Published July 27, 2012
| Sports Network
Santa Clara, CA – The San Jose Earthquakes figure to provide a stiff test for the Chicago Fire's defense at Buck Shaw Stadium on Saturday.
Despite scoring just one goal in their last four games, the Fire has still been able to come away with four points, recording clean sheets on the road against Sporting Kansas City and Houston before a wonderful goal from New York's Thierry Henry snapped the road shutout streak in a 1-0 defeat against the Red Bulls.
San Jose, by comparison, has tallied at least two goals in five of its last eight matches and boasts the league's top scorer in striker Chris Wondolowski, who has netted 17 goals in 20 games so far this season.
For Chicago head coach Frank Klopas, the style of play has been a big reason why his side has been so stingy defensively.
"Obviously, you're playing away, being compact getting behind the ball and being good in possession, all that stuff is essential," Klopas said after his team's 1-0 loss to New York. "And playing very direct, we're trying to not get stretched and it's an up-and-down game because it's very difficult to sustain that rhythm."
If Chicago takes a similar approach in Saturday's game, it will be tough to not only sustain the rhythm it wants, but to contain San Jose's lethal striking duo of Wondolowski and Alan Gordon.
The two have combined to score 27 of San Jose's 43 goals, making it unlikely that the Fire will be in any mood to take chances in the offensive third.
But the Fire's attack may become more potent after the club decided to swap Designated Players this past week.
Forward Federico Puppo occupied a DP slot on the Chicago roster but he was loaned to Defensor Sporting in Uruguay after failing to score in 11 league matches.
In his place, the club brought in Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald, who Klopas will be counting on to get the team's sputtering attack back in gear.
"Technically, he's very sound," Klopas said of MacDonald. "He comes from a good school at Ajax... and the Dutch always have that technical ability. Technically, he's a very good player. He's got pace, he can hold the ball on top, shoots with either foot. He's very smart with his movement in the box and in the game as far as creating space for himself or others."
The Earthquakes lost 2-1 last time out against Vancouver, but the club is still four points clear at the top of the Western Conference and will be full of confidence having won five times in the past eight games.
Another thing that figures to help the Earthquakes is a bit of a break in the schedule over the next few weeks.
San Jose will play just three times in the league between now and Aug. 18 after playing three matches in a little over a week.
And goalkeeper Jon Busch feels his teammates will benefit from things slowing down after a hectic spell.
"It's tough to try to get up every game when you have three games in a week, we're trying to get guys healthy and every game we're in is pretty much a battle," said Busch. "We're not cruising through games, so guys have to battle for 90 minutes. And it wears you down after a while. So it'll be good to get back to one game every week."