If there's anyone who's feeling the pressure of eight, consequential Eastern Conference fixtures bearing down on his team, Fire coach Frank Yallop certainly is one to understand the weight of Saturday night's clash against the Montreal Impact.
When the two sides converge at Saputo Stadium - the second of three meetings between the Impact and Fire in 2015 - both teams, which sit one and two points below the red line, respectively, can ill afford to throw away any more points with a little under two months remaining in the regular season.
"We know it's a big game," Yallop said after training Thursday. "This one seems bigger than most because we need to get three points and so do they. ... No better time than to start this weekend in Montreal."
With three first-choice starters out this weekend from last week's 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC - David Accam, Joevin Jones and Matt Polster - the rigors of the FIFA international window will well and truly test the technical staff's nerve to experiment with depth, particularly in the fullback positions left void through Polster and Jones' absence.
"We've got some options," Yallop added. "I think our squad's pretty strong. We've lost some players to international duty, but it gives an opportunity to other guys to get a chance to play. I have full faith in them to play well and do well."
[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]
Sean Johnson earns 'deserved' call-up to U.S. national team
After a rocky start to his sixth season with the Men in Red, niggling injuries hindered the play of goalkeeper Sean Johnson, so much so that veteran Jon Busch was called upon to deputize for the 26-year-old seven times between mid-March and mid-June.
Since June 13, Johnson has started 12 consecutive games as the Fire's No. 1. Sprawling saves in recent weeks warranted several MLS Save of the Week nominations, performances that caught the eye of head coach Jurgen Klinsmann and justified a call-up to the U.S. national team camp.
“Sean had his differences at the start of the season, but lately, he’s been getting back to his best,” said Yallop, who spoke to Klinsmann a few weeks ago, who opened the door to have another look at the Atlanta, Ga. native. “Jurgen’s been watching that, and he deserves that spot.”
Johnson will depart following the Fire's road match against the Impact, and will replace William Yarbrough as the third goalkeeper on the 23-man roster. Yarbrough, who plies his trade with Club León, will back up Brad Guzan and Tim Howard for Friday night’s match against Peru before making way for Johnson to join ahead of next week’s friendly against five-time World Cup champions Brazil at Gillette Stadium.
Adaílton surgery update
Since playing all 90 minutes of the Men in Red’s 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution at Toyota Park, Adaílton’s lingering adductor issues were compounded following his operation on Tuesday.
The Brazilian centerback underwent a core muscle repair procedure - essentially equivalent to sports hernia surgery - and will be out of action for around six to eight weeks, the club announced.
“If you look at the New England game where he could have reached out and cleared the ball, he didn’t, I think, because of his groin," Yallop said of the Revolution's second goal on July 25, which spotlighted Adaílton's role in failing to clear his lines. "It was kind of after that that we really got to the bottom of it and he said he’s struggling.
“He was injured and out, and he was always nursing it. It got to a point where [he said] ‘I can’t continue; I’ve been trying to do this thing.’ … His performances were starting to get worse."
Despite the close of the MLS summer transfer window, Yallop could still be keen on adding to his roster:
Konstantin Möllering, a 25 y/o attacking midfielder from Germany, is training with #cf97.
— Danny Michallik (@DMichallik) September 3, 2015
Though rules prevent the acquisition of foreign-based talent, teams are entitled to go after out-of-contract players until the roster freeze deadline on Sept. 15. Möllering has spent the majority of his career in Regionalliga, the fourth tier in German soccer, and is currently not under contract.
For now, Yallop could only confirm the 25-year-old is "just training" with the club.