For the second time in less than a week, the Chicago Fire will take on the San Jose Earthquakes, hosting the Western Conference stragglers at Toyota Park on Saturday (8:30 p.m. ET; watch LIVE online).
And they'll hope for a similar result.
Chicago won the first matchup between the sides, coming back from a 2-0 halftime deficit to beat the Quakes in a penalty kick shootout in a US Open Cup play-in match at Buck Shaw Stadium on Tuesday.
The comeback victory gave the Fire, who are winless in their last eight league matches, some much needed momentum heading into the weekend.
“We’ll take anything that helps us at this moment,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “I think we need anything to boost up our motivation because we’ve been working hard, and it’s been so frustrating because it’s just been mental lapses that have been hurting us."
If the Fire are to build on Tuesday’s win, they’ll need to get off to a better start than they did in San Jose. Chicago struggled in the first half at Buck Shaw Stadium, looking sluggish and giving up two preventable goals.
“I think in the first half we were just really passive,” Segares said. “Mentally, we said we were ready but our bodies were showing differently. We weren’t working hard enough, and both goals could’ve been prevented and they should’ve never happened. There were just too many mistakes giving the ball away and just not being careful.”
Segares said his team improved in the second half when it started to play simpler while taking fewer risks in the back. Plus, switching to two forwards up front helped relieve some of the pressure off the back line.
The Fire will also be looking to defend better against San Jose’s cross-heavy attack on Saturday, taking care to mark dangerous forward Chris Wondolowski when he’s in the box.
“Last game they were hitting a lot of crosses from everywhere,” Segares said. “They have Wondo, who moves well in the box, and I think that’s their bread and butter — I think we’re going to have be pretty sharp in that area. We’ll need to always know where he’s going to be at and trying to prevent those crosses.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.