Speed a concern as Fire test playoff mettle against Dallas

Frank Klopas and Dan Gargan

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire’s season is on the line when they host FC Dallas on Wednesday night at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, watch LIVE online).

A loss against struggling FCD essentially would eliminate the Fire from playoff contention, leaving them six points behind Houston for the 10th and final playoff spot with just two games to go – a nearly insurmountable hill to climb.

A win, on the other hand, would keep the Fire’s slim hopes alive, moving them within three points of the playoffs and adding a whole lot of intrigue to Saturday’s game at 12th-place D.C. United.

One thing the Fire will have to do if they’re to get a win against the Brimstone Cup rivals on Wednesday night is slow Dallas’ speedy outside players. MVP candidate Brek Shea likely won’t get any run after playing the first half of the US’ 1-0 loss to Ecuador in New Jersey on Tuesday night, but the Fire still have to deal with fast players Jackson Gonçalves and Jair Benítez on Wednesday night.

“They certainly have some quick guys, and as a defender I can’t say there’s one specific way you can play a guy with speed,” Fire right back Dan Gargan told MLSsoccer.com on Monday. “I think that you need to be aware of your lines and your angles, because any kind of miscalculation in terms of that you get exposed and you get burned pretty quickly.

“So I think you need to stay sharp and be aware of where they’re at on the field where you’re at on the field and if you do the right things, then, as a defender, you should be able to do your job.”

Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said defending against Dallas’ speed will need to be a team effort for Chicago to have success.

“It’s not one guy,” Klopas said. “We have to play a good zone and surround the player who has the ball and make him kind of feel like he’s playing one against three the entire time. It’s not going to be an easy game, it’ll be a difficult game for us, but we’ve got to get ready and do our best.”

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