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11/23 FINAL
1LA
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11/30 9:00pm
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LA
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Eastern Conference Championship

Fire eager to avoid vengeful start from Real Salt Lake

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire are preparing for Real Salt Lake to charge out of the gates at the start of Wednesday night’s crucial match at Rio Tinto Stadium (9 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

And much of that stems from the last time RSL stepped on the field, when they were blown out over the weekend in a 4-1 rout at D.C. United.

“One hundre percent, that [result] is motivation for them,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs said on Monday. “They’re not used to losing; especially not used to losing like that. [Salt Lake head coach] Jason Kreis, I know him as a player, as a coach and I have the utmost respect for him, and I know he’s going to have his team ready for this game.”

“We’ve got to get ready for the pressure,” Gibbs added. “The first 15 minutes are going to be tough for us. We have to weather the storm and also play our game plan and attack and just win the battle.”

Of course, Chicago will have to do more than withstand some early pressure to get a result Wednesday night. Gibbs, who returns from a one-game red card suspension to play on Wednesday, said the Fire will have to control Salt Lake’s dynamic diamond midfield if they want to leave the Wasatch Range with a win.

Gibbs identified midseason signing Pável Pardo as the key to stopping Salt Lake’s middle, telling MLSsoccer.com that the Mexican defensive midfielder – who signed with the Fire in late-July and has never before played against RSL – will have to play well in order for Chicago to get the all-important three points.

“Pável is so experienced and he knows how to read a game in terms of how different players, or, in their case, the whole midfield line, is moving,” Gibbs said.

“It’s a huge game, a huge game,” he added. “Salt Lake’s the one team that I can say, out of any in this league, that they’re always up for a big match. I’ve always said that playing Salt Lake in Salt Lake is probably the hardest game of the year. It’s just going to take a lot of effort, commitment and focus to win this one.”

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