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On Monday, ESPNSoccernet.com ranked the Chicago Fire in ninth place in its 2010 Power Rankings for Week 3. With a 2-2 draw against the host Colorado Rapids on Saturday, the Fire did not budge from their Week 2 ranking, which is a deserving position.
ESPNSoccernet.com's take on the Fire's "less than convincing" defense was on the mark, but the bigger worry is Chicago's lack of production in the midfield. In these first two matches the Fire (0-1-1) have fallen short in terms of their control and confidence in the middle third of the pitch. That will have to change.
Marco Pappa did have a nice corner kick service for Collins John's goal against Colorado, but in the run of play Pappa needs to be a more assertive figure this season without Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe in the midfield. And it needs to happen on both sides of the ball. Pappa had a critical defensive mishap against Colorado that led to the Rapids' penalty kick goal by Conor Casey.
The Fire need John Thorrington back from his quad injury to help in the central midfield, and head coach Carlos de los Cobos might want to consider utilizing Baggio Husidic in a starting role. Husidic has come off the bench in the first two games.
Chicago's defense should be relatively steady this season, though that will depend on Wilman Conde staying healthy (he already missed last week's game) and some much-needed improvement from defensive midfielder Logan Pause.
The Fire's first-week opponent, the New York Red Bulls, jumped from eighth to first place in ESPNSoccernet.com's rankings following a 1-0 victory against host Seattle Sounders FC. The Red Bulls are only three wins away from matching last season's dreadful total -- what a difference a year makes. The Fire's Week 2 opponent, Colorado, is in 10th place, one spot below Chicago.
Chicago is the only top-10 team without a victory. But because the Fire's first two matches were on the road during their opposing teams' home openers, they are allowed a bit of slack.
That will not be the case this Saturday when Chicago hosts the lowly San Jose Earthquakes (7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park in Bridgeview). Anything less than a home victory should merit a drop from its ninth-place position.