SANDY — More than a month has passed since the Chicago Fire found the back of the net in a regular-season MLS match.
Chicago last scored April 20 against Columbus and has since lost three consecutive games. As a result, the Fire enters Rio Tinto Stadium to face Real Salt Lake languishing in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
So, Saturday night's match should be a walk in the park for RSL, right?
As RSL coach Jason Kreis pointed out, the Fire will be aching to turn things around against his club.
"It's going to be an extremely hungry team," said Kreis. "As we know, when things don't go your way you tend to have a big emotional response to that. So, we have to be expecting an extremely dangerous opponent."
RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando echoed those sentiments.
"They're a very determined team — a dangerous team," said Rimando. "Whenever there's a team that's been on a bad streak, they come in and try to prove something to themselves, the coaches and their fans.
"They'll be a very dangerous team that we have to make sure we're focused and ready to go."
While Chicago enters the match on a three-game winless streak, RSL conversely enters after having wrapped up a promising three-game road trip that concluded last Sunday with a 4-1 win at Chivas USA.
"We're excited," said fullback Lovel Palmer. "Jason has been talking about it for a while now, 'Hey guys, just finish the road trips on a high and just go home and have five or six games at home.'
"We get some points, and we'll be set looking pretty in the standings."
Palmer is part of an RSL back line that is having its depth tested, a result of a few minor injuries to Palmer's fellow defenders. Kreis couldn't be more content with the level at which all his guys are competing in their respective positions, however.
"We have to be very fortunate that we've been able to get some experience from all of the players that are challenging to step into roles this year," said Kreis. "I feel like we never really skip a beat."
The RSL defense took a slight hit heading into Saturday's match when Salt Lake learned Chris Schuler would not be available. Schuler had successful surgery to repair a fracture in his hand, but X-Rays this week revealed the injury has gotten worse.
"We re-X-Rayed his hand this week and it was actually worse, so we are holding him out first and foremost for that, but he has also had a foot problem over the past couple of weeks," revealed Kreis. "We feel like if we can just hold him out for a week or so — maybe even a week and a half to have everything heal up — that could benefit us for the rest of the season."
A workhorse for Kreis, Schuler has compiled 1,080 minutes of playing time in 12 starts, which is tied for a team-high with Rimando.
RSL defender Chris Wingert stressed the importance of keeping a level head heading into a possible six straight games at home.
"I think we've got to make sure we don't get complacent now. Sometimes coming off a loss, you tend to refocus a little bit more and make sure you're ready for the next one," said Wingert. "I think we did that after Montreal heading into Chivas, but we've got to make sure that there's no letdown with a few home games in a row. We need to be earning as many points as possible."
RSL could get a huge boost if forward Alvaro Saborio is able to take the field Saturday night. The Costa Rican international has not played since April 20, but has trained for the last two weeks and could be available.
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