BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — With his team tied for last in the Eastern Conference and trailing the Houston Dynamo by eight points for the 10th and final playoff spot, Chicago Fire winger Patrick Nyarko is calling Sunday’s game at lowly Vancouver (7 pm ET, Galavisión) a must-win.
“It’s been a must-win since four games ago,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com on Friday. “[Vancouver] are a struggling team just like us and they’re playing at home so they have the advantage. There’s pressure but no pressure, because they’re playing in front of their fans and they’re supposed to come out and try to take the game. We just need to stay calm, play our game, play like we played on Wednesday [against Philadelphia] and we should get the win Sunday.”
Chicago have faced the Whitecaps once this year, playing Vancouver to a scoreless draw on May 7 at Toyota Park. The Fire controlled most of that game, holding the majority of possession and creating numerous opportunities but failing to put away any of their chances.
“I think that they just came in here to try to steal a point,” Nyarko said of the first meeting with the Whitecaps. “They didn’t show anything offensively, they sat back and we dominated the game. We should’ve won the game but unfortunately we missed some chances. That’s a game we feel like we should’ve won so we’ll take that into Sunday.”
Chicago will be without defender Cory Gibbs and forward Diego Chaves on Sunday. Both players picked up injuries in Wednesday’s game against the Union and didn’t travel with the team to Vancouver.
While they won’t have Gibbs or Chaves, the Fire will have defender Yamith Cuesta back from a one-game red card suspension. Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas indicated that Cuesta will return to the starting lineup, likely playing alongside defender Josip Mikulic in the middle of Chicago’s back line.
Cuesta’s return should help in defending against Vancouver’s attack, which features Designated Players Eric Hassli and Mustapha Jarju and talented midfielders Davide Chiumiento, Shea Salinas and Camilo.
“They actually made some changes,” Klopas said. “They brought another forward with some pace to play with Hassli up top and I think Salinas has been playing very well with Camilo, the two wide players.”
Though Klopas is wary of Vancouver’s attacking talent, he thinks his team — which will likely lineup with just one forward for the second straight game on Sunday — will have opportunities to attack the Whitecaps in transition.
“We’ll have opportunities to go at them,” he said. “Some of the players are very good going forward but I think in transition we can catch them because their transition game from offense to defense is a little slow, so we’ll have some space to attack with speed. We’ll just need to put our chances away, that’s going to be the key.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.