The Fire hope Wilman Conde returns to the lineup when they visit Salt Lake on Sept. 12.

Fire seek stop-gap help in defense

The Chicago Fire picked a bad time to need roster help.

The Fire have played their last two games with four true defenders unavailable due to injury: Tim Ward, Gonzalo Segares, Wilman Conde and Daniel Woolard. The first three were regular starters on the back line.

At the same time, the Fire lost All-Star defender Bakary Soumare when he transferred to a French team as the conclusion of a run-in with coach Denis Hamlett. That put the Fire down five defenders, and that's a big number.

The Fire have depended on C.J. Brown, Dasan Robinson, Austin Washington and Brandon Prideaux, the remaining defenders on the roster. When Robinson earned a suspension for the last game against D.C. United, Mike Banner moved into a left back spot.

Fire technical director Frank Klopas has scoured the available talent to find some stop-gap help, but there is little to choose from. All the European and college rosters are set, the transfer window is closed, and everyone who might be considered high quality is already playing for someone else.

"We have some guys in training we are looking at," Klopas said, without revealing names, "But we are limited to guys who are 'free' for whatever reason."

At one point, Fire rookie Baggio Husidic had his brother training with the team just so they would have numbers. Brown said he has had dozens of calls from friends who are offering their services, and he said some of them are actually serious.

The Fire have the international weekend off and don't play again until next Saturday, Sept. 12, at Real Salt Lake. He hopes Conde, who has dealt with a hamstring pull first suffered two weeks before the all-star game, will be available to play.

"If not that game, then the next one against Columbus (Sept. 20) and that's obviously a big game for us," Klopas said.

The Fire presently stand one point behind the Crew for first place in the Eastern Conference, although the Crew have played one less game.

As for the other injured players, neither Ward (broken foot) nor Segares (MCL sprain) are expected back anytime soon. They are not expected back for any September matches.

On the positive side, forward Brian McBride is participating in non-contact drills with the team after having shoulder surgery. No date has been set for his return, but he is expected back for the playoffs.

Kent McDill is a contributor to