BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – As long as it has been since the Chicago Fire last registered a shutout, assistant coach Mike Matkovich would have been forgiven if he lost count.
But after the Fire's 1-0 win over Sporting Kansas City on Friday for their first shutout since June 2, Matkovich, who filled in for the suspended Frank Klopas, rattled off the number as soon as the topic was broached.
“It's 11, I counted,” Matkovich said. “I know, trust me … Overall, defensively I thought the guys rolled their sleeves up tonight.”
With defender Hunter Jumper playing admirably in his first game at centerback for the suspended Bakary Soumare, Chicago was able to finally forget about the unflattering stat, which came during an explosive offensive stretch.
Whether Klopas will give Jumper another chance to prove himself is unclear, but newly-acquired defensive midfielder Arevalo Rios has already become entrenched in the lineup after his second game. The Uruguayan international is ever-improving as he adjusts to a new league, and he is proving a defensive asset.
“It's good now that we've gotten used to him playing a little bit, having a few more weeks in practice, having a game last week, it's all about familiarity,” center back Austin Berry said. “He's a good player, he's kind of getting into the swing of things, too … He's a very good player, and he's caught on quick."
Chicago have won six of their previous 10 matches entering Sunday's game, but they always needed multiple goals to put teams away until last Friday. The three points against Sporting Kansas City allowed them to move to within three points of a playoff berth, proving they are capable of pulling off a win even when the offense isn't clicking,
“It was about time,” defender Gonzalo Segares said. “I think that it was a great moment against a very difficult team. We needed it. We needed that shutout and that victory. I think if we keep pushing, we're right in the mix for the playoffs.”
Anthony Zilis covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com.