Fire look to avoid three-game slide vs. Galaxy

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Fire look to avoid three-game slide vs. Galaxy

Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010
12:33 PM
Associated Press

The Los Angeles Galaxy are paying for conceding early goals. The Chicago Fire are looking to capitalize on those struggles again.

The Galaxy will try to solve their defensive issues and avoid their longest losing streak in three years when they visit the stumbling Fire on Saturday night.

Los Angeles (13-5-4) still has the league's best record but has cooled of late, going 3-5-2 after starting the season with a 12-game unbeaten streak. The club's recent woes have been exacerbated by falling behind early.

The Galaxy are on a 1-3-1 stretch that has seen them allow eight goals -- six in the opening 20 minutes. Three of those scores came in a 3-2 home defeat to Chicago (6-7-6) on Aug. 1.

Los Angeles saw that trend continue last Saturday when it fell behind in the 12th minute and lost 2-0 to Kansas City. The Galaxy have been shut out in losing their last two games, falling to 0-5-1 when giving up the first goal.

Last year's MLS Cup finalists haven't dropped three in a row since a six-game slide from Aug. 9-Sept. 1, 2007.

"We have to figure out who we are and what we're all about and if we can do that we'll have a chance," defender Todd Dunivant told the team's official website. "If not, and we continue getting through these games like this, we're not going to win the championship -- and that's obviously our goal this year."

The Galaxy soon could get a boost after learning this week that star midfielder David Beckham is targeting next Saturday's game against East-leading Columbus for his return from an Achilles' tendon tear.

Until then, they'd like to see some production from Edson Buddle, the league leader with 13 goals -- two short of his career high set in 2008. The forward has scored once in four games and has been limited to two shots on goal over the last two.

"There is certainly a real strong defensive focus on Edson," coach Bruce Arena said. "I give the players who have been playing against him a lot of credit -- they've dealt with him real well."

Landon Donovan is also having a tough time offensively, going three games without a goal or an assist after getting five of each over the previous six.

The forward scored two goals in the last meeting with the Fire, and he had one in a 2-0 victory in the most recent matchup at Toyota Park on Aug. 19, 2009.

Chicago, five points out of playoff position, is trying to avoid a three-game slide after falling 2-1 at Seattle last Saturday when it gave up a stoppage-time goal.

Key absences could be an issue for the Fire, with Freddie Ljungberg suspended for yellow-card accumulation and fellow midfielder Marco Pappa with Guatemala for a pair of friendlies. Reserve defender Deris Umanzor was recalled to El Salvador.

Pappa's seven goals are a team high.

Brian McBride is entering the final 11 games of his career after announcing Friday that he'll retire at the end of the season. The former United States national team star has four goals for Chicago but none in the last eight games.

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WATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger asked if the Fire can win the World Cup

WATCH: Bastian Schweinsteiger asked if the Fire can win the World Cup

The Chicago Fire expected to get plenty of attention from Bastian Schweinsteiger's introductory press conference on Wednesday, but maybe not like this.

In a moment of viral infamy, the German was asked if the Fire could win the World Cup. Now of course, the World Cup is for national teams and the Fire are a club team.

It's cringeworthy comedy that has to be seen to be truly appreciated. Check it out in the video above.

To the Fire's credit, the team's official twitter account got in on the act by sharing a photo from Schweinsteiger's first training session with the team earlier on Wednesday. It had the caption #RoadtoRussia, which is a nod to the upcoming 2018 World Cup.

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

Bastian Schweinsteiger says he is ready for new challenge with the Fire

As far as first impressions go, Bastian Schweinsteiger made a good one on Wednesday.

The Chicago Fire's new German star smiled at every opportunity, said all the right things about playing hard and wanting to fit in with his new team and even elegantly danced around some 'tricky' questions.

Schweinsteiger opened by thanking fans for showing up to greet him at O'Hare on Tuesday and later said he has plenty left to give on the field.

"I'm 32 years old, I'm ready," Schweinsteiger said. "Of course I need more training sessions to have the right rhythm where I want to see myself. I want to use every minute to feel how it is, how the teammates are playing, which kind of runs they make, which kind of rhythm they have. So to know each other better, that is very important for me step-by-step and I hope you will get results soon because I don't like to lose or to draw."

The German's addition is a big deal to the Fire because he is a big name player who is drawing more attention to the team. That means the Fire will have to win more to capitalize and show the team is deserving of the extra attention.

Despite that extra attention, words of adoration from general manager Nelson Rodriguez and coach Veljko Paunovic saying he "can be the icon of the MLS in the future," Schweinsteiger said he is ready for the attention, but does not want to stand apart from his teammates.

"I had a lot of pressure in my career," Schweinsteiger said. "When you play a World Cup final or a Champions League final and the third time you have to win against Borussia Dortmund there is a lot of pressure on your shoulders so I can handle that. I don't want to say I'm a key player of Chicago Fire. Every player on the pitch has to be a key player and has to take the responsibility on the pitch and I would like just to get comfortable with myself and into the team so much as I can."

Talking about the importance of winning and showing humility? Check.

[Watch or listen to Bastian Schweinsteiger's full press conference here]

As for some of those 'tricky' questions, he was able to stay clean there as well. Will you root for the Cubs or Sox?

"First of all I like the Fire the most, of course," Schweinsteiger said.

Well played, Bastian.

But what about this one: Is the World Cup a realistic expectation for the Fire?

Sorry, what was that? Schweinsteiger smiled politely, said he didn't understand the question and avoided getting egg on his face while the Internet exploded in laughter that he was asked about the chances a club team winning an international competition.

Schweinsteiger is the new face of the Fire and that face smiled, waved and shook hands on Wednesday amid all the pageantry.

Media savvy? Check.

As for how he will perform on the field, that's to come soon. Paunovic only gave a subtle hint as to whether Schweinsteiger will play in Saturday's home match against Montreal.

"Obviously he is going to be available," Paunovic said. "We are not going to reveal our plans here, but we still have a talk to have and discuss how he feels and more things about the team and how we want to play. Be ready, just be ready. We'll see."