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Eastern Conference Championship

Preview: Chicago, Vancouver seek end to winless slumps

Chicago vs. Vancouver, May 7, 2011

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

Two teams looking to put an end to long winless runs in league play meet Saturday when the Chicago Fire play host to Vancouver Whitecaps FC at Toyota Park. The Fire are winless in five in a row, though they’ve gained points in their last two, after a 1-1 road draw with Colorado last weekend. Whitecaps FC haven’t won in seven league games, but they gained advancement in the Canadian Championship at midweek in a 1-1 home draw with the Montreal Impact.

DOWNLOAD GAME GUIDE

REFEREE: Andrew Chapin. SAR (bench): George Gansner; JAR (opposite): Ian Anderson; 4th: Alex Prus MLS Career: 28 games; FC/gm: 27.6; Y/gm: 4.7; R: 8; pens: 4

INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: MF Mike Banner (L Achilles tendinitis); DF Steven Kinney (R Achilles repair); MF Michael Videira (concussion symptoms); FW Gabriel Ferrari (L hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF Cory Gibbs (L hamstring strain); MF Marko Maric (L ankle sprain/contusion); DF Josip Mikulic (L clavicle contusion); MF Logan Pause (R hamstring strain) ... VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC – OUT: FW Atiba Harris (R knee surgery); MF Michael Nanchoff (groin strain); MF John Thorrington (R calf strain); DOUBTFUL: DF Jay DeMerit (groin strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none

SUSPENDED: none

WARNINGS: SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: none SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Gonzalo Segares

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME: First meeting.

RETURN MATCH: 8/7: Vancouver Whitecaps FC vs. Chicago Fire, 4 p.m. PT (Galavision)

  • Coaches record: Teitur Thordarson vs. CHI: first game ... Carlos de los Cobos v VAN: first game

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire saw their winless run hit five games, but got a result for a second straight game in a 1-1 draw with the Colorado Rapids on Saturday at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Fire have 6 points from 7 matches on the year, sitting in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. LAST MATCH

  • The teams traded goals on either side of halftime. Just before the break, Gaston Puerari launched Dominic Oduro down the right flank, and his hard cross into the penalty box was knocked home by a sliding Marco Pappa.
  • The Rapids’ response came four minutes after the restart as a wide-open Akpan collected a through ball from Cummings in the right side of the penalty area and rifled a tightly angled shotthrough the hands of Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway and into the far corner.
  • Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos made three changes to the team that drew 1-1 with the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park. Dan Paladini, Corben Bone and Gaston Puerari all came into a new-look midfield, in place of Logan Pause, Baggio Husidic and Patrick Nyarko.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-4-1-1): Jon Conway - Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic (Dasan Robinson 37), Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares - Dominic Oduro, Dan Paladini, Corben Bone (Orr Barouch 74), Marco Pappa - Gaston Puerari (Patrick Nyarko 90) - Diego Chaves.

TEAM NEWS

Without captain Logan Pause, out with a hamstring strain, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos changed his
tactical scheme. Moved into a deeper-lying central midfield role, Gastón Puerari collected his second assist in MLS (to go with one goal) in starting the play that led to the Fire’s goal in Colorado, in their second consecutive draw.

  • “We were able to find Dominic [Oduro] behind [Colorado defender Anthony] Wallace and we were able to exploit that for the goal,” defender Gonzalo Segares said. “I definitely think that the formation helped us move the ball around a little bit better and it gave them trouble. I’m pretty excited about that.”
  • De los Cobos also started Corben Bone and Dan Paladini in the center of midfield – the first appearance for each this season. The two had combined for six career starts in MLS before the game.
  • “Having them drop back gave more space to [wingers] Marco Pappa and Dominic Oduro,” Segares said. “They didn’t have to drop in so much defensively so they could play a little bit wider and once we recovered the ball they could just go forward. I think it gave them a little bit more freedom.”
  • De los Cobos opted to stay with Jon Conway in goal for a third consecutive match. Sean Johnson had started the opening four matches for the Fire.
  • "He understands," de los Cobos said. "He made some mistakes and he has to stay calm. He's young and I tell him not to worry too much because it's normal. Goalkeepers have mistakes. I believe in Sean. I want to protect Sean because he's young and sometimes those players need support. And he's working very hard." Said Johnson: "You have to keep working. The coach is going to make his decision and you have to try to get back."
  • The Fire went winless in five games in the month of April, scoring six goals in that time but allowing 10.
  • "We have a chance to have better results than we've had in these last three or four games," de los Cobos said. "Our players are looking good and I believe good results are coming."
  • On Wednesday, the Fire announced the signing of Colombian youth international Cristian Nazarit. The 20-year-old began his career with América de Cali in 2007 before moving to Independiente Santa Fe after one season.
  • “Cristian is more of a player that stays high up and gives us a very good point of reference. He’s also a player you need to provide service to in order to be effective,” said technical director Frank Klopas. “He gives us a different dimension because his strength and ability to play with his back to goal and also to get behind the back line, I think it’s going to give us a different way to attack and also a person with which we can be more direct in our attack.”

VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC

Vancouver Whitecaps FC had their winless skein stretched to seven games, falling 2-1 to the Columbus Crew on Saturday evening at Crew Stadium. Whitecaps FC have 6 points from 8 matches, sitting in eighth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH

  • The Crew broke through just after the second-half restart. Emilio Renteria pounced on a loose ball, and after he was tripped up in the box by Whitecaps FC goalkeeper Jay Nolly, he converted his own penalty.
  • Just nine minutes later, Rentería made it 2-0 when Rusmir took a pass from Dilly Duka, spun and found Rentería in stride in the box. The Venezuelan international got inside of his defender to finish with a first-time left-footed shot.
  • Vancouver reduced the deficit in the 69th minute when Omar Salgado scored his first professional goal, heading home a cross from the left by Terry Dunfield. Whitecaps FC head coach Teitur Thordarson made four changes to the team that fell 2-1 to FC Dallas at Empire Field. Greg Janicki and Mouloud Akloul came into the back four for Michael Boxall and Blake Wagner, Gershon Koffie returned to the midfield in place of Jeb Brovsky, and Omar Salgado started up top in place of Eric Hassli.
  • VANCOUVER WHITECAPS FC (4-4-1-1): Jay Nolly - Jonathan Leathers, Greg Janicki, Mouloud Akloul, Alain Rochat - Wes Knight (Shea Salinas 66), Terry Dunfield (Jeb Brovsky 74), Gershon Koffie, Davide Chiumiento - Camilo (Nizar Khalfan 56) - Omar Salgado

TEAM NEWS

  • Omar Salgado, the No. 1 overall selection in the 2011 SuperDraft, scored his first professional goal in the 2-1 loss to Columbus. He is eighth-youngest player in MLS history to score.
  • "He has to get better at keeping the ball when we play him as a target player but he's still young and has qualities I really like," Whitecaps FC coach Teitur Thordarson said. "He's very good at going in behind the back line. He's also fast and getting very much stronger and has a great shot. He's also very good in the air."
  • Salgado was given the start with Eric Hassli serving a third suspension on the season, this time for yellow card accumulation, while Atiba Harris underwent surgery earlier in the week to repair a torn meniscus in his knee.
  • Shea Salinas made his first league appearance of the season, coming in for the final 24 minutes in Columbus. He played the final 12 minutes during the week in the first leg of the Nutrilite Canadian Championship against Montréal in his Whitecaps FC debut. Salinas suffered a knee injury right before the season opener.
  • “Shea was maybe our best player during the preseason,” said Thordarson to The Province, “so it was definitely a big blow for us to lose him out. He’s getting back into it. He’s not match fit, but his qualities have definitely been missed.”
  • Gershon Koffie also made his first league appearance since April 6, after missing three matches due to suspension and international duty with the Ghana U-20 national team.
  • "I felt Gershon was huge, maybe the best player on the field.," Thordarson said. "He hardly made a mistake, won a lot of balls and played people through."
  • Both of Whitecaps FC’s center backs – Mouloud Akloul and Greg Janicki – have been battling injury issues, but were able to last the full 90 minutes in Columbus. For Janicki, it was his first full match since March 26, while Akloul played his first full 90 minutes in MLS.
  • On Wednesday, Whitecaps FC survived a 1-1 draw with L’Impact de Montréal in the second leg of their Nutrilite Canadian Championship series, to win 2-1 on aggregate.
  • After a 1-0 Vancouver win the first leg, the Impact forced extra time when Ali Gerba converted a penalty kick in the 83rd minute for a 1-0 Montréal lead after 90 minutes. Mouloud Akloul then sealed passage for Whitecaps FC when he scored on a rebound from a saved free kick by Alain Rochat in the 113th minute, though Gerba hit the post in stoppage time in what would have given the Impact the tie on away goals.
  • “We were a bit lucky in extra time but I definitely would have felt it hard if we wouldn’t have gone through because I felt we deserved it,” Thordarson said. “I’m just delighted that we’ve gone through and now we get the opportunity to play two good games against Toronto.”
  • Here’s the Whitecaps FC team: Jay Nolly; Jonathan Leathers, Greg Janicki, Mouloud Akloul, Alain Rochat; Davide Chiumiento, Terry Dunfield, Gershon Koffie, Russell Teibert (Nizar Khalfan 91); Omar Salgado (Shea Salinas 69), Eric Hassli (Camilo 46)