Preview: Kansas City

Fire look to rebound against sputtering Wizards

The basics

· Kansas City Wizards (2-3-1, seven points) vs Chicago Fire (2-3-2, eight points)

· Chicago leads the all-time series with a 20-9-7 record

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Game info

· 8:30 ET at CommunityAmerica Ballpark in Kansas City, Kan.

· TV: Fox Soccer Channel, Fox Sports Español


What's at stake?

A jolt of confidence. After mixed results to start the season, Chicago and Kansas City are currently enduring rough stretches that have left them in the middle of the Eastern Conference standings. The Fire was embarrassed 4-1 in Toronto last weekend, and the Wizards fell 2-1 to previously winless D.C. United in their last action. A result would go a long way to restoring each side’s swagger.

Last meeting

The last time these two teams saw each other, Peter Vermes was managing his first game after Curt Onalfo was relieved of his duties. The Fire were also reeling after a locker-room confrontation between Bakary Soumare and Denis Hamlett. Short-handed Chicago won 2-0 on goals from the now-departed Chris Rolfe andMike Banner, and Kansas City didn’t put up much of a fight. Marco Pappa was a force in that game, and will try to repeat that performance this weekend.

Heroes & Villains

Brian McBride vs. Jimmy Conrad — Playing on a small field should only highlight McBride’s strength in the air. With so little space to exploit, the Fire will look for McBride to receive the ball, hold it and link up with his advancing teammates. Conrad’s job will be disrupt that rhythm, keep the ball from the Chicago veteran and win as many balls in the air as possible. The matchup should only be renewed on dead-ball situations in which both represent their side’s best options to score.

Andrew Dykstra vs. the Wizards sputtering attack — Transitioning to Dykstra between the pipes hasn’t been completely worry-free for the Fire, and he figures to be tested against a Kansas City squad starved for goals. The Wizards have only scored at home this season, but their luck in front of the net has dried up during the last three games. With Davy Arnaud likely missing out on the action because of injury, Ryan SmithKei Kamara and Josh Wolff need to put the young goalkeeper in tough positions for Kansas City to earn three points.

Stat that makes you go “Hmm …”

The Wizards were held scoreless for more than 360 consecutive minutes over the course of four matches until Kei Kamara scored in stoppage time against D.C.

He said it

"We’re kind of on that fence right now. We’re almost at that tipping point as to when it’s going to start coming together.” -- Kansas City manager Peter Vermes