Chicago Fire pregame report

The Chicago Fire (4-6-6, 18 points) will look to turn things around and make a move towards the top of the Eastern Conference tomorrow night when it welcomes the first-place MetroStars (6-6-4, 22 points) in the first game of a doubleheader featuring the Eastern Conference rivals squaring off at 7 p.m. CT, followed by the Fire's Mexican sister club Monarcas Morelia taking on Necaxa in a friendly at Soldier Field. The Fire, in the midst of its longest winless streak ever at six games, has the chance to gain some serious ground on Bob Bradley's squad tomorrow and next Saturday when they visit the MetroStars for the second leg of the home-and-home series (6:30 p.m. CT, FSN). Dave Sarachan's team leads the series against the MetroStars this season 1-0-1.

Fire fans can follow tomorrow's match live via Chicagoland radio stations WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish) and WNVR 1030 AM (Polish), and worldwide on the Internet at the team's official website, (English). In honor of their relationship with Morelia, the "Men in Red" will be wearing a commemorative third kit, which features the patches of both the Fire and Morelia. The game-worn jerseys will all be auctioned off during the first match, with the proceeds benefiting the FireWorks For Kids Foundation - the Fire's charitable arm. The first 5,000 fans through the gates will receive Kraft padfolios courtesy of Kraft and the Chicago Fire.

Chicago Fire vs. MetroStars
Saturday, July 17 @ 7:00 p.m. CT
Soldier Field; Chicago, Ill.
Satellite: HTN Confirmation # 15373
Radio: WRTO 1200 AM (Spanish), WNVR 1030 AM (Polish),
Game notes

Chicago Fire ACE/Tru-Fit injury report
Armas, Chris - R knee inflammation - probable
Marsch, Jesse - R ankle cartilage damage - out
Razov, Ante - R ankle sprain - questionable
Ring, Henry - R thigh contusion - probable
Whitfield, Evan - R abdominal strain - out
Williams, Andy - R ankle sprain - probable

Fire history vs. MetroStars
Dominance is the only way to describe Chicago's history against the MetroStars, as the Fire has collected an impressive 12-4-2 record in regular season play against its Eastern Conference rival. Chicago has collected a 10-1-2 record in their last 13 meetings, dating back to a 3-1 win at the old Soldier Field on Aug. 8, 2000. It has not mattered where the two squads have met, as the Fire has an equal 6-2-1 record both in Chicagoland and in East Rutherford. Chicago and the MetroStars have met twice so far in 2004, with the Fire gaining points in both contests in May. Chicago defended its Soldier Field home on May 1 with a convincing 3-0 victory that then moved the Fire into first place in the East. The "Men in Red" would invade Giants Stadium on May 15, earning a point in come-from-behind fashion as Ante Razov's second half tally leveled the match midway through the second half at 1-1, which is how the outcome would stay. Chicago is undefeated in its last eight overall contests (7-0-2) with the "Black-and-Red," which includes the Fire's 1-0 victory over the MetroStars in the 2003 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Championship in East Rutherford last October. Ante Razov leads the Fire in scoring against the MetroStars by notching 26 points (11g, 4a) in 16 career contests against the Eastern archrivals.

Sarachan finding several ways to count to XI
Injuries, national team call-ups and red cards have forced Fire head coach Dave Sarachan to shuffle his deck of players plenty of times in 2004, forcing him to list 12 different starting line-ups through Chicago's first 16 games this season. Sarachan has the opportunity to use his first choice of players in the same line-up (Ring, Whitfield, Curtin, Gray, Perez, Armas, Jaqua, Williams, Beasley, Ralph, Razov) on only three occasions this season - 6/5 @ DC (3-0 W), 6/27 @ LA (2-3 L) and 7/3 @ CLB (0-2 L). Sarachan has had the chance to duplicate his line-up sheet only two other times this season.

Quick kicks vs. MetroStars

  • Goalkeeper D.J. Countess earned his first start for the Fire on Wednesday in Chicago's 3-1 loss at New England. The 22-year-old 'keeper was a last-minute replacement in between the posts for All-Star Henry Ring, who was a late scratch due to a right thigh contusion suffered in training this week. Ring is expected to return to the line-up for Saturday's match against the MetroStars.
  • Scott Buete will be forced to miss Saturday's match after picking up a red card last in Wednesday's match at New England. The rookie midfielder, who had earned a role in the starting XI in the last two matches, earned the ejection in the 91+' after reciving his second yellow card of the match.