BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Sometimes scheduling in MLS can be funny.
I say that as the Chicago Fire have just begun what could be the make-or-break part of their season which started on Sunday with the team set to play a suicide stretch of up to 11 first team matches in 49 days time.
This comes after the Fire experienced two bye weeks in the first three months of the MLS campaign and just three regular season matches in total during the month of May.
|June 2||vs. D.C. United||MLS RS|
|June 8||vs. Portland||MLS RS|
|June 12||vs. Columbus||USOC|
|June 14||@ Charlotte||Reserve|
|June 19||vs. Colorado||MLS RS|
|June 22||@ Columbus||MLS RS|
|June 26||vs. SKC/Orlando||USOC (pos.)**|
|June 29||vs. Charlotte||Reserve|
|July 3||vs. San Jose||MLS RS|
|July 7||vs. Sporting KC||MLS RS|
|July 8||vs. New York||Reserve|
|July 10||vs. Club America||Friendly|
|July 14||@ Vancouver||MLS RS|
|July 17||vs. Columbus||Reserve|
|July 20||vs. D.C. United||MLS RS|
“It’s different how you prepare for it,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “It’s a different kind of training you do because you have to freshen the guys up for games.
"When you talk about depth and guys you bring in, you rely on those guys and we had to also in the beginning with the injuries we had."
Of the upcoming games (through July 20 vs. D.C. United), eight or regular season, at least one is an Open Cup match next Wednesday, June 12 vs. Columbus (with another coming on June 26 should the Fire be victorious) and one international friendly vs. Club America on July 10.
Add in the fact that the club also has three reserve matches between now and mid-July and certainly the team will be stretched to its limits.
But there is good news…
Part of the fixture congestion is the team’s involvement in the U.S. Open Cup. At this point in 2012, the Fire had already been knocked out of the competition that the club has made much of its name in.
Even better, seven (or eight) of the 10 (or 11) upcoming first team matches will be played at Toyota Park, giving a Fire side that has found a spark from the additions of Mike Magee and Bakary Soumare their best chance of the season to make up ground in the MLS table as well as a major dent in the Open Cup.
Should the Fire be victorious next Wednesday vs. Columbus it also means the team will have a five-week stretch of Wednesday night home matches.
Still, Klopas admitted that the tough upcoming stretch across two competitions will force him to rely on the depth that has been built in his roster.
“For sure. I think with any team, it’s about trying to add quality players – at least two in any position because of call-ups, injuries, the Gold Cup is coming up, you miss players and it’s a long season.
"It’s not just 11 guys that start, you need to have that kind of depth in every spot. You never know what will happen in the season but [its good] also for guys to be able to push themselves and compete."