Fire aims to knock off scoring-challenged Sounders

Fire aims to knock off scoring-challenged Sounders

Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic wants his team to build on the success it has had in the U.S. Open Cup. But he also wants to keep his players focused on MLS play.

Chicago, which returns to league play Saturday night at Seattle, is coming off a short week, having posted a 1-0 victory Wednesday at Atlanta to reach the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinals.

“Every game for us is almost like a final. That is how we approached this game and previous games, too,” Paunovic said after Nemanja Nikolic scored the lone goal in Atlanta. “I think that is what helps us to keep building the performance and the form of the team.”

But he doesn‘t want a hangover.

“We have to put aside the Open Cup competition and focus on league,” Paunovic said. “The mindset has to be set on our next opponent in Seattle. We know it‘s going to be a tough game. They need points and we also do.”

The Fire (5-7-4), which is unbeaten in their past three MLS matches, hasn‘t had trouble scoring, with 23 goals this season. Nikolic, last season‘s Golden Boot Award winner as the MLS‘ top scorer, leads the way with six. But the Fire has conceded 28 goals.

“Chicago‘s a talented team, they‘ve got some guys who can score goals,” Sounders midfielder Harry Shipp, who was a finalist for MLS Rookie of the Year with the Fire in 2014, told SoundersFC after training earlier this week. “We‘ve got some stuff to build off from our last home game (a 2-1 victory against D.C. United). We need a win, we need three points, so hopefully we‘ll get that.”

Shipp, who missed time with an ankle injury, scored his first MLS goal of the season June 13 in the Sounders‘ 2-1 loss at the New York Red Bulls. He also scored in a recent U.S. Open Cup match.

“I feel like I‘m at a place to contribute a great amount to this team,” Shipp said. “I‘m someone who doesn‘t judge myself on stats, but it‘s some nice validation. I‘ve put in some good work the last three or four weeks in training and gotten rewarded for it.

“Personally I‘m feeling good and confident, and hopefully I‘ll get another goal or major contribution this weekend to help the team win.”

The two-time defending Western Conference champion Sounders (3-8-2) can use all the help they can get, especially offensively. They have lost four of their past five games and scored a MLS-low 10 goals.

The Sounders will be without defender Roman Torres (Panama) and midfielder Gustav Svensson (Sweden), who are playing in the World Cup in Russia.

Seattle holds a 7-2-3 edge in the all-time series with the Fire, and is 4-0-1 at home.

–Field Level Media

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