BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Chicago Fire are looking to end their recent defensive struggles when they take on high-flying D.C. United at Toyota Park on Thursday night (9 pm ET; ESPN2/Deportes).
The Fire have conceded six goals in their last two games and will face a tough defensive test against longtime Eastern Conference rivals DC, who have scored nine goals in their last three matches. Chicago will have to pay particularly close attention to in-form DC midfielders Dwayne De Rosario and Chris Pontius, who have combined to score seven goals in United’s three game unbeaten run.
“Pontius is a good one-on-one player that can create and [De Rosario] is a player that, more than anything, likes to come and find the game in the midfield and is dangerous when he can pick up the ball,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com. “They do have players that we have to be aware of. We’ve talked about it with the team and we’ll be ready for them.”
Chicago haven't played good defense in their last two games, posting a 4-2 loss at Vancouver and a 2-2 draw at New York. The Fire didn’t do a good enough job pressuring the ball in the final third against the Whitecaps and Red Bulls, giving too much space to dangerous players like Thierry Henry, Joel Lindpere and Eric Hassli to concede goals.
Fire defender Dan Gargan (above, right) knows that needs to change against DC, saying that Chicago’s back four needs to play “a little bit nastier” against United.
“We need to be miserable to play against,” Gargan said. “I think we’re close to that, we’re certainly a tough team to play against, I think that’s obvious by the 14 ties we have, but I think we just need to take it one step further. If we go from a tough team to play against to just gives these teams coming to Toyota park a miserable outlook, that’s where we can just sway it a little bit more.”
“We just have to come out and know that it’s our house,” Gargan added. “We need to keep that clean sheet.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.