BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Chicago head coach Frank Klopas is a superstitious man. So last season, in just his third game in charge, he didn’t emerge out of the Crew Stadium tunnel during warm-ups before his team faced the Crew.
Turns out, he didn't need to. The reaction of his players, amazed at the swarm of Fire fans behind the south goal (above), told Klopas all he needed to know.
“They came back and were in awe to see the amount of fans that we had there,” Klopas said. “There was a positive feeling in the room.”
Every year, hundreds of Fire fans pile into buses for the six-hour trip to Crew Stadium. This year, more than 600 fans are expected to make the trip for Saturday night's showdown (7 pm ET; Univision Deportes, MLS Live)
“Once you come out, it’s almost like playing at home,” defender Gonzalo Segares told MLSsoccer.com. “Last year, I think we almost had a bigger crowd than they did and our fans were definitely louder. The only other time I remember that happening was when we were playing with [Cuauhtémoc] Blanco.”
Riding an 11-game winless streak coming into the game last year, the Fire rewarded their supporters with a 1-0 courtesy of a Cristian Nazarit stoppage-time goal.
This time around, the Fire are looking for their fourth win in six games in May, even after giving up the first goal four times in the first five. But midfielder Patrick Nyarko knows the pattern of falling behind, which has occurred nine times in Chicago's 11 games this season, has to change.
“We should stop digging ourselves holes,” Nyarko said. “We climbed back [Wednesday against FC Dallas], but next time we might not. We need to get better. But we respond really well to adversity.”
The Fire will also have to shore up their corner-kick defense, which has allowed three goals off rebounds in the last two games.
“I think we’ve got to do better with marking,” Segares said. “At the end of the day, we’ve got to be more concentrated on corner kicks. We’ve been fine in all of the other games, we haven’t conceded anything until these past few games. I think that maybe we just got a little bit too comfortable, and we’ve just got to tighten up things.”
The Crew haven’t lost in their last four games, but the Fire know they can ride the wave of support that the Section 8 crowd will bring when they try to start their first winning streak of the season.
“It’s one of the reasons that gets us up for the game,” Chicago captain Logan Pause said. “It’s special to be a part of.”