Depleted RSL meets struggling Chicago Fire
Lehi • Although brief, Jason Kreis pushed Real Salt Lake through a spirited, fiery practice prior to its flight to Chicago for Wednesday's Major League Soccer game against the Fire.
Fiery was an apt description of the RSL coach's mood after learning of the one-game suspension by MLS of forward Jean Alexandre. Kreis already believed the foul, which came during RSL's 1-1 tie against D.C. United, and did not earn a yellow or red card, was questionable.
"I didn't see anything in it," he said.
For Kreis, the suspension serves to once again weaken his team's depth at forward. Paulo Jr. is still hurt, while Alvaro Saborio and Arturo Alvarez have not yet returned to the club after playing for their national teams in the CONCACAF Gold Cup quarterfinals.
"We have one other forward on the roster who is healthy enough to play," said an angry Kreis, referring to Fabian Espindola. "We'll see what maybe he's about or playing someone out of position or changing our shape a little bit."
That RSL is in the midst of a four-game run in 11 days didn't improve Kreis' mood. Real returns to Rio Tinto Stadium on Saturday for a game with Toronto before hosting a U.S. Open Cup match Tuesday against a foe yet to be determined.
Kreis was uncertain whether Will Johnson, back from playing for Canada, will see time Wednesday. For his part, Johnson was eager to contribute.
"I hope so, but that's a question for [Kreis]," Johnson said. "I feel ready to go."
Johnson, who moved to Chicago when he was 10 and was briefly a member of the Fire, expects plenty of family to attend the game.
"It's tough being Wednesday. There's not going to be the party when we come to town on a Saturday," he said. "It will still be a lot of fun. We'll have a lot of support there. My family might actually outnumber the Chicago Fire fans, so it will be cool."
Overall, Real Salt Lake has certainly played better on the road. During its past 17 games away from Rio Tinto, RSL has earned 14 points. Salt Lake has had a win or tie in five of its past six games against the Fire, who are looking for only their second home win this season.
Eight of the past nine games between RSL and Chicago have been decided by one goal or less. Last year's 1-0 win was the lone road victory for RSL.
"We have to consider the rotation of the players," Kreis said of his team's depth. "[Espindola] has been the guy who has been really, really good for us. I hope it can continue.
"We're going to put a lot of weight in the Open Cup. We see that has the shortest route to get back into CONCACAF. We enjoyed that experience and would like to do it again."
Real Salt Lake at Chicago Fire
P At Toyota Park, Bridgeview, Ill.
Kickoff • Wednesday, 6:30 p.m.
TV • Comcast 22/Dish Network 12
Radio • 700 AM, 1600 AM, 106.1 FM
Records • RSL 6-3-4, Chicago 2-4-9
All-time series • Chicago 5-3-4
Last meeting • RSL, 1-0 (2010)
About RSL • RSL will play three games in one week four times this season including this week thanks to its run in the CONCACAF Champions League.
About the Fire • Chicago is still seeking its second home victory this season. The Fire have four ties under new coach Frank Klopas.