Kings of the counterattack, Fire meet their match in LA

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — It’s rare when an opponent is better than the Chicago Fire at counterattacking, but that might be the case when the Fire travel to the Home Depot Center for the second straight week to take on the LA Galaxy on Saturday (10:30 pm ET, Fox Soccer).

The Fire, who played Chivas USA to a 1-1 draw at the HDC last Saturday, have used the speed of lightning-quick attackers Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko well this season, often turning defensive clearances into offensive opportunities and, when all goes well, goals.

But Chicago’s solid counterpunch might be overmatched by LA’s who, using the accurate passing of midfielders David Beckham and Juninho and the pace of winger Landon Donovan, are one of the best in the league in transition.

“They have pace with Donovan, and when they do get the ball deep with Beckham he looks to play very direct,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said Wednesday. “So we do have to be careful, even when we have offensive corners.”

Of course, the Fire will need to be more than careful. Chicago must be good with the ball, well-organized and constantly aware of the Galaxy’s ability to strike quickly.

“We have to be organized so that when the ball does come out we’re in good position to defend well,” Klopas said. “We have to be good with the ball on a big field like that and for sure we have to manage possession.”

Center back Cory Gibbs said that it will be key for the Fire to remain focused at all times in this one, something they didn’t do in last week’s draw against Chivas, when they gave up an equalizer in the first minute of the second half.

“We've got to stay mentally focused for 90 minutes,” Gibbs said. “This is a team that’s well-organized, they defend well and they defend hard, and when they counter they counter hard. They have [Donovan] breaking and other strengths, so if we’re not focused for the 90 minutes like against Chivas, it’s going to be a different story for us.

“But if we stay mentally focused and tuned in,” he added, “we should be fine.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.