Saturday, August 1, 2009


Full defense is back as Chicago tries to climb back into 1st

Now that the CONCACAF Gold Cup is finished, the MLS contingent playing in the tournament is now back to the main day job.

Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause (pictured) is back from the U.S. Men's National Team and he and the Fire hope to win their second straight home game when they host Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park (televised on My50).

Chicago will be slightly shorthanded with the absence of midfielder John Thorrington, who was ejected during the Fire's scoreless draw against host Seattle Sounders FC last week. But the remainder of the team is available and looks to continue filling the long-term void of injured forward Brian McBride.

The Fire are 1-0-1 so far without him, and they face a team that they have had great success against in the past. Chicago is 2-0-2 against Real at home, 4-1-3 overall.

Chicago had an undefeated July that concluded with a hard-fought scoreless draw against Seattle Sounders FC at Qwest Field. Holding the Sounders scoreless was a strong feat, and the Fire extended their streak to 284 minutes without allowing a goal.

The 2008 MLS Goalkeeper of the Year, Jon Busch, has posted three straight clean sheets, posting shutouts against Seattle, the San Jose Earthquakes and Columbus Crew last month.

Real Salt Lake is coming off a hot-and-cold match against FC Dallas. Real fell behind, 2-0, at halftime and then posted four second-half goals for a 4-2 victory.

Real head coach Jason Kreis will not be on the sidelines for this week or next week against Seattle. He received a one-game suspension from an ejection and was suspended for another game following an outburst with officials during the Dallas game. Kreis also was fined $3,500. This is his third suspension this season, and the MLS disciplinary committee laid down the law for Kreis' latest actions. prediction: The full squad is back, the injury report is empty (other than McBride obviously). And Chicago has a good opportunity to work its way into first place again in the Eastern Conference. The Fire are only one point behind the current East point leaders, the Columbus Crew, who have a difficult road test against the Colorado Rapids this weekend.

I'm eager to see if this is the start of a dominant change at home. You have three All-Stars (Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Wilman Conde and Bakary Soumare) coming off the Everton match. You have two Gold Cup participants (Gonzalo Segares and Logan Pause) who have been playing some good international competition. Can all of that translate into some crisp play on the field?

This is one of the few times during the season where everyone is here. Following Wednesday's SuperLiga final against Tigres, Blanco and Segares will head to World Cup qualifying for Mexico and Costa Rica, respectively. It's time to take advantage of the current situation. Chicago Fire 2, Real Salt Lake 0

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