BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – At some point, general improvements in ties or losses won't be good enough for the Chicago Fire.
Leaps in defensive competency and the presence of a few scoring chances won't be satisfactory for a team that hasn't found the back of the net in its first three games. The Fire need goals, and they need improved play from forward Sherjill MacDonald, a Designated Player who hasn't really come close to scoring in three sub-90 minute outings.
MacDonald thinks Sunday's game against Chivas USA (5 pm ET, UniMas), who have yet to record a shutout, will be the match the Fire finally get on the board.
“I think this is the perfect game to score some goals,” MacDonald said. “I think the next game coming up is a more open game, so I think we're going to have more chances to attack more. … I think last game, we had an okay game. Defensively, we were very strong, the confidence is coming back, so I think the next home game is going to be a nice game.”
As pressure mounts for MacDonald to perform, a lingering injury has slowed him.
MacDonald has been dealing with compartment syndrome, which makes his calf very tight. While the Dutchman said he'll likely have to have minor surgery at some point this season, which will only keep him out for a few weeks, he says he's able to put in a full 90-minute game this weekend.
His hold-up play will be important against a team that likes to push forward and may come out with three in the back. Chivas' style will be starkly different from last weekend's game against Sporting Kansas City, which held 73 percent of possession in the 0-0 draw.
“We have to adjust in the way we play,” coach Frank Klopas said. “They like to play very direct, they're not a team that likes to possess the ball. They like to get it, play it up the field as quickly as they can. Give them credit, they work very hard … Look, if we can score two or three goals, we'll take it.”
Right now, MacDonald and his teammates claim they don't feel much weight on their shoulders. But a goalless day on Sunday would make for a scoreless month for the Fire.
At that point, the team's psyche may change.
“I'm not concerned. I see every game we have progress, now we have to score the goals. When the goals are coming, then the confidence is high. Then, we'll be OK,” MacDonald said. “If this was already the 15th game, maybe I would feel different. I think if we start to score from the next game, it's going to be okay. If we don't score the next game, then it's going to be a little bit more pressure.”