Preview: Fire eager to stay hot as Rapids come to town

The Chicago Fire will be looking to build off their first league win in months and cool off the Colorado Rapids when the clubs face off Saturday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire ended a 10-game winless streak last time out, in a 2-0 victory against Toronto FC on Sunday evening. The Rapids are unbeaten in six games in league play, after a 2-2 home draw with Chivas USA, and unbeaten in eight in all competitions after a midweek CONCACAF Champions League draw.

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REFEREE: Juan Guzman. SAR (bench): Chris Strickland; JAR (opposite): Kevin Duliba; 4th: Abbey Okulaja
MLS Career: 7 games; FC/gm: 30.0; Y/gm: 3.6; R: 4; pens: 2

INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Steven Kinney (L groin strain); MF Marko Maric (L ankle posterior capsulitis) …

COLORADO RAPIDS – OUT: FW Conor Casey (L achilles tear); DF Anthony Wallace (L knee sprain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Jamie Smith (R hamstring strain / R calf strain); PROBABLE: GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF Brian Mullan (L ankle sprain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
SUSPENDED: none
WARNINGS:
SUSPENDED NEXT YELLOW CARD: CHI: Diego Chaves, Dan Gargan, Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares … COL:Conor Casey, Caleb Folan, Jeff Larentowicz, Drew Moor, Wells Thompson
SUSPENDED AFTER TWO YELLOW CARDS: CHI: Yamith Cuesta, Cristian Nazarit, Daniel Paladini, Logan Pause … COL: Ross LaBauex, Pablo Mastroeni, Tyrone Marshall, Sanna Nyassi, Anthony Wallace

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (35 meetings): Fire 16 wins (1 shootout), 58 goals … Rapids 11 wins (0 shootout), 46 goals … Ties 8
AT CHICAGO (18 meetings): Fire 13 wins (0 shootout), 38 goals … Rapids 3 wins (0 shootout), 18 goals … Ties 2
•    Chicago’s Marco Pappa and Colorado’s Andre Akpan scored on either side of halftime as the teams ended in a 1-1 draw in their first meeting, April 30 at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park.
•    The Rapids haven’t won in Chicago since 2004, a 3-0 win at Soldier Field. Colorado has never won at Toyota Park; in five all-time meetings there, the Fire have won three (with two draws)
•    The Fire are unbeaten on their last three trips to Colorado. Chicago’s 2-1 win at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park in 2009 was their first on the road against the Rapids since 1999, and just their third all-time in Colorado.
•    The teams are meeting for the third time this season. They also met in Peoria, Ill. on March 30 in a U.S. Open Cup play-in match, when the Fire advanced with a 2-1 victory. Gaston Puerari scored just before the halftime whistle and Jalil Anibaba put home the game winner from 35 yards out after Andre Akpan scored for the Rapids.
•    Coaches record: Frank Klopas v COL: first game … Gary Smith vs. CHI: P6 W1 L2 D3

LAST MEETING
4/30: CHI 1, COL 1 (Pappa 43 – Akpan 49)
•    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.
•    COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-2): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor, Anthony Wallace - Sanna Nyassi (Ross LaBauex 89), Jeff Larentowicz, Pablo Mastroeni, Jamie Smith - Andre Akpan, Omar Cummings.
•    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.

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire finally put an end to their winless streak after 10 games, defeating Toronto FC 2-0 on Sunday evening at Toyota Park. The Fire have 24 points from 25 matches on the year, sitting in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    Dominic Oduro put the Fire ahead in the 16th minute, completing a nice attacking move by neatly flicking defender Gonzalo Segares’ cross from the left corner past TFC goalkeeper Milos Kocic.
•    The Fire doubled their lead in the 69th minute. A corner kick from the left was allowed to bounce through the area all the way to the far post, and Dan Gargan, traded from Toronto to Chicago just over three weeks ago, got on the end of it to power a header home.
•    Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that reached a 1-1 draw with D.C. United at Toyota Park. Cory Gibbs came in at center back for Yamith Cuesta.
•    CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa (Orr Barouch 73) - Sebastian Grazzini (Cristian Nazarit 89) - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro (Baggio Husidic 91+).

TEAM NEWS
•    The Fire won for the first time in league play since June 12, a 1-0 victory at Columbus. They had drawn seven of their 10 games in between.
•    “Obviously it’s just great to get the win because sometimes the team has played well, but sometimes things just don’t go your way,” said Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas. “In a game like [vs. Toronto], we looked a little bit tired. It certainly wasn’t one of our best games. Some things kind of went our way.”
•    Center back Cory Gibbs made his first start since straining his left groin during the 1-1 draw with Philadelphia Union on Aug. 3. Gibbs had played just six minutes in between.
•    Gibbs was partnered with Jalil Anibaba in central defense, the first time the duo had played together as center backs. Anibaba had moved inside after starting the season at right back for the past three games, after the acquisition of Dan Gargan.
•    “It’s a position where you need experience. I think he provides that. When you have Segares and Gargan, you have some experienced guys,” said Klopas. “ … Look, Cory’s been good, Cuesta’s been good, Jalil has played very well, and even Mikulic when he’s been in there has done well. You have some good center backs and experienced guys and younger guys that you have behind this team.”
•    For a third consecutive match, Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko started the game paired as the strike tandem. Oduro scored for a second time in that span (and, for a third time in four games).
•    “The thing with forwards, you have to have the mentality and confidence. Sometimes Dominic tries too hard. But I think he has the right mentality,” said Klopas. “When you miss good chances, you have to be ready to capitalize on the next ones. I think he has that confidence in himself. He opens up a lot of space for our midfielders. He’s been a great addition for us.”
•    For Gargan, his goal came against his former club. He’s started all three games, all at right back, since coming over from TFC.
•    “I can’t really hide the excitement and I’m not going to try to either. It was phenomenal; it felt like a long time coming,” Gargan said. “It was nice to get it against them and at the time we were pushing for the second one to put the game out of reach.”

