BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Having gone seven games without victory to start the 2014 season, it would be easy for new head coach Frank Yallop to push the panic button as he leads his Chicago Fire team into battle against the league’s only unbeaten side.
But Yallop remains confident in his team and believes they have what it takes to clinch an unlikely double by claiming their maiden victory and defeating the last unbeaten outfit in MLS, Real Salt Lake. He said he’s not ready to question tactics or personnel heading into the Saturday game at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET; MLS Live).
“No, the performances have been there,” Yallop defiantly told reporters Tuesday at Toyota Park. “It’s a funny game, soccer. You can play poorly and win or play great and not win. Our performances have deserved more than they’ve got, and while we haven’t been fantastic, we haven’t been bad.”
Yallop has watched the Fire tie each of their last six outings, including a 1-1 draw in their last game, April 19 against the New England Revolution, a run of results that has fostered a slip to the bottom of the Eastern Conference table following a weekend off. But Yallop noted that he could be singing a different tune if not for two missed penalty kicks by his side in ties against the Revs and Philadelphia Union.
“We’re two penalty kicks away from having a great start, and that’s the frustrating part,” Yallop said. “I keep saying we can’t make excuses, and we haven’t done it, so we’ve just got to keep going and hopefully turn the tide for us. The points total doesn’t lie, we’re bottom of our table with games in hand, but that doesn’t matter. We’ve got to get some wins and get going.”
The Fire will be without suspended top scorer Quincy Amarikwa on Saturday following his controversial dismissal against the New England Revolution last time out. But Yallop will be able to call upon a virtually fully fit squad after defender Gonzalo Segares (ankle) came through last Friday’s Reserve team victory over the Charlotte Eagles. Midfielder Alex (hamstring) has also trained this week and should be in contention, with only Dilly Duka (hamstring) struggling to prove his fitness.
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Despite Real Salt Lake coming into the game reeling themselves after squandering a 2-0 lead in a 2-2 draw Saturday at home against the Vancouver Whitecaps, Yallop said his side would need to be tactically astute if they are to get anything from the game.
“Tactically, we’ve got to be right,” he said. “We’ve got to make sure that we’ve got numbers in the midfield to help out when they have the ball, pinching our wide midfielders in and having one of the forwards drop back on to [midfielder Kyle] Beckerman in that area.
"We’re at home and we’ve got to push the issue though, we’re not going to be sitting back, we’re going to be trying to win it up high and hopefully get some chances when we do and take them when we get those chances.”