BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The surging Chicago Fire won’t be taking the San Jose Earthquakes lightly when the teams face off Saturday at Buck Shaw Stadium (10:30 pm ET; watch LIVE online).
Though the Earthquakes are riding a club-record 13-game winless slump, Chicago know they are about to face a dangerous opponent. The Fire themselves endured two separate winless streaks earlier this season but have since won their last two league games.
“I think it’s a dangerous team,” Fire defender Dan Gargan told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We know this ourselves; we were on a long winless streak and it just takes a little bit of changed momentum to kind of pull through. We certainly don’t want to go in there and give them that opportunity.”
Chicago are particularly wary of San Jose’s small field. The Fire struggled to handle Portland’s small pitch earlier this season, getting lost in the clogged midfield in their 4-2 April loss to the Timbers. Though the Fire are a much different team now than they were on that rainy night in the Pacific Northwest, they still won’t want a repeat performance on Buck Shaw’s tiny pitch on Saturday.
“They’re tough to play at home,” Gargan said. “It’s a small field and obviously it makes a homefield advantage because they know how to make their shape a little bit better.”
The Fire are also conscious of San Jose attackers Chris Wondolowski and Simon Dawkins.
The dynamic Quakes duo is capable of striking at any time, and Chicago's makeshift back line – regular left back Gonzalo Segares’ suspension will give the defense a new look – will have to stay tight to avoid giving the opportunistic attackers any good looks.
“Wondolowski is a guy you’ve got to be aware of, for sure,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. “If you give him two chances, he’ll score one of them. For 90 minutes we have to be aware of him. And Dawkins is someone that is very good when he gets the ball from deep spots. He likes to combine, he’s pretty good at dribbling at players with the ball [and] he’s quick.”
“We feel confident going in, but it’s a tough place to play and it’ll be a difficult match.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org