At the start of the MLS season, scoring woes left a beleaguered Chicago Fire brooding over the deep-seated issue as the likes of David Accam, and forwards Kennedy Igboananike, Guly do Prado and Jason Johnson struggled to leave an imprint on their new club.
On paper, the pool of offseason signings justifiably led many beholders, as well as head coach Frank Yallop, to believe last year's ninth place finish would be superseded by a fresh and redesigned vision in mind. Through 16 games, that vision hasn't exactly come to fruition quite yet.
Languishing in last place in the Eastern Conference, the Fire's scoring problem isn't a secret to many. Having bagged 18 league goals in 2015, the figure signifies the lowest total in the East despite averaging a league-leading 14.6 shots per game.
"It's haunted us a little bit this season and giving up goals in the wrong times in games," Yallop said Thursday. "We've talked about it; we've worked on it, we've just got to maintain that."
While that hurdle has yet to be overcome, Yallop has another problem on his hands ahead of his team's cross-conference clash with Western Conference co-leaders Seattle Sounders FC Saturday at Toyota Park (7:30 p.m. on CSN).
"We're short a few guys, too," he added. "They have a good squad. It's always a tough game against Seattle; they're very well-coached. They've got a gritty demeanor to their team, so we've got to be ready to fight that and try to win at home, which, again, no matter who's playing for us, we want to to win. It's no different this game."
Since forcefully dispatching the Montreal Impact, 3-0, the Men in Red dropped four league matches in a row before grabbing a well-earned point in a 1-1 draw with the Houston Dynamo last Friday. In that time frame, Accam and Joevin Jones were called in for international duty, the former emerging with a hamstring injury as a result. An MRI confirmed a bulging disc in Shaun Maloney's lower back. Captain Jeff Larentowicz was also ruled out through a herniated disc in his neck while Adaílton limped out of BBVA Compass Stadium with a groin strain in the 71st minute.
RE Adaílton: Confirmed from #cf97 team official that he has a groin strain. Status for Seattle TBD.. that Harden-Quincy swap is paying off.
— Danny Michallik (@DMichallik) July 4, 2015
Ahead of Saturday's meeting, an injury-laden Sounders outfit - like the Fire - enters the match with absences of its own. Clint Dempsey (USA), Brad Evans (USA) and former Fire midfielder Marco Pappa (Guatemala) are participating in the CONCACAF Gold Cup in progress, while Nigerian forward Obafemi Martins continues his recovery from an adductor injury sustained June 17. Goalkeeper Stefan Frei will also be unavailable after suffering a sprained shoulder on Friday against D.C. United, leaving the seasoned Troy Perkins odds-on to get the nod from Sigi Schmid.
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As for the Men in Red, Adaílton worked with fitness coach Adrian Lamb on Thursday, joined in training Friday as the team engaged in light, pre-match preparation, and will be put through a fitness test Saturday morning. Should the Brazilian not be able to go, Eric Gehrig and Matt Polster would be the preferred center back pairing.
"We need bodies; we need good defenders and he's one of those guys," Yallop said of Adaílton. "Hopefully he'll be OK for at least some type of minutes maybe on the weekend, but for sure on Wednesday."
Accam, meanwhile, could get time as a substitute, but it's still "touch-and-go right now," according to Yallop. But despite setbacks to several of Yallop's top players, the resurgence of Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko will undoubtedly benefit a group of players eager to win its first MLS encounter with the Rave Green in nine previous attempts, as the Windy City meets the Emerald City in front of an expected sell-out crowd at Toyota Park.
"I want us to be pushing on and pressurizing Seattle, it doesn't matter what our lineup is; it's irrelevant," Yallop said. "We've lost a couple in a row at home in the league and we don't want that to happen anymore. We want to put our line in the sand, and say 'No more.' We want to get a good result no matter how we play. We need to win this game, get our guys back healthy and we'll look better for the rest of the year."
The first 5,000 fans in attendance at Toyota Park will receive a Fire ballcap courtesy of The PrivateBank. The Fire will also be celebrating Chicago Soccer Heritage Night.