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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- One moment, the Chicago Fire were in the midst of a three-game winless start. Now they have an opportunity for their third straight victory when they host Chivas USA on Saturday night at Toyota Park.
A three-game winning streak is a fairly coveted accomplishment nowadays. Last season the Fire had only one three-game winning streak, and beyond that the team could not muster back-to-back regular-season wins.
Chicago (2-2-1) welcomes in a Chivas (2-3-0) squad that finally broke through with a noteworthy offensive performance last week in a 3-2 win over the San Jose Earthquakes.
The pieces appear to be falling into place for the Fire after their slow start. They have shown a sense of cohesiveness within their 4-5-1 formation, and have done so for most of the season without a couple of key players in the middle, including defensive midfielder Logan Pause.
"It's imperative that these guys are getting games and getting their confidence up," Pause said earlier this week. "Just because we weren't getting results didn't mean we were playing bad in the midfield. We tweaked a few things with how we're playing, and that's given us more numbers. It's a young group in there, but it's exciting to watch."
Pause was putting in some relatively aggressive training in this week. He has been dealing with a left knee sprain and on Friday night was taken off the MLS injury report heading into Saturday's game.
"I'm getting there," Pause said. "Knock on wood, hopefully things continue to progress. I'm not 100 percent, but hopefully [my return] is right around the corner."
On Saturday, the Fire defense is going to be without left outside back Krzysztof Krol, who was red-carded toward the end of last week's 2-0 victory over the Houston Dynamo. Krol and right outside back Tim Ward were a secondary story behind Chicago's midfield play last week. Their performances were just as important in keeping the ball toward the middle and offensive thirds of the pitch.
Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos was impressed with Ward's play specifically. Ward had previously been out of sync with his passing and movement in earlier games, and that was a bit of a surprise considering how his play improved during the course of the 2009 season.
"He's a good player,” De Los Cobos said. “I'm happy for Timmy because I think he needed this performance to feel good about himself."
Despite Chivas' recent three-goal effort, the Goats are not doing a whole lot on the offensive end. They are tied for second-to-last in goals (5), and one of those is an own-goal received.
On Friday, Chivas announced the acquisition of midfielder and forward Jose Macotelo, on loan from Costa Rica's Puntarenas FC. He will be eligible for Saturday's match against the Fire.