The Chicago Fire have the chance to make it four games unbeaten and three wins in a row when traveling to face the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday (2:30 pm CT | Univision, Twitter).
But head coach Veljko Paunović wants his team to focus on another area: getting their first road win of the season. Alongside the New England Revolution, a team Chicago beat 5-0 last week, they’re the only Eastern Conference side not to register a win away from home.
In other words, the results at SeatGeek Stadium are great, but maximum points on the road are equally as crucial.
“We’re preparing our best to not only prolong the streak, but to open the winning account [on the road],” Paunović said. “I think that’s something we have to do on the road more often, not only getting points, but getting wins, too.
“It’s going to be important for the team in the phase we are right now, which is growing and building the confidence and most importantly the style. Everything is getting together and I think a win on the road is going to be very important for us.”
Johan Kappelhof, a defender in the team’s new 5-3-2 system, echoed much of the same. He saw a resolute performance in a 0-0 draw a LAFC back on May 4, but knows they’ll need to go the extra mile.
“It’s always tough away, but how we played in LA as a solid unit, we need that there,” Kappelhof said. “Also it’s being even better on the ball and every game creating chances. Chances will come and come, and we have to be still solid at the back. I have a good feeling about the game.”
Chicago has scored seven goals across their last two games, posting a clean sheet each time. But replicating that won’t be easy, not against an Earthquakes team motivated by returning from a 3-1 loss last weekend at New England.
Kappelhof said it’ll be tough to deal with San Jose’s new man-marking system under head coach Matias Almeyda, but he’s confident the Fire can return with all three points. Chicago, however, will be without two of their top players in Nico Gaitan (injury) and Bastian Schweinsteiger (suspension).
“I think there are going to be a lot of spaces for us to play and they are doing well,” Kappelhof said. “It’s a good team, but we have to think about our own strength and continue what we’re building."
Jonathan Sigal is a contributor to MLSsoccer.com.