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Saturday, August 6, 2011
Fire look to turn tide against Whitecaps

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The theme around the Chicago Fire locker room during the midweek was toward forging ahead in the midst of a disappointing outcome.

The players certainly have had to cope with quite a few, and their most recent effort was out-playing the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, only to manage a 1-1 draw.

Now the Fire hit the road to take on the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps on Sunday at Empire Field.

"We cannot dwell on it," Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. "We've got to look forward. Every point dropped hurts, but we've got to move on."

"It seems like it's been a little bit of a recurring theme this year," Fire captain Logan Pause said. "We don't have enough time to hang our heads and get upset and worry. ... At this stage, ties aren't really helping. We know we need to get three points."

The Fire have not fared well against MLS's two expansion sides this year. Chicago's best result was a scoreless draw against Vancouver on May 7. The Fire dropped both matches against the Portland Timbers -- a 4-2 loss at Portland on April 14, and a 1-0 home defeat on July 16.

The Fire (2-6-13, 19 points) are in the midst of a seven-game winless streak (0-2-5) and in last place in the Eastern Conference. The Whitecaps (2-11-9, 15 points) are in last place in the West. Both of Vancouver's victories have come at home.

Vancouver is in the midst of a six-game winless streak (0-5-1) and is coming off its worst defeat of the season -- a 4-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy last Saturday.

The Fire defense has represented one of the few bright spots on the team this season, and the match against Philadelphia represented Chicago's depth in the back.

Pause dropped to right back with the debut of Pavel Pardo at defensive midfield. Typical right back, rookie defender Jalil Anibaba, was brought into the match after center back Cory Gibbs got injured in the opening minutes. Josip Mikulic also stepped in at center back for Yamith Cuesta, who had to sit out Wednesday's match for a red card suspension.

Mikulic and Anibaba both had solid efforts teaming up at center back.

"We've got a deep team," Pause said. "Josip is more than capable and played a fantastic game. You see a young and up-and-coming player who's hopefully here for a long time in Jalil step in and do a great job. You just hope that Cory has a quick recovery. That's one of the reasons why you have to count on all 30 players."

Cuesta returns, but Gibbs will miss Sunday's game with a left groin strain. As for Pause, he has adjusted to his new defensive duties.

"It's just a completely different role," Pause said. "Playing holding mid, you're kind of just the anchor. Right back allows me to get up and down a little bit."

The ongoing problem for Chicago is the inability to finish chances this year. The Fire have netted only six goals in their past 10 matches. Chicago's leading goal scorers Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro have been sitting on five tallies apiece for more than a month.

The Whitecaps' offense clearly rests with Frenchman Eric Hassli, Vancouver's first designated player. Hassli leads the Whitecaps with eight goals this season. He has three multi-goal games, and his most memorable performance was a two-goal effort against Seattle Sounders FC on June 11. His second tally was a superb right-footed strike from the right side that was driven past Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller and just inside the left post to salvage a 2-2 draw.