Real Salt Lake: New-look Chicago Fire likely to provide tougher test this weekend

First Published      Last Updated Mar 07 2017 10:53 pm

Real Salt Lake » Snow is possible for this weekend’s game in suburban Chicago.

Sandy • Everything runs through the center of the field, Tony Beltran said, and this weekend in Bridgeview, Ill., will be no different.

It'll just be a much more formidable assignment for Real Salt Lake than it has been in recent years when facing the Chicago Fire. Coming off back-to-back league-worst records, the Fire expedited the rebuilding process this offseason by acquiring two-way midfielders Dax McCarty and former L.A. Galaxy man Juninho.

"I think particularly this offseason, they really started putting the pieces together," said Beltran, RSL's right back. "I think they're going to be a different team this year. We're going to have to be wary of them."

Chicago acquired Juninho, the 28-year-old Brazilian, in late December, after he spent last year in Mexico with Club Tijuana. Three weeks later, the Fire pulled off a shocking trade for McCarty, the former captain of the New York Red Bulls, to solidify their presence in a midfield that has been porous in recent seasons.

"Both those guys have a ton of experience, and it's something different than I think Chicago's had in the past couple years," RSL captain Kyle Beckerman said. "They've been trying out a lot of new guys. I think that'll bring some stability to their team."

McCarty, 29, spent the last six seasons with the Red Bulls, helping ease the sting of losing high-profile players such as Thierry Henry and Tim Cahill while the club was in transition. He had 14 goals and 27 assists during his time in New York in which the Red Bulls won a Supporters' Shield title. Juninho became a staple of the Galaxy dynasty with Landon Donovan, Robbie Keane and David Beckham, starting 180 matches in his six years in L.A.

"It's such a smart move to bring those particular guys," Beltran said, "two guys that will work on both sides of the ball."

Glad's status murky for Chicago

RSL likely will be without center back Justen Glad this weekend in Chicago, Jeff Cassar said. The 20-year-old defender suffered an injury in Sunday's U-20 CONCACAF Championship with the U.S. in Costa Rica. Glad took a knock to his right leg and was forced off in the 47th minute. The U.S. went on to beat Honduras 5-3 in penalty kicks. Glad, who started 27 matches at center back in 2016, is expected to be evaluated this week by the RSL medical staff.

"He's in a little bit of pain right now," Cassar said, "so it's obviously not looking good for this weekend."

Chilly City

Below-freezing temperatures and whipping winds don't bother Beckerman. The 34-year-old midfielder said he's looking forward to playing at Toyota Park on Saturday, where the forecast calls for a high of 27 degrees and accompanying high winds — and even possibly snow.

"I like playing in the snow at all times," he said. "It's like an old snow day. It should be fun. I think we've been lucky the past couple years in Chicago when it's been great weather, so we were due for one."

ckamrani@sltrib.com Twitter: @chriskamrani