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Real Salt Lake-Fire Preview
Solid play at home is a major reason the Chicago Fire have managed to hover around the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
The Fire look to extend their home unbeaten streak to seven games while trying to hand Real Salt Lake a third straight defeat Saturday night.
Chicago (4-6-6) still has not won an MLS road match since May 26, 2018, but has fared well enough at home in 2019 to flirt with playoff contention. The Fire, who dropped their most recent league match 2-0 at Atlanta on June 1, have not played at home since May 25, but are 4-0-2 there since losing to Seattle on March 16.
They've managed to outscore their opponents 14-3 during an unbeaten stretch that's their longest since 2017.
"(The Fire) have players that can hurt you, especially at home," Real Salt Lake coach Mike Petke told that club's official website.
However, Chicago coach Veljko Paunovic seems more concerned how his side will respond after being upset 2-1 by USL Championship club Saint Louis FC this week in U.S. Open Cup play.
"There are no excuses for (that) performance," Paunovic told the Fire's official website.
"It's a mix of sometimes, a casual approach and an immaturity that we have in some moments of the game. Some lapses that are unacceptable at this level of competition - and any other level that we are performing in."
C.J. Sapong did not feature in the Cup match this week, but should be ready with hopes of increasing his team-leading goal total (six).
Salt Lake (6-8-1) entered the recent MLS break off two straight defeats after winning three in a row. RSL was drubbed 4-0 by the New York Red Bulls in their most recent contest June 1. It marked the third time in 2019 that Petke's side has conceded four or more goals in league contest.
"We're a special team. I've said it many times, (but) we hate losing like this," RSL forward Sebastian Saucedo said.
"Our goal is making the playoffs. At the end of the day, we had three games in a row where we were phenomenal, and (then) these types of games are how we get out of position. It takes character to be to get out of this."
Those latest back-to-back losses came on the road, where Salt Lake will try to avoid dropping three in a row for the second time in 2019. RSL lost 2-0 in its most recent trip to the Chicago area in 2017. That came after winning its two previous visits.
Updated June 20, 2019