Wins have come at a premium for the Men in Red this season. And after grabbing all three points against the New England Revolution on Oct. 3 and training through a bye week, interim coach Brian Bliss and the Fire are striving to make it two on the trot.
Following a weekend off, the Fire were back out on the practice field as they prepare for their final away match of the season - a trip to the nation's capital.
Barring a three-game winning streak that canceled out a three-match losing spell to start the 2015 campaign, the Men in Red have been unable to build on any of their other regular season victories since, either losing or drawing in the ensuing fixture. Bliss hopes the Fire (8-18-6, 30 points) can carry the energy gained from the result against the Revolution into Sunday's match at RFK Stadium against D.C. United (14-12-6, 48 points).
"It's unfortunate that we had the international break after the New England win, but it is what it is," Bliss said after training Thursday. "We had that downtime, but it gave us a good opportunity to heal some guys that might've been ailing and gave us some good training time as well. Hopefully we've still got that momentum going, and it'd be nice to put a nice series [of wins] together to end the season."
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Other notes from training:
Fire quartet returns from international duty
David Accam (Ghana), Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago), and Matt Polster (United States Under-23s) all went the full 90 minutes with their respective national teams Tuesday night. All four reported back to Chicago on Wednesday, but were held out of training on Thursday to take part in a separate, regeneration session.
"All of those guys have played minutes for us with the first team, and started a lot of these games," Bliss said. "We're counting on them. So, hopefully everybody comes back and they're feeling it, and they're ready to go on Sunday. We'll plug them in as we see fit."
Added Bliss of Accam's club performances: "He's got speed to burn, and the timing of his runs is pretty good. He's got a little bit of [Sebastian] Giovinco in him. ... He's been an asset to us, and his minutes-to-goals [ratio] is pretty fantastic. He's got a little bit of bite to him. When he feels he's been wronged, he goes after it. If he feels he's made a mistake, he goes and tries to make up for it. He's pretty durable in that respect, too, because he takes a pounding and he keeps going. Credit to him that he doesn't dive around or take extra time off."
Designated Player Gilberto is still feeling the ill effects of a knock to the foot he sustained in a tussle with Revolution midfielder Jermaine Jones. The Brazilian forward, who's notched three goals in his last two appearances, was kept out of training on Thursday.
"He can't get out there and do the stuff that he's capable of doing right now," Bliss said. "Hopefully, by the end of the week he's ready to go."
- With a labral tear keeping Sean Johnson out for the remainder of the season - he is able to contribute to goalkeeping sessions but not at full tilt - and Alec Kann playing second fiddle to starter Jon Busch, Bliss welcomed in goalkeeper Austin Ejide this week.
Ejide, 31, most recently plied his trade with Hapoel Be'er Sheva in Israel but has been out-of-contract since July 1. He was also named to three FIFA World Cup squads for Nigeria: Japan and South Korea (2002), South Africa (2010), and Brazil (2014).
- All five USL players who were invited to training last week (Romeo Filipović (Arizona United), Jamiel Hardware (Saint Louis FC), Parker Maher (Saint Louis FC), James Musa (Saint Louis FC) and Jason Plumhoff (Harrisburg City Islanders)) have rejoined their clubs.
PROGRAMMING NOTE: Brian Dunseth will step in as the color analyst alongside play-by-play commentator Dan Kelly for Sunday’s D.C.-Chicago broadcast (1 p.m. CT; CSN).