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Fire aim to take recent success on road vs. Whitecaps

Jul 13, 2022; Chicago, Illinois, USA;  Chicago Fire FC goalkeeper Gaga Slonina (1) redirects a Toronto FC shot away from the net with his fingertips in the first half at Soldier Field. Mandatory Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports
Credit: Jamie Sabau-USA TODAY Sports

Roaring to life while on a two-game winning streak, the Chicago Fire will search for even more Saturday during a visit to Canada to face the Vancouver Whitecaps.

The Fire (6-10-5, 23 points) had just two victories in their previous 15 games before they pulled off a 2-0 victory over Toronto FC on July 13 and earned a 1-0 victory over the Seattle Sounders three days later. Both victories came at home.

The Fire’s recent success has come courtesy of a return to their early-season form, when they held their first three opponents without a goal and did not give up a score in five of their first seven games.

“We know we have to pick up points on the road,” Fire head coach Ezra Hendrickson said in advance of a game at Vancouver where the Fire has not won in four tries. “As far as what has happened (at Vancouver) in the past, we really can’t think about that. … Hopefully we can ride the wave of this momentum until the end of the season.”

Fire goalkeeper Gabriel Slonina has nine shutouts this season, earning the 18-year-old homegrown product some attention from the U.S. men’s national team, as well as a potential transfer to high-profile clubs like Chelsea in England or Real Madrid in Spain.

Fire forward Jhon Duran (ankle) could be set to return but midfielder Gaston Gimenez (hamstring) will not play.

The Whitecaps (7-9-5, 26 points) have earned points in five of their last six games, including consecutive ties against FC Cincinnati (2-2) and the Portland Timbers (1-1).

The Whitecaps are 5-2-3 at home this season. They have lost in their own venue just three times since returning to Canada after playing exclusively in the United States in the early stages of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Vancouver is expected to get its first look at new defender Julian Gressel after he was acquired from D.C. United last week. Known for his ability to push forward on the attack, Gressel has 19 career MLS goals and 58 assists in 171 regular-season games over seven seasons.

“I’d rather have two assists than one goal because it means we scored twice,” Gressel said. “I’m a team guy first and want to win. If that means my role is to assist more, that’s fine. If my role is to play more defensive and have other guys go forward, that’s fine. I’m (in Vancouver) to win games, win trophies.”

–Field Level Media