Fire confident, wary ahead of Sporting's home opener
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — It’s been 74 days since the Chicago Fire beat Sporting Kansas City 3-2 on March 26 at Toyota Park. Since then, Chicago have played 10 league games — and they haven’t won a single one.
The Fire have an opportunity to end their painful streak Thursday night when they face the same Sporting team that they beat two-and-a-half months ago.
They won’t have it easy. Sporting will be given a boost by the opening of Livestrong Sporting Park, but the Fire are confident they’ll leave with three points if they play to their potential.
“We just have to stay fully prepared and play our game,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs told MLSsoccer.com. “I think if we’re ready and we’re focused, we should be OK.”
One key for the Fire will be stopping Kansas City forward Teal Bunbury. The second-year striker gave the Fire fits last time around, scoring a goal and looking dangerous after coming in at halftime.
“We weren’t anticipating what he was going to bring to us,” Gibbs said. “We weren’t ready for the match up and it affected us.”
Bunbury did a good job of capitalizing on the Fire’s mistakes in the first meeting. He consistently pressured Chicago’s back four, getting rewarded for his hard work in the 71st minute, when he scored on a breakaway after intercepting Chicago left back Gonzalo Segares’s back-pass deep in the Fire’s half.
“We turned the ball over in bad situations and I think we just have to be smart when we make passes,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. “We just have to be smart. We have to be smart with where we play the ball and we have to be smart and make sure we have players that are moving to support the player with the ball. ... More than anything, we can’t take risks in our own half.”
Chicago will also look to be more physical with Bunbury than they were in the first matchup.
“We need to be more physical with him,” Segares said. “I think we weren’t as physical as we needed to be in the first game and we've got to play like we did against [San Jose forward Steven Lenhart] and all these other big guys that we’ve played.
“They need the points as well as we do, so we got to be mentally and physically ready to hold them off,” he added. “We have to play our game, knock the ball around and create chances.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.