kappelhof pregame

MLSsoccer.com | Kappelhof: "I have a good feeling about game against LAFC"

At this particular moment, there may not be a more difficult assignment in MLS than facing LAFC at Banc of California Stadium. 

LAFC have started 2019 with the turbo button firmly pressed, with 23 points after 10 matches, scoring 26 goals along the way. At home, they are a perfect 5-0-0, including wins over Sporting Kansas City and the Seattle Sounders

The Chicago Fire are the next team due at The Banc, visiting on Saturday (10:30 pm ET | MLS LIVE on ESPN+ in US, DAZN in Canada), with the aim of becoming the first opponents to leave that pitch with points this year. 

Despite their current two-game losing streak, the Fire are cautiously optimistic, and not without reason. They defeated LAFC in their only meeting to date, a 3-1 win last September that damaged the then-expansion side's push for a high seed in the 2018 MLS Cup Playoffs.

"This is a good team, they're doing well," defender Johan Kappelhof said Wednesday after training. "[But] don't show too much respect, you know? Think about your own strengths, show we're capable of making it hard for them and take some points home. I have a good feeling about the game." 

Both of the Fire's last two matches ended the same way: Frustrating 1-0 road defeats, to NYCFC and the Montreal Impact. Chicago's star-studded attack is still working out the kinks with the late arrival of Nico Gaitan.

"This will be a good test for us," CJ Sapong said. "I believe this can be a true statement of character for us if we can pull out a result against LAFC."

Sapong is the club's early scoring leader, with four goals in nine matches, looking reborn in Chicago. The 30-year-old had just four goals in 32 appearances last season for the Philadelphia Union.

Still, when the attack isn't quite functioning at top speed, Fire head coach Veljko Paunovic thinks the players need to recognize and recalibrate accordingly.

"We have to learn when the game is not going our way, that it's not bad to tie a game," Paunovic said. "That's part of the maturity we need to learn and become. The team is doing good. We just have to stay calm. I'm confident that we will, very soon, get back to a winning streak."