COLORADO RAPIDS
The Colorado Rapids saw their winning streak halted at three games, pegged back by a late equalizer for a 2-2 draw with Chivas USA on Saturday evening at Dick’s Sporting Goods Park. The Rapids have 41 points from 27 games, sitting in fourth place in the Western Conference.

LAST MATCH
•    The home side took the lead after 13 minutes. Kosuke Kimura sent a precise pass down the right touchline for Pablo Mastroeni, and his cross met Caleb Folan at the far post for a powerful header to the back of the net.
•    But in the 36th minute, Juan Pablo Angel opened his Chivas USA account in style. Running onto a perfectly flicked through ball from Nick LaBrocca, Angel poked it low past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens from outside the box for the leveler.
•    Colorado again nosed in front in the 69th minute, when Jeff Larentowicz directed a Sanna Nyassi corner kick home with a downward header.
•    But Chivas again found the equalizer, this time four minutes from the end, as substitute Laurent Courtois finished off a flowing move from their own end by running onto a through ball from a defense-opening run by Michael Lahoud and slipping it past Pickens from center of the area.
•    Rapids head coach Gary Smith made one change to the team that came back for a 2-1 victory against the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium. Sanna Nyassi returned to the lineup, for Ross LaBauex.
•    COLORADO RAPIDS (4-4-1-1): Matt Pickens - Kosuke Kimura, Marvell Wynne, Tyrone Marshall, Drew Moor - Brian Mullan (Macoumba Kandji 89), Jeff Larentowicz (Joseph Nane 81), Pablo Mastroeni, Wells Thompson (Omar Cummings 58) - Sanna Nyassi - Caleb Folan.

TEAM NEWS
•    Although the result felt like a loss following the match, the Rapids are now unbeaten in their last six league games (4-0-2) and have lost just once in MLS since the start of July.
•    Both draws in that stretch came after the Rapids allowed the equalizing goal in the final five minutes, the first time in the 2-2 home draw vs. New England on July 23.
•    “The second goal, we scored it at a good time and I really felt that we might just hang on to that,” head coach Gary Smith said. “I thought we just did enough. We had some good chances. We tried to take the game to them. At 2-1, I was really looking at a win and thinking that we could see it out. And of course, when you concede so late, it does feel like a loss.”
•    The Rapids have failed to come away with victory on eight of their 16 occasions after scoring first (8-2-6), second-most in MLS, behind only the New York Red Bulls.
•    “It’s been our Achilles heel,” Pablo Mastroeni said. “We have to do better at making decisions and communicating better throughout the team during the game to try and keep the lead, and that starts with me. This feels like a four- or five-nil loss.”
•    In each of the last two league games, the goals have come from Caleb Folan and Jeff Larentowicz. Folan has four goals in his last six appearances, while Larentowicz now has a career-high six goals.
•    Heading into the CONCACAF Champions League match at midweek, Smith had planned to employ a full squad rotation, with the away match in Chicago following at midweek. The Rapids left for Honduras before 6 a.m. the morning after the Chivas match, had a long layover in Miami, then made an equally long return trip to Chicago.
•    “Can I expect Tyrone [Marshall] at 36 to perform at the end of that? Then if I can, can I expect him to make that journey on the way back and perform after a journey down to Chicago on Friday? That’s a tough ask,” said Smith.
•    On Tuesday, the Rapids nearly kept MLS teams perfect in the CONCACAF Champions League, only for Real España to grab a late equalizer for a 1-1 draw. Jeff Larentowicz maintained his goalscoring form with the opener just before halftime, but Julio Rodriguez netted the tying goal with four minutes to play.
•    Here’s the Rapids team: Steward Ceus; Kosuke Kimura, Danny Earls, Michael Holody, Scott Palguta (Drew Moor 69); Joseph Nane, Jeff Larentowicz, Wells Thompson, Ross Labauex (Sanna Nyassi 80), Omar Cummings (Quincy Amarikwa 71), Andre Akpan
•    "The guys who started – Danny Earls, Mike Holody, Ross LaBauex, Andre Akpan, Joseph Nane – those guys, although they’re starting to see a little bit more domestic action, the reality is a lot of their football is coming from the Open Cup, the Reserve League, and this is completely different,” Smith said. “It’s a wonderful experience for them, it’s a really good atmosphere here tonight, against a very good team, and I think this could be an instrumental result in a group that’s going to be very, very tight.”