By TYLER DAY
The Chicago Fire head into their second bye week five points below playoff position after Saturday’s loss in Montreal. Before the loss, which included a controversial red card to midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, the Fire had won two in three games and carried a renewed sense of optimism about the season. Head coach Frank Klopas insists that has not waned.
“You can’t just change game to game up and down,” Klopas said. “You’ve got to be even keel. We’ve got a lot of work to do over this bye week and I think the enthusiasm, the passion, and the mentality that we have is not going to change from that game.”
Many first-team players, including Sherjill MacDonald, Dilly Duka, and Wells Thompson, had an opportunity Wednesday to keep up their match fitness in a reserve game vs. FC Dallas. Maicon Santos scored a goal and had an assist in a 2-1 victory, which could put even more pressure on Klopas to give Santos a start over MacDonald, who has yet to score on the season.
Also of note from the reserve match, Fire homegrown player and U.S. U-20 National Team camp invitee Victor Pineda had to come off midway through the first half with an ankle injury. Pineda recently returned from offseason knee surgery, and he came off the field out of precaution and the injury was afterwards deemed not serious. Pineda talked after the match about how the opportunity with the U-20 team motivates him to work hard with his club.
“On the 20’s already there are a lot of players who are playing on their first teams. The way I see it is if they can play, then I can do it too. I use that as an example to motivate me to keep going and keep my head down.”
Here are some other Fire notes from the week:
LARENTOWICZ RED CARD UPHELD
The MLS announced Wednesday afternoon that the appeal from the Fire over Jeff Larentowicz’s red card against Montreal was denied, and he will serve a one game suspension when the Fire host Philadelphia on May 11th. The statement read that officials were “not unanimous that the referee incorrectly identified the offence or that the disciplinary action was incorrect.”
While Larentowicz will miss the Philadelphia game, Wells Thompson will be back from suspension and most likely will return to start at right back. Arne Friedrich has not been in full training this week and it remains to be seen when he will be ready to return.
SPECULATION INCREASES OVER ROGERS’ FUTURE
As Robbie Rogers continues to train with the L.A. Galaxy, speculation will continue as to his comeback and whether Chicago will be a possible destination – or if the club will be set to gain something in exchange for his rights.
“The only thing I can tell you is he’s a very good player and the first option is to always look to bring him to our team if he decides to play,” Klopas told reporters Tuesday.
The Fire acquired the rights to Rogers in the Dilly Duka-Dominic Oduro swap, and thus far Columbus has been the beneficiary of that trade. Duka has not seen major minutes since the beginning of the season, but getting Rodgers, or something significant in return could bolster a club in need of depth.
CLUB AMERICA FRIENDLY ANNOUNCED
The Fire also announced Wednesday they will host a friendly July 10th at Toyota Park with Club America. It will be the Fire’s third game against the Liga MX leader, but their first since 2009.
It will be interesting to see what kind of side the Fire put out for the friendly, as that may be the busiest stretch of their season with five games in 17 days. They have home games on July 3rd with San Jose and the 7th with KC before the friendly, and will travel to Vancouver July 14th and return home on the 20th vs. D.C.
EARLY ATTENDANCE FIGURES ARE DOWN
A report Wednesday showed the Fire’s average attendance through the first nine weeks at 12,084, a 14 percent decrease compared to last year. The league is down 7 percent as a whole. With the earlier start to the MLS season and a number of night games, much could be chalked up to the weather. The team is expecting a good turnout next Saturday for a 12:30pm local-time kickoff against Philadelphia.