Fire look to end struggles against sliding Colorado

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Fire look to end struggles against sliding Colorado

Friday, April 29, 2011Posted: 6:56 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com

These are desperate times for the Chicago Fire. And desperate times draw other desperate teams.

Saturdays matchup against the Colorado Rapids will bring together two teams in the pits of tough stretches. Colorado, loser of three straight games, is eager to prove that it still has the form of an MLS Cup winner. The Fire, winless in its last four games, are looking to show that its hot start to the season was not a mirage.

We need it both teams. Chicago Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said in a rare blunt statement after training Thursday.

The Fire has already beaten the Rapids in 2011 with a 2-1 U.S. Open Cup win in Peoria. But with Chicago using mostly first-team players and Colorado not dressing their top squad in the loss, Fire defender Dasan Robinson doesnt read too much into the teams previous matchup.

You cant take too much from the Open Cup game, Robinson said. Maybe they have a little something against us because we won that game... You have to know in knowing its going to be a fight. Theyre the defending champions, for them to lose three in a row, its kind of like oh, whats going on.

The lineups will likely be different again on Saturday. Both teams have been rattled by injuries and have struggled to create winning lineups in the absence of key players.

The Fire will be without captain Logan Pause and veteran defender Cory Gibbs on Saturday. Colorado is hoping that forward Conor Casey, who is questionable for the game with a left hamstring sprain, will be able to go, reuniting one of the top striking duos in MLS.

Caseys regular partner in crime, Omar Cummings, has struggled without Casey in the lineup, going goalless in his past three games, all Colorado losses. Chicago is hoping that Casey remains out of the lineup, as it would only help Cummings, who has five career goals in four games against the Fire.

I dont think its a matter of trying to shut them down, its a matter of kind of containing Cummings and Casey, Robinson said. You know what theyre capable of, you know what their strengths are. You just have to do your best to try to limit those chances that they get. We know what were strong at.

Despite the lack of positive results, morale is high amongst the Fire, who ended its final training session with a penalty shootout in the mud. De los Cobos said that he is trying to keep a positive attitude in the locker room, but hes not putting as much focus on spirit with the winless streak.

The attitude is not everything in life, de los Cobos said. Attitude is part of this is. Sure, we need to have a very good attitude its important, but its not all. You need to want, and you need to can do it.

The Fire will find out if they have that can on Saturday. First kick in Commerce City, Colorado is set for 8 p.m. Central.

Fast Break Morning Update: Blackhawks give up season-high seven goals

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Here are some of Saturday's top stories in Chicago sports:

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Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Five Things to Watch: Bulls visit Bucks in final regular season meeting on CSN

Watch as the Bulls take on the Toronto Raptors tonight on CSN and streaming live on CSNChicago.com. Coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Bulls Pregame Live. Then stick around after the final buzzer to watch Bulls Postgame Live for highlights and analysis.

Click here to watch the game or download the NBC Sports App, your home for live streaming coverage of the Bulls.

Five Things to Watch:

1. Can the Bulls get one on the Bucks? The Bulls are 0-3 against the Bucks so far this season and it hasn't been pretty. The Bucks have won the previous three meetings all by double digits and by an average of 19 points. The youth and athleticism of the Bucks has been a tough matchup for the Bulls so far.

2. Containing Giannis. There may be no stopping Giannis Antetokounmpo, but the Bulls can at least try to contain him. Antetokounmpo is averaging 23 points and nearly nine rebounds per game. In three games against the Bulls this year he has averaged 29 points, 10 rebounds and 7.3 assists per contest. If the Bulls are to stay in the game, they will need to keep him to numbers lower than that.

3. Playoff implications. The Bulls playoff hopes are still alive with nine games remaining, but things are looking a bit bleak. The Bulls are a game and a half out of the eighth playoff spot, but only 3.5 games behind two teams tied for the No. 5 seed, the Bucks and the Atlanta Hawks. The Bucks have won three in a row to improve their position.

4. Mirotic on a roll. Streaky play is nothing new to Nikola Mirotic, but he's on a good run currently. After scoring a season-high 28 points on Wednesday against the Pistons, Mirotic followed that up with 15 points against the 76ers. Since missing three straight games earlier this month, Mirotic has scored in double figures in five of the last seven games and is averaging 15.6 points during that stretch.

5. Beginning of a tough stretch. The Bulls' playoff hopes could be made or broken in the next three games. After taking on the Bucks, which occupy a playoff spot, the Bulls host two more Eastern Conference playoff teams in Cleveland and Atlanta. The Bulls need to string some wins together and this is not an easy stretch to do so against.

- Check out the latest stats and standings to make sure you're ready for action

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- See what Bulls fans are talking about before, during and after the game with Bulls Pulse