Friday, April 22, 2011Posted: 5:36 p.m.
By Dieter Kurtenbach
The Chicago Fire players know what the problem is. Head coach Carlos de los Cobos knows why his team has lost three consecutive games. Now the team needs to fix the problem on the field. After a week of training, the Fire will have their first chance to prove the lesson has been learned Saturday at Toyota Park.
Cue the Houston Dynamo perennial Eastern Conference nemesis. The Dynamo, despite significant roster turnover, is as consistent as ever, earning eight points in their first five games. Houston poses a tough test this Saturday for a Fire team thats trying to find itself amongst consecutive disappointments.
We need to improve we need points, de los Cobos said. Its important not to lose the order, dont lose the patience in the field. I think the result, very soon, is coming. You can see all the matches that we have a chance to score, and we have some mistakes, and we are working about this, because there is no excuse.
Houstons game is one of strong, organized, tactical play. The Dynamo is a machine of efficiency that wont allow the Fire to let up focus for a moment. Sure enough, a lack of focus has been the Achilles heel for the young team. But De los Cobos isnt concerned. In fact, he expected some lulls.
We need to try to make our football, to try to apply it with style, to try to keep the ball, and dont be despaired, de los Cobos said. We know what is our problem. We are losing our focus, we are losing the concentration in some games, and in this situation if we add some important factors, because we have some young players...its normal that they make some mistakes. But all the players in the world make mistakes, but they need to stay easy, calm, because I think if we keep training and working like the players are doing, I have a big trust its changing everything for us.
De los Cobos might be changing up his lineup in preparation for Houston. The Fire backline could see wholesale changes. With Cory Gibbs likely out, Yamith Cuesta will likely start at centerback. De los Cobos also hinted that he might replace rookie fullback Jalil Anibaba with veteran Dasan Robinson.
I dont know if Anibaba will play, de los Cobos said. Maybe well start with Jalil or maybe Dasan. Dasan is an experienced player; I liked his two last matches when we played away against Seattle and Portland.
The Fire midfield might also see a change on Saturday. Daniel Paladini scrimmaged with the first team on Thursday, though de los Cobos wouldnt commit to him being in the lineup instead of Mike Videira on Saturday.
We need to improve in the aspect of creation, de los Cobos said. I dont know who is playing besides Logan, but maybe... another player like Paladini or Baggio Husidic. We need to improve about the creation.
Last week, against the Los Angeles Galaxy, de los Cobos replaced goaltender Sean Johnson with Jon Conway. The veteran Conway will be between the woodwork again on Saturday.
The experience of Jon is very important for the team, de los Cobos said. He is always supporting the other guys. His experience is so important for the young guys, the young players, because they give confidence to these guys. Everybody trusts a lot in Jon, and I think that the presence of Jon in goal is important right now.
Houstons offensive game is built around set pieces and size in the box, a test that Conway is well prepared to face. There are few in the MLS bigger than the stocky, six-foot-six Conway, and the goaltender uses all of his size to break through crowded boxes on corners and free kicks.
Its also Conways job to call out adjustments on the field. Conway, who made his eighty-ninth MLS appearance in the Fires 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy on Saturday, has a voice that echoes though Toyota Park, even with 18,000 fans cheering. That bellowing voice will be required again against Houston.
Obviously they have a lot of big boys, and do a good job of working the ball in from wide, Conway said. Im assuming thats what theyll do. Its just important just to give information to make sure these guys know whats going on, whats around them, and then they can make a good decision, an informed decision. So thats all Im trying to do, is make sure they get the information they need to do the right thing.
De los Cobos might also make a change up top. Forward Gaston Puerari has been substituted in his last two games and did not finish training on Thursday. Dominic Oduro, who was traded to the Fire from Houston in late March might see his first start in a Fire uniform against his former team.
Oduro couldnt, or more likely wouldnt, share any inside information regarding the Dynamo, but did call jokingly call Saturday a revenge game.
Oduro scored his first goal for the Fire late in last Saturdays game, sparking a late comeback bid for the Fire. While that bid failed, it did instill some confidence in the team heading into its next game.
Everything is possible, Oduro said. Even though they are organized, lets face it I dont think they can play a 100 percent focused game. Theres going to be a margin of error and thats where we have to, as a team, use that opportunity to penetrate into that error. Thats what were looking for.
The Fire take on the Houston Dynamo Saturday at Toyota Park. First kick is set for 7:30 p.m. The game will be broadcast on Comcast SportsNet.