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updated: 7/31/2013 2:43 PM

Fire defenders looking to up their game

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  • Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his teammates haven't put together a defensive shutout in nearly two months. Johnson spent July with the U.S. National Team but he'll start Saturday's game for the Fire.

      Chicago Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and his teammates haven't put together a defensive shutout in nearly two months. Johnson spent July with the U.S. National Team but he'll start Saturday's game for the Fire.
    Associated Press

 
 

The Chicago Fire wouldn't mind getting a little cleaner on defense.

The Fire has gone nearly two months since its last shutout June 2 against D.C. United. Since then it has played 11 matches, including two in the U.S. Open Cup and a friendly against Club America, without a clean sheet. The Fire has allowed 18 goals in those 11 matches.

"You always want a shutout," said veteran left back Gonzalo Segares. "I think in the games there's going to be situations where for whatever reason you have to make a decision that might not go your way. The last couple of games I think we have defended well enough to get a shutout. (We) haven't been able to get it, but I think it's better than giving up an early goal, as we were doing before, and trying to come from behind. At least we're giving ourselves a chance to stay in the game."

The Fire has had some success despite not being perfect in the back, winning six of those 11 games and tying two.

More fun with Philly:

The Fire lost a pair of back-to-back matches against the Philadelphia Union in May. It gets another chance at Philadelphia on Saturday (7 p.m., Channel 50).

"It's been frustrating because I felt that it could go either way," Segares said. "Both games were pretty close to getting a tie or win, and this one I'm sure isn't going to be any different. We're definitely behind them chasing for those playoff spots, and I expect close games."

The game represents another chance for the Fire to make up ground against an Eastern Conference rival ahead of it in the standings. Philadelphia (9-6-7, 34 points) is in fourth place, the Fire (7-9-4, 25 points) is seventh with 14 MLS games left on its schedule.

"We definitely have to go over there and get some points," Segares said.

Sean's house:

Now that he's back with his club after spending July with the U.S. national team for the Gold Cup, Sean Johnson will jump back into goal for the Fire on Saturday.

"Sean has been sharp," coach Frank Klopas said. "I know he's been away with the national team, but I think he's played games where he's looked very good. He's our starter."

Johnson's return means Paolo Tornaghi returns to the bench just as he was starting to look comfortable on the field.

"Little by little you could see how he's building up his confidence. His performance got better every game," Segares said. "His last game (a 1-1 draw at Houston) was excellent. That's how competitive this team is at that position. I'm happy for him, because he definitely works hard here every day."

"It was a good game for me the last in Houston. It was my first time playing Houston and the environment was really crazy with the heat and the fans," Tornaghi added.

The Italian occupies one of the Fire's key international roster slots, but not for long. He expects to get his green card in the next month or two. Like Johnson, Tornaghi is contractually committed to the Fire through next season, and that's just fine by him. He said he feels comfortable in Chicago.

"I like the people," he said.

Catching up:

Midfielder Dilly Duka and Brazilian mid Alex have recovered from their injuries and trained with their teammates Wednesday. They are expected to be available Saturday.

"I think everyone should be ready to go," Klopas said.

Not yet available is new forward Juan Luis Anangono, who has his visa but can't play until the club receives his International Transfer Certificate. He has been training with his teammates.

"He looked very good today when we opened up the field of play a little bit," Klopas said.

Follow Orrin's soccer reports on Twitter @orrin_schwarz

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