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Friday, October 14, 2011
Shorthanded Fire look to regroup at D.C.

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Now that the playoffs are more or less out of the picture, the Chicago Fire are simply looking to finish out their final two matches on a positive note.

But the Fire (7-9-16, 37 points) will be dramatically shorthanded when they face Eastern Conference foe D.C. United on Saturday at RFK Stadium.

Defenders Dan Gargan and Cory Gibbs are suspended because of yellow card accumulation, and midfielder Pavel Pardo is out because of a straight red card from Wednesday's 2-1 home loss to FC Dallas.

"We have to finish strong," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "Every time we have an opportunity to step on the field and train or play, it's all about improving as a team. We don't believe in excuses."

"We need to regroup and go over there in D.C. and look for the win," Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said. "[The Dallas loss is] definitely a big blow for us. We've been pushing really hard these past couple of months during the late run and it got us pretty close to being in the position in which we could have been fighting for the playoffs. But with the result [Wednesday], it's just really tough to swallow. We've got two more games to play and like every other game we've got to go out there and get a win."

Segares felt that the heavy dose of cards from that match was the result of last-second frustration in trying to disrupt a superior Dallas side.

"A lot of them were when [Dallas] was on the counter and somehow we had to stop the play," Segares said. "At the beginning of the game, that's how they got many chances. Sometimes you've got to stop those breakaways. Because so many guys got cards, it's definitely going to hurt us -- Gargan, Cory and Pavel with the red card. But we have guys who can step into the starting lineup and help us in the last couple of games."

The Fire have had their share of defensive suspensions already this season, but they have some options to make due in D.C. Segares will remain at left back, Jalil Anibaba could shift to right back, and Klopas might turn to a center back pairing of Josip Mikulic and Yamith Cuesta.

Pardo's absence in the midfield will be a crucial setback as he arguably has been the team's most valuable player during his short tenure. Fire midfielder Marco Pappa will return from international duty with Guatemala.

Several weeks ago it appeared that D.C. (9-11-11, 38 points) would work itself into the playoff picture, thanks mostly because of Dwayne De Rosario's heavy scoring dose. But United is now in the midst of a three-game losing streak, most recently posting a 2-1 loss to the Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday.

United does have three home matches left on the docket. But with a five-point deficit from the bottom of the wild card field, D.C.'s quest for a postseason has quickly faded.

The Fire played D.C. to a 1-1 draw on Aug. 18 at Toyota Park. Sebastian Grazzini had a 59th-minute goal for a 1-0 lead, but D.C.'s Josh Wolff found the equalizer in the 73rd minute.