Fire search for some firepower against Dynamo

The Chicago Fire will try to bounce back from a disappointing shutout loss when they host the Houston Dynamo on Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, Ill.

Chicago (3-5-2) is looking for a spark on offense after scoring only two goals in its past three matches. The Fire are on the outside looking in at the Eastern Conference playoff race with 11 points in their first 10 games.

The Fire have had eight days to recover from a 3-0 loss to the Columbus Crew. Midfielder Dax McCarty has a strained hamstring and is questionable for the match.

“It’s good that we (had) time to recover from that game,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said on the team’s official website. “But also, it’s important to start getting back injured guys. For a long time now, the team is suffering, not in terms of anything else, but just the sake of rotations. We need everyone back.”

Meanwhile, Houston (3-3-3) also is looking for a burst of energy after a 2-all tie against the Vancouver Whitecaps in its most recent match nine days ago. The Dynamo also are outside of the top six spots in the Western Conference standings.

Houston coach Wilmer Cabrera said he wanted to see more focus from his team, which gave up two one-goal leads in the tie with Vancouver.

“It’s frustrating a little bit that the games we have been ahead, we’ve been giving up goals, especially on set pieces, or we’ve been giving up goals right there in the last minutes,” Cabrera said on the team’s official website. “We need to keep pushing and we have to continue working.

“Set pieces are still important because we’ve given up almost two goals per game. We scored two goals, but if we have to score three goals to win away, it’s going to be complicated.”

Forward Mauro Manotas leads the Dynamo with five goals and forward Alberth Elis is second on the team with four goals. Forward Romell Quioto and midfielder Tomas Martinez are tied with two goals apiece.

Elis has been the top playmaker with five assists. Quioto (four assists) and Martinez (three assists) rank second and third.

Chicago is led by forward Nemanja Nikolic, who has five goals, two of which have been game-winners. Nikolic enjoyed a red-hot start to the season but has cooled off with a four-game scoring drought.

Defender Kevin Ellis and midfielder Aleksandar Katai are next with two goals apiece. Midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger has one goal along with a team-leading four assists.

Chicago goalkeeper Richard Sanchez has made 32 saves and posted two shutouts.

“You can’t just base your game off of just one or two strikers,” Sanchez said when asked about Houston’s scoring punch. “There are a lot of good strikers here in the league. You look at their movements and what they do off of the ball and on the ball, as well. I’m just focused on myself for this week and whatever it is I can do for the team.”

Chicago is 2-3-1 at home this season. Houston is 0-1-3 on the road.