Fire to face RSL for first time Saturday

RICE-ECCLES STADIUM

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah

7:30 pm MT (CSN-Chi)

For Real Salt Lake, their Rice-Eccles Stadium home has already turned into one of the tougher places to get a result, the expansion club unbeaten in front of the large gathering that have marked their entry into Major League Soccer. They entertain a Chicago Fire that is still seeking its identity, a 2-1 victory in their last match against the Colorado Rapids ending a two-game losing streak - both by heavy deficits at their one-time Soldier Field fortress.

REFEREE: Richard Heron. SAR (bench): Jose Corro; JAR (opposite): David Bragg; 4th: Gunther Haidenthaller

MLS Career: 33 games; FC/gm: 34.6; Y/gm: 2.9; R: 9; pens: 10

Games involving Real: first game

Games involving Fire: P9 W6 L3 T0; FC/gm: 35.8; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 3; pens: 3

INJURY REPORT: REAL SALT LAKE - PROBABLE: GK D.J. Countess (L shoulder subluxation); DF Rustin Pierce (L hamstring tightness); MF Leslie Fitzpatrick (L groin strain) ... CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); DF Tony Sanneh (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: DF C.J. Brown (R hamstring strain); DF Leonard Griffin (R knee ligament strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: RSL: DF Eddie Pope (USA; May 28 v England)
SUSPENDED: RSL: DF Nelson Akwari (11 CP in 3 gms; through May 28)
YELLOW PERIL: RSL: FW Jason Kreis (17 CP)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME: first meeting

• This is the first-ever meeting between the clubs, the only one set for Rice-Eccles Stadium. They meet for the only time this season at Soldier Field on June 26.

• Coaches record: John Ellinger vs. CHI: first game ... Dave Sarachan v RSL: first game

REAL SALT LAKE

Real Salt Lake lost their fourth consecutive match on the road, a Frankie Hejduk double in the first half giving the Columbus Crew a 2-0 victory on Saturday night at Crew Stadium. Real are fourth place in the Western Conference with 11 points from nine matches, two points behind third-place San Jose Earthquakes and seven adrift of leader FC Dallas.

• It was a night for the Crew defenders as the home side put an end to their four-game losing streak and recent defensive woes all in one night.

• Both goals came from set pieces as the Crew suffocated the Real attack. In the 14th minute, center back Chad Marshall was desperately unlucky not to score his first MLS goal, powering a header off a free kick that Real 'keeper D.J. Countess could only palm off the underside of the bar. The ball came back down on the fallen 'keeper and Hejduk slipped in to poke it the final couple of inches.

• Hejduk had no doubt when he hit for his second in the 37th minute, Simon Elliott whipping in a cross from the left on a well-worked short corner to find the U.S. international unmarked in the center of the area, and he sent his header just inside the right-hand post. The Crew survived after being left a man down for the final 13 minutes when Cornell Glen was sent off with a straight red card.

• Real coach John Ellinger made two changes to the team that knocked off fellow expansion outfit Chivas USA 2-0 at home at midweek. Jason Kreis came back from suspension in place of Jordan Cila up top, while Leslie Fitzpatrick returned from international duty to take over for Seth Trembly on the left flank.

• Here's Ellinger's team (4-1-4-1): D.J. Countess - Rusty Pierce, Brian Dunseth, Eddie Pope, Nelson Akwari - Brian Kamler - Chris Brown (Seth Trembly 89), Clint Mathis, Andy Williams, Leslie Fitzpatrick (Dante Washington 63) - Jason Kreis

• "We possessed the ball for good stretches," coach John Ellinger said. "Probably as much as we've possessed the ball in any game this year. But we didn't do anything dangerous."

TEAM NEWS

• Real managed just one shot on goal in the second half against the massed Crew defense, and for the season thus far, they've allowed nine goals on the road while scoring just one. They now haven't scored a goal on their travels in 331 minutes.

• "Up until today maybe you could say it was (not) putting together two good halves of effort," Ellinger said. "But today I think it wasn't a lack of effort. I just think we gave as much as we could give based on playing a hard game on Wednesday."

• Dante Washington made his RSL debut just after the hour, facing his former club. "Obviously, there was a lot going on," he said. "But it really wasn't that big of a deal. Well, it was and it wasn't. Once it comes down to actually playing and all of that, it's my job to get out there and play, no matter which team it is."

• When Ellinger brought him on for Leslie Fitzpatrick, he returned to a two-striker setup instead of leaving Jason Kreis to forage on his own. Ellinger said he would play by ear if Washington would start in the future, and if he were to return to a twin-forward alignment.

• Fitzpatrick was a gameday decision after suffering a minor groin injury while playing for the Trinidad & Tobago national team against Peruvian club side Alianza Lima the previous weekend. Fitzpatrick played just 45 minutes, while RSL and T&T teammate Marlon Rojas played the full 90 minutes.

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire ended a two-match losing streak - both overall and at their Soldier Field home - with a 2-1 victory against the Colorado Rapids last Saturday evening on the lakefront. The Fire are in second place in the Eastern Conference with 13 points from nine matches, two ahead of D.C. United but seven adrift of the New England Revolution.

• Coming off a pair of 3-0 losses at home, the Fire completely dominated the opening 45 minutes but had only one goal to show for it, a nice angled finish by Andy Herron after he cutback to gain some space in the area (13).

• Then just after the break, the Rapids answered through a wonderful goal, a nifty one-two between Alain Nkong and Jeff Cunningham finished off by the Cameroonian international after dancing through a couple of defenders (49). But the Fire scored the eventual match-winner just six minutes later, Lubos Reiter looping the ball overhead for Herron to knock down into the path of Thiago, and he made no mistake in slotting home past Colorado 'keeper Joe Cannon from inside the area.

• Fire coach Dave Sarachan made five changes to the team that lost 3-0 to the MetroStars the weekend before, completely revamping his side. Into the back came Logan Pause at right back and Tony Sanneh and Gonzalo Segares in central defense, as Jim Curtin and Samuel Caballero were dropped and wingback John Thorrington again injured. Jesse Marsch was held out of central midfield and Chris Rolfe returned to the subs bench as well, as Nate Jaqua and Justin Mapp came back into the team.

• Here's Sarachan's team (4-1-3-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guerrero - Chris Armas - Nate Jaqua, Thiago, Justin Mapp - Andy Herron (Chris Rolfe 81), Lubos Reiter (Jesse Marsch 84).

• "I was expecting this kind of response after last week," said Sarachan. "The guys came out with a lot of energy. We got the first goal, which was very important. At halftime we expected Colorado to come out and try to push, but we didn't expect to give up a goal four minutes in. That was disappointing, but the response of the team was quite good."

TEAM NEWS

• The changes were significant in Sarachan's team, especially after the back-to-back losses. Herron's goal was the first in more than 3 ½ hours of play (214 minutes) by the Fire. "It's still a work in progress," said Sarachan. "I sort of anticipated going into this campaign that it would take 10 games before we really found an identity. We're close, but we haven't found it yet."

• The victory was a vital one in beginning to restore the home advantage the Fire have long enjoyed at Soldier Field. "I think any lineup you put out there was going to do well, considering how we were playing in home lately," Thornton said. "We needed a good result and I think all the guys put a lot into it. Anyone would have put a lot into it."

• For Jim Curtin, the match ended his ever-present streak of 70 league appearances - and 68 in the starting lineup - for the Fire.

• Jesse Marsch came on a late substitute, making his 180th league appearance for the club, now the all-time Chicago leader.


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