

Offensively, the Fire have struggled to get things together, netting only two goals in their past five matches. But New York has allowed its share of goals this season (20), and the Red Bulls are coming off a 4-2 loss to Seattle Sounders FC on Thursday -- a defeat that featured three Sounders goals generated off of corner kicks.

The look of the Fire's starting midfield appears to be somewhat unknown entering Sunday's match. Klopas has gone with Patrick Nyarko and Dominic Oduro on the left and right flanks, respectively, as Marco Pappa played for Guatemala's national team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. Pappa was eased back into the Fire lineup on Wednesday with a second-half appearance against Salt Lake.

How Klopas attempts to incorporate all three -- whether at the same time, or utilizing someone off the bench -- remains to be seen. Perhaps there is the outside chance of Pappa moving to center midfield, but Klopas appears as though he wants to keep him on the outside.

"Marco is good when he's out wide," Klopas said. "A lot of times, mostly on the right side, he has the ability to come inside and put a very good shot on goal. He also can cut to the outside and also use the right foot. Every game is different. We have options. Depending on how the game goes, he is creative and can see things with the final passes. He always puts himself in positions to score."

Fire defensive midfielder Logan Pause will miss another match (concussion). He was listed as out on Friday night's updated MLS Injury Report. That means Daniel Paladini will likely get another start.

Fire forward Cristian Nazarit will serve the second match of his two-game suspension. Nazarit was penalized by the MLS Disciplinary Committee for a foul that he committed against the New England Revolution. Fire rookie Orr Barouch took Nazarit's place in the starting lineup against RSL and logged about 70 minutes of work.

The Red Bulls still are shorthanded with Rafael Marquez (Mexico), Juan Agudelo (U.S.) and Tim Ream (U.S.) competing in Saturday's Gold Cup final. But with Henry's return, combined Dwayne De Rosario and Dane Richards, the Red Bulls have their share of offensive weapons.

"They have quality players, and we just have to be very organized right from the start," Klopas said. "If we're good with the ball and we make the right decisions, we will have opportunities with our pace. We just can't force the ball."