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Injuries, schedule crunch forcing Fire to juggle lineup

Sebastian Grazzini

Photo Credit: 
Getty Images

Chicago Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas wouldn’t reveal much about his lineup plans for Saturday’s game at Houston (4 pm ET, TeleFutura) in an interview with MLSsoccer.com on Friday.

The coach, who’s facing the most important four-day stretch of the season, declined to go into any specifics about who will play this weekend ahead of Tuesday’s US Open Cup final at Seattle.

Picking Saturday’s lineup will be a very difficult job for Klopas, who must balance the need for a win in the league to keep Chicago’s slim playoff hopes alive, with the desire to win a fifth Open Cup crown for the Fire. The interim manager will also have to field a lineup for a Reserve League match that will immediately follow the first team’s game at Robertson Stadium.

The Fire, winners of their last three games, are currently in 13th place in the league, three points behind New York for the 10th and final playoff spot.

“We have two goals: One is to make the playoffs and the other is to win the [Open Cup] final,” Klopas said Friday afternoon. “The game in front of us right now is Houston. Obviously, we have a good idea today with how some of the guys are feeling, some are better than others, and we’ll make some decisions and depending on how some of the guys feel we’ll work it out.

“We have two goals in mind and we just have to do everything possible to reach them.”

Klopas isn’t yet sure if attacking midfielder Sebastián Grazzini will be available for Saturday’s game. The Argentine playmaker, who missed Wednesday’s 3-0 win at Salt Lake due to a left hamstring injury, is with the team in Houston but is still day-to-day because of his injury.

“I think he started jogging, but I think it’ll still be difficult,” Klopas said. “But you never know. It depends how he feels [Saturday], so we’ll see how he progressed. It’s a day-to-day thing, he’s improving, but I couldn’t tell you 100 percent if he’s out or if he’s in.”

In Grazzini’s absence, youngsters Daniel Paladini and Corben Bone both saw time in the midfield against RSL.

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