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Fire plan solid defensive show, high pressure in home opener


The Chicago Fire open their home schedule on Saturday afternoon, when they host Sporting Kansas City at Toyota Park (4 pm ET, TeleFutura).

The Fire got their season off to a decent start last week, when they earned a tough point in a 1-1 draw at FC Dallas. Chicago opened that match in a 3-4-3 formation but struggled to defend Dallas’ wingers and switched to a more successful 4-4-2 a few minutes before halftime.

Expect the Fire to open this Saturday’s match with a four-man back line to better defend against Sporting’s 4-3-3, which could feature Designated Player Omar Bravo (two goals last week), US international Teal Bunbury and rookie C.J. Sapong (one goal last week) up top.

“We just kind of did the run-through of all of their different patterns and player tendencies and we seemed to be doing a good job of holding it down,” Fire defensive midfielder Mike Videira told MLSsoccer.com on Thursday. “We had some pretty solid communication between the backs and the midfield in terms of passing guys on and zoning and things like that. As of right now, it seems pretty strong, it seems fairly airtight, so we’re pretty confident.”

Head coach Carlos de los Cobos told reporters earlier this week that he didn’t want to make too many changes from the starting lineup that took the field in Dallas, but he’ll be forced into at least one – and possibly two – switches thanks to injuries.

 


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Midfielder Bratislav Ristic injured his quad in the first half of last week’s match and won’t play against Kansas City. Patrick Nyarko – who came in for the injured Ristić in Dallas – will likely get the start in his place.

 

Forward Gastón Puerari could also miss this week’s match, as he picked up a hip injury on Tuesday and didn’t train on Wednesday or Thursday. Forward Orr Barrouch – who made a substitute appearance last week – would be a safe bet to fill in if Puerari can’t go.

Regardless of who starts, Chicago will look to attack Sporting’s unproven back four early and often.

“We want to put a lot of pressure on and assert ourselves on our home field,” Nyarko told MLSsoccer.com. “We’ll have our fans behind us and we want to set the tone. We can play our game, dictate the pace and put a lot of pressure on them. They’re on the road, they’re not going to come out flying, so we just need to come out strong, try and get a goal and take it from there.”

Nyarko is particularly excited to finally get out in front of the home fans, who saw the Fire scuffle a bit at Toyota Park last season.

“These fans have been behind us through hard times and I think we’re excited to make them feel a little better this year,” Nyarko said. “It’s been a long offseason and we’re excited to get back out there and I know they’re excited to be out there too, it’s going to be a good game.”

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.