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posted: 9/20/2012 12:32 PM

Fire's defense still chasing perfection

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  • Chicago Fire goal keeper Sean Johnson, here arguing a yellow card call against the New England Revolution last month, has helped the Fire defense become one of the best units in Major League Soccer. While they've been winning close games, it has been more than two months since their last shutout.

      Chicago Fire goal keeper Sean Johnson, here arguing a yellow card call against the New England Revolution last month, has helped the Fire defense become one of the best units in Major League Soccer. While they've been winning close games, it has been more than two months since their last shutout.
    Associated Press/John Smierciak

 
 

Judging by goals allowed, the Chicago Fire has one of the best defenses in MLS.

But it isn't perfect.

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And hasn't been perfect in a while -- more than two months.

The Fire hasn't shut out an opponent since beating Vancouver 1-0 on July 14. It's held a MLS opponent scoreless only five times in 28 games this year.

The lack of cleansheets, however, isn't a huge concern either, as long as the team keeps winning. And the Fire has been winning, six of its last seven games, rising to second place in the Eastern Conference.

"This is OK," defender Arne Friedrich said. "Of course especially as a defender you're always looking to have a shutout. But if we only score one time more than the opponent I'm always happy. But of course I would love to have a shutout every time. But this is soccer. It's always a chance the opponent scores, and we're working on that."

Only once since that Vancouver game has the Fire allowed more than one goal in an MLS game, a 4-2 loss at D.C. United last month.

"We've been winning games, so a shutout is not important," added goalkeeper Sean Johnson, seventh in the league with a 1.21 goals-against average. "If you win games, first and foremost it's 3 points, 3 points on paper: 2-1, 2-0, 4-2, 3-2. It all goes toward one common goal and that's making the playoffs. That's a stat that obviously we'd love to have, but we're winning games and we're defensively keeping it close, so we're fine.

"We're always looking to get better, don't get me wrong, but what I'm saying is we're not looking to the stat of a shutout. We're making sure we're limiting chances and we're creating opportunities."

Feeling the love:

The Fire announced it has limited tickets left for Saturday's key Eastern Conference match against Columbus. The Crew is in fifth place in the East, 5 points behind the Fire. The top five make the playoffs.

Injury update:

Midfielder Pavel Pardo left training early Wednesday as a precautionary measure, and Klopas said he is day to day. Pardo missed Saturday's 3-1 victory against Montreal with hamstring tightness.

"We just have to see how he reacts with the training (Wednesday and Thursday), and then we'll go from there," Klopas said.

Friedrich, who left the Montreal game in the 41st minute with a stiff neck, said he is "much better." He trained Wednesday and should be available against Columbus.

Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @Orrin_Schwarz.

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