SANDY, Utah — Momentum will not be on the side of the Chicago Fire when they clash with Real Salt Lake for the second time this season.
Chicago travels to Utah on Saturday having not won an MLS regular-season match since the end of June. The Fire have dropped five consecutive games, equaling a franchise record. Porous defense has been a culprit in those setbacks as Chicago has given up multiple goals in a club-record six straight games.
But Salt Lake is struggling to get in the win column, as well, having gone 0-1-2 in its last three. But the club is nearly unstoppable on its home field, unbeaten in 10 straight matches at Rio Tinto Stadium dating back to a loss to Los Angeles FC in the home opener.
Getting out of a tailspin in a hostile road environment may be a tough task for Chicago. The Fire (6-12-5, 23 points) are coming off the low point of their season, back-to-back losses to struggling Toronto FC during which they were outscored 5-1.
Amid the poor results, Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic is encouraged by the effort he’s seeing.
“We have to acknowledge that we didn’t have a good performance so far in some of the games, but we always gave our best,” Paunovic told MLSsoccer.com. “And when you see that, I think you have to acknowledge that and you have to recognize the effort the guys are putting in and you have to support everyone and give everything they need to recover for the next game.”
A chance to grab three points against San Jose last Saturday eluded Salt Lake (9-9-4, 31 points) when Earthquakes goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell pushed a Justen Glad header wide of the far post in the 54th minute, preserving a scoreless tie. The game would end without a goal.
RSL assistant coach Freddy Juarez came away pleased with how RSL played defensively to nab only the club’s fifth road point of the season.
“They’re desperate and they’re dangerous and we responded,” Juarez told reporters on Saturday. “What the guys showed today was fight from the beginning to the end, which was great to watch.”
The last time the two clubs met, Chicago snapped a five game winless streak against Salt Lake with a 2-0 victory in March of last season. It was the Fire’s first win in the series since 2011.
RSL coach Mike Petke will return to the sidelines on Saturday after finishing a league mandated two-game suspension for criticizing officials.
—Field Level Media