Just as the Chicago Fire's practice ended Wednesday on the outer field at Toyota Park, the sun broke through, making a very rare appearance in the Chicago fall of 2009.
With it came the weatherman's promise that this weekend's playoff game against the New England Revolution would be played in relatively warm and dry conditions, with temperatures expected in the 50s by game time Saturday night.
The Fire hoped good weather would promote good play for the home team, who are down 2-1 on aggregate in their Eastern Conference Semifinal Series with the Revolution.
Fire coach Denis Hamlett said the Fire have a good idea who is going to be available to play in the second game of the two-game set, and it does not include defender Wilman Conde.
Conde has been out of action for several weeks with a variety of complaints, including an illness, but the Fire believe they finally have a cause for all of his physical ailments.
"They finally figured out he has sciatic nerve that is pinching and causing problems, so it is something we are going to address this week," Hamlett said. "He is going to see a specialist and hopefully we can get it solved."
Defender Gonzalo Segares finally returned to action in the first game of the series after having his own knee injury issues, but he was held out of training Wednesday.
"He got in (the game) and tweaked it again on one play, so we are being cautious with him," Hamlett said. "We held him back but we want to get him two more days of training and see how he feels after that."
Meanwhile, midfielder John Thorrington, who suffered a sports hernia two months ago, trained with the full team Wednesday.
"He had a collision with a goalie, but he was pretty sharp today," Hamlett said.
Should results not go the Fire's way, Saturday's game could be the last in a Fire uniform for midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco (who has signed to play for Mexico's Veracruz in January), Guatemalan Marco Pappa, and Segares (a Costa Rican national team stalwart), who are all out of contract at season's end. Chris Rolfe is already signed to play in Denmark next year.
But Fire technical director Frank Klopas said Wednesday the Fire have an option on Designated Player Brian McBride, although he did not want to discuss contract issues prior to the Saturday game.
"We are talking to guys who are basically finishing," Klopas said. "We have addressed this with all the players. But after the season, we are going to sit down and make all those decisions. Right now, let's just win this Saturday's game."
Kent McDill is a contributor to MLSnet.com