Midweek friendly vs. Chivas no distraction for focused Fire

Frank Klopas

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire aren’t worried that Wednesday’s friendly against Mexican club CD Guadalajara at Toyota Park will affect their preparation for Saturday’s critical league match against Chivas USA.

Chicago are currently in 15th place in the league, seven points behind D.C. United for the 10th and final playoff spot. That wide gap – along with the fact that DC have two games in hand on the Fire – makes Saturday’s match a must-win.

Wednesday’s exhibition against Chivas, meanwhile, eliminates an entire day of preparation that the team would normally have reserved for the Mexican giants' MLS sister club, Chivas USA.

But if the abridged amount of prep time is worrying the Fire, they’re certainly not saying so. In fact, they’re looking at the friendly – in which they’ll likely play two separate squads 45 minutes each – as a good way to stay sharp ahead of Saturday’s match.

“It’s actually good,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas told reporters on Tuesday. “We’re going to play against a really competitive team, a good team and it’ll make sure that we continue to work on stuff we need to work on and be more ready and be sharper. It’s actually a good opportunity.”

“You get better by playing,” Klopas added. “You can do certain things [in practice], but stuff that we’re doing in training, it’s going to be better to do it against a really good opponent. The important thing is that we’re playing; that’s the way that you stay sharp and get better.”

Chivas will certainly give the Fire a very tough test. The 11-time Mexican champions are off to a flying start in the 2011 Apertura, sitting in first place in the Mexican Primera División with a 5-1-2 record.

They didn’t skimp on who they brought to Chicago, either, flying big names Alberto Medina, Héctor Reynoso and Jonny Magallón to the States for the midweek trip.

Klopas is certainly aware of Guadalajara’s talented squad, but he’s not worried about whether or not his team gets a result against them Wednesday night. All he’s looking for is a good run for a good number of his players.

“We’ll continue to build and make sure everyone gets a good run tomorrow so they’re staying sharp,” he said. “We’ll try and work on things that we’ve been doing on the training pitch to implement that in the game. It’s going to be a good test obviously, but it’s also another opportunity to keep improving.”  

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.  Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com.