Struggling Fire, Real Salt Lake desperate for win
SANDY, Utah -- Finding a way to generate some wins is a growing concern for the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake when the teams clash Saturday.
Neither team has generated much momentum ahead of the match. Real Salt Lake is coming off back-to-back draws. Chicago hasn't won a game since the end of June.
Chicago snapped a five-game winless streak against Salt Lake with a 2-0 victory in the last meeting in March 2017. The Fire posted their first win since September 2011 in the series after scoring twice in the first 15 minutes. Nemanja Nikolic and Arturo Alvarez each found the net in a span of five minutes.
Doing it again could prove challenging for Chicago (6-12-5), which heads to Utah in a tailspin that has pushed it well below the red line in the Eastern Conference standings.
The Fire have dropped five consecutive games, including back-to-back losses to Toronto FC by a combined 5-1 margin. They have tied a club record with five straight losses in MLS regular-season play. Chicago has also allowed multiple goals in six consecutive matches, setting another club record.
Things sank to a new low with a 3-0 loss in the rematch with struggling Toronto FC on Saturday. The Fire allowed 20 shots, eight on frame, while producing only seven total shots.
The setbacks aren't because of a lack of effort, according to Fire coach Veljko Paunovic.
"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."
Salt Lake (9-9-4) could use an opponent that will open the door for its offense to get going early. Real played to a 0-0 draw against San Jose on Saturday. It marked the second straight one-point result after a 2-2 draw against Colorado the previous weekend.
A chance to grab three points against San Jose came in the 54th minute when Justen Glad sent a header toward the far post, but Andrew Tarbell pushed the ball aside to get a big save for the Earthquakes.
Real Salt Lake assistant coach Freddy Juarez liked how his club handled itself in getting just their 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."
For Real Salt Lake, getting a home win over Chicago is a reasonable expectation. Coach Mike Petke returns to the sideline from a two-game suspension and Salt Lake is also enjoying a 10-game unbeaten streak in Utah (8-0-2).
Updated August 2, 2018