CHICAGO — Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas plans on letting his first-teamers play significant minutes during Saturday’s World Football Challenge match against Manchester United (5 pm ET, ESPN2, ESPN Deportes).
Klopas’ decision makes sense — Chicago have a week-and-a-half break following the Man. United match, giving any Fire player who sees action on Saturday plenty of time to recover before the team returns to league play on August 3 against Philadelphia.
“We don’t have a game now until Philly so I will push my guys a little bit more than maybe Seattle did [in their 7-0 loss to Manchester United on Wednesday],” Klopas said. “It’s an opportunity to keep building and then get ready for the next game."
Though Chicago’s starters will see significant time, a lot of Fire reserves should also get in against the Red Devils. Klopas mentioned that both starting 'keeper Sean Johnson and backup Jon Conway will play on Saturday and that he’ll be looking to give some other backups an opportunity against the Premier League champs.
“Both goalies will play,” Klopas said. “I don’t know if it’ll be one half for one and one half for the other. And then in the back of mind I’ll be trying to get minutes to guys because for some of them it will be the opportunity of a lifetime.”
Regardless of who plays, the Fire can’t let United’s recent thrashing of Seattle affect them. Chicago must play smart, strong soccer to have any chance against the Red Devils, and they won’t be able to do that if they’re intimidated.
“You can’t let it get in your head,” Fire defender Cory Gibbs said of Man United’s 7-0 win on Wednesday — a game in which United scored six times in the second half against Seattle’s reserves.
“We have to be smart and be mentally prepared and, like I’ve always said, not give up those small mistakes because now we’re playing Man. United, we’re not playing a PDL team or somebody where they might miss their opportunities. They’re not going to miss, we’ve always seen that from them and it’s going to be a key thing for us to stay mentally prepared.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.