Fire coach Frank Klopas had just one basic reaction to his teams poor showing before its first sellout home crowd of the season last week: forget about it.
Thats undoubtedly good advice. The 2-0 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy wasnt indicative of the Fires play of late. Prior to the shaky showing the Fire (8-6-4) had a four-game unbeaten streak.
"Our movement and being dynamic and being off the ball wasnt as sharp, Klopas said of the dropoff in his teams performance." You have to move on, and there will be setbacks. Its how we react to them. Youre going to have games like that throughout the season.
An immediate recovery is possible on Saturday when the Vancouver Whitecaps come to Toyota Park. The Whitecaps should be travel-weary; they played their fifth straight road match on Wednesday, losing 3-2 to lowly Toronto FC. That was the third meeting of the season for the Canadian rivals, but the first in Major League Soccer play. They met for the Canadian Championship in a two-game aggregate goal playoff, Toronto FC winning that title in the same matchup for the second straight year.
Still, Vancouver (8-5-6) could be the most improved team in Major League Soccer. As an expansion team in 2011 the Whitecaps finished 6-18-10 and were last in the Western Conference. The Fire, though, couldnt beat Vancouver last season, going 0-1-1. Saturday marks the only meeting of the clubs this regular season.
Therell be a Chicago flavor to the visitors. Vancouver general manager Tom Soehn developed his soccer roots in the Chicago Kickers youth programs and was a defender on the Fires MLS and U.S. Open Cup champions in the augural 1998 campaign and was a Fire assistant coach from 2001-03. John Thorrington, injury-riddled in six seasons with the Fire, has kept his career going with Vancouver, which acquired him in the expansion draft. Vancouver captain Jay DeMerit was on the Fires first Premier Development League team in 2001. Jay Nolly, a reserve goalkeeper for the Fire, was a Whitecaps netminder last season and earned the first MLS shutout in the history of the Vancouver franchise.
While Klopas doesnt have an injury issue to deal with this week, he does need to find the right playmaking midfielder. He used Chris Rolfe, Alex and Rafael Robayo in the role once manned by the departed Sebastian Grazzini against the Galaxy. None could get the Fire going.
There also could be a change in the back. Klopas didnt use usual right back Dan Gargan against Los Angeles, going with Jalil Anibaba there instead. It was an Anibaba handball that led to Robbie Keanes penalty kick that provided the only goal the Galaxy needed.
Klopas isnt pointing fingers for last weeks loss, though.
"It wasnt just one or two players, and we have to move on, he said. "In the end its important to be where we set our eyes in the beginning (back in the playoffs after a two-year absence). This is a strong group.