It was about this time two years ago that the Chicago Fire traveled to Carson, Calif for a Sunday matinee against the LA Galaxy.
Three goals inside 18 minutes and a strong performance from a Sean Johnson in his MLS debut saw the team hang on for a 3-2 victory on August 1, 2010.
Saturday night the team has another date with a league-leading side in the Golden State but they’ll head north of Carson to take on the high-flying San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium.
“San Jose’s a good team,” defender Dan Gargan told Chicago-Fire.com Thursday. “They have a specific brand of soccer and they’re obviously doing it very well this year. It’s bad for us because they’ve been successful with it but its good too in that we know how they like to play. I don’t think there will be too many surprises from them [on Saturday].”
A big part of the Quakes top of the table record thus far has been their form inside the small confines of Buck Shaw Stadium where the team is 7-1-2 this season and riding an eight-match unbeaten streak (they haven’t lost at home since a 1-0 defeat to Houston on March 17).
“It’s a tight field. It’s a great surface but obviously a bit smaller and they’re a tough team, they play well on it. They’ve adjusted to the dimensions but it’s a little bit different in terms of your spacing and awareness.”
Shifting to the Left
With Gonzalo Segares’ fitness in doubt after picking up a knock to his ankle in training Wednesday, Gargan could find himself starting on the left side of the back line, ironically the same spot he deputized at when the team visited San Jose in a 2-0 loss last season.
In that match the veteran defender just missed on an attempt to clear a ball leaving Quakes striker Chris Wondolowski a finish inside the box just 10 minutes in. He nearly pulled it back on his own seven minutes later, traversing up the left flank before putting his shot off the post.
“Just like anything else, changing positions is different. You’re shifting and your lines are different – reading the game from the opposite side. I’ve been playing on the right and left my whole career – it’s not that big of a deal, something I’ve already done this year [1-0 win at Sporting KC on June 29] so if that’s where Frank needs me I’m ready to go.”
Speaking of Wondo
With 17 goals in 20 matches, Wondolowski holds the league lead and will try to continue his bid to break Roy Lassiter’s all-time MLS regular season record of 27 Saturday night. The feat would be incredible for a player that wasn’t rated too highly in MLS circles just a few years ago but Gargan says he isn’t surprised by the veteran striker’s rise.
“He always finds ways to put the ball in the back of the net. He finds good spots to be in and he’s done that his whole career. Back in the 2005 he was the leading scorer in the Reserve League. He finds gaps, he floats around and he’s one of those guys that doesn’t take a million touches on the ball but in that final third he’s dangerous.”
While Wondolowski will surely be a threat Saturday night, Fire fans will hope to get a glimpse of the club’s newest attacking weapon, Sherjill MacDonald. Having joined the club from Belgian side Germinal Beerschot this week, the Dutch striker has impressed his teammates thus far..
“Mack’s been good so far in training,” Gargan said. “He’s built like an ox, he’s strong and technically very good on the ball and in the penalty area. I think he’s going to be able to help us a lot offensively this year.”