Frank Yallop counts himself as one of those coaches who hates to lose more than he likes to win, so the Chicago Fire's six-game streak of ties is not entirely bad.
But that doesn't mean Yallop doesn't crave the Fire's first victory of the season, preferably Saturday against visiting Real Salt Lake (7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park, Channel 50).
"Our spirits are great," Yallop said. "We trained well. We're hungry. We've not lost since March, which is always a good thing. I keep saying the same thing. So our spirits are high. We're hoping to get off the mark with a win. ... We're dying for this game and dying to get our first win."
The Fire (0-1-6, 6 points) is one of two winless teams remaining in MLS, along with Portland, and sits at the bottom of the Eastern Conference table. Real Salt Lake (3-0-5, 14 points) is the league's only remaining undefeated team, third place in the West.
The Fire will have to chase its first win without its leading scorer, forward Quincy Amarikwa, who against New England two weeks ago earned two yellow cards and a suspension for this match.
"For us it's making sure that whoever plays in there is ready, willing and able to do the work that Quincy was doing," Yallop said, not limiting those duties to scoring. "The team will be fine. The thing is Quincy gives us a lot of energy, fight and scrap and is difficult to play against. We might change the system a little bit or change our tactics a bit because Quincy's a one-off kind of thing. He's very powerful in that spot."
Juan Luis Anangono started the season opener at Chivas and might be the most obvious choice to start in place of Amarikwa. Yallop said he might also move midfielders Harry Shipp and Patrick Nyarko up front, even Victor Pineda.
"Hopefully, someone steps up and scores and does their thing," Yallop added.
Affiliating with St. Louis:
St. Louis made official Thursday what the Fire can't yet.
USL PRO officials announced the league will have a team in St. Louis in 2015. The Fire is expected to affiliate with the third-division club, but getting the OK for an official announcement could take a little time. MLS has mandated that its clubs affiliate with a USL PRO team by 2015 in place of the reserve league.
The affiliation will give the Fire a place to send young players at the bottom of its roster to make sure they get on the field for games.
"We're in talks with them," Yallop said of St. Louis. "Nothing is finalized yet. We're pretty much talking with those guys now and hopefully it gets sorted out. Until we get a definite we can't really say anything."
On the spot about spot kicks:
After Anangono's poor penalty kick cost the Fire a victory in the last home game against New England, the Fire decided to settle the matter of who takes PKs once and for all.
"Mike's going to take them," captain Jeff Larentowicz said of 2013 MLS MVP Mike Magee. "... We sat down, the three of us and talked."
Left back Gonzalo Segares has returned to the field in reserve matches, but he said he is not yet fit to go a full 90 minutes as he recovers from a severe ankle injury.
"We may have him as a sub (Saturday)," Yallop said. "We'll see."
Meanwhile, Alex and Dilly Duka both continue to struggle with a hamstring injury.
"It's a little disappointing because I think Alex has done pretty well this year," Yallop said, still holding out hope the midfielder might be available Saturday. "We want to get him back fit and healthy. We'll see. We'll see how he gets on tomorrow."
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