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Wednesday, August 17, 2011
Fire open long homestand with D.C. United

By Charlie Corr

Playing at home or on the road has been a wash for the Chicago Fire thus far this season -- 10 points at home and 10 on the road. But if Chicago had to choose one or the other, the team clearly prefers playing in front of its home base.

The Fire play their next four games -- three in MLS action -- at Toyota Park, beginning with D.C. United on Thursday (8 p.m., ESPN2).

"We want to be at home to put some wins in a row," Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said. "We're still alive."

The playoffs would be a miraculous thought at this point for the Fire (2-7-14, 20 points), who are sitting in last place in the Eastern Conference and need to post multiple wins on this homestand just to make a minimal climb in the standings.

Chicago has been king of the draw this year, matching an MLS record with their 14th draw against the New York Red Bulls last week.

"It seems we can't escape that part," Segares said. "It's all the time. It's sickening. We have the same amount of losses as [East-leading] Columbus, but the difference is the amount of ties that could have been wins."

The Fire are coming off a 2-2 draw against the New York Red Bulls. Chicago had a 2-1 lead, but Patrick Nyarko had to come out of the match early in the second half with a migraine. The match changed from then on out, but the Fire had a positive stretch through much of the first half, netting back-to-back goals.

Nyarko's pairing with Dominic Oduro up top was a positive, with Nyarko assisting Oduro's team-leading seventh goal. The Fire might roll with that setup again against D.C.

"With their speed and Patrick's ability to dribble through guys, it helps us to get pressure off the defense," Segares said. "In the first half we were pretty compact defensively. We also had them on their heels for a couple of chances. It was a tough loss."

The Fire defense welcomes back Cory Gibbs, who had been out with a groin injury. The center back was injured in the opening minutes of a 1-1 draw against the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 3. In the two games without Gibbs in the lineup, Chicago gave up six goals -- four to the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps on Aug. 7.

It is unclear if Gibbs will immediately be thrust into the starting lineup again.

"With such a quick turnaround, the starters haven't done much," Segares said. "I think the past couple days [Gibbs] has been participating harder with the guys that have gone for the entire sessions. I wouldn't be surprised if he's on the [18-player roster]."

This is the first appearance between the two teams in league play. United (7-6-9, 30 points) topped the Fire in the preseason with a 1-0 victory in the Carolina Challenge Cup on March 9. Chicago fell behind within the first 10 minutes and had to play most of the match with 10 men because of Diego Chaves' red card ejection in the 37th minute.

D.C. has found some good form over the past two months, posting a 3-1-5 record in MLS action since mid-June and recently coming off a 4-0 win over Vancouver on Saturday. Midfielder Chris Pontius netted two goals and was named MLS Player of the Week. Teammate Dwayne De Rosario earned the previous two weekly honors as D.C.

De Rosario has been with three teams this season, and D.C. has benefited mightily since his arrival on June 27. De Rosario has six goals and three assists in seven games for United, while posting three goals and five assists in his other 15 games split between Toronto FC and New York. Charlie Davies has eight goals and Pontius has contributed seven for D.C. this season.

"It's going to be as tough as New York," Segares said. "We tried to limit [New York's Thierry] Henry, and we've got to do the same with De Rosario. He's the ring leader and they feed off of him. We have to close him out, and after that, every single line is good. They have a lot of speed and they like to go on the counter."

Pappa says Twente move is 'rumor': Dutch publication De Telegraaf reported earlier this week that FC Twente is interested in Pappa, with a reported offer of $2.1 million to attain his rights. But the 23-year-old Guatemalan dismissed the report on Wednesday.

"It's just a rumor," Pappa said to MLSSoccer.com. "I still have a contract with MLS for one more year."

A source familiar with the situation told ESPNChicago.com that the Fire organization has not had any formal discussions with FC Twente.

Pappa has had a difficult stretch of late, sitting on five goals since June 26. He also has two assists in 19 games.