Fire take MLS break for SuperLiga

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos made it abundantly clear that he holds SuperLiga high on his chart.

Chicago's roster better follow suit, because the last non-Major League Soccer activity -- the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup -- didn't go so well.

The Fire open group play of SuperLiga when they host Monarcas Morelia at 8:30 p.m. Wednesday at Toyota Park. It is the first of three SuperLiga matches for Chicago over a seven-day span.

"SuperLiga is a very good opportunity to our players, and it's necessary to show that we are a competitive team," De los Cobos said. "We want to have a good performance, like last season. Chicago's run to the final was very good, and we need to try to do the same [this year]. I'm very motivated playing against these teams."

The top four MLS teams, based on the previous year's regular-season record, who are not competing in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League, compete in SuperLiga. The four Mexican clubs (also not competing in the 2010-11 CONCACAF Champions League) are based on combined points in the Apertura and Clausura 2009.

The Fire are in Group B with MLS's New England Revolution, Monarcas Morelia and Pumas UNAM. Group A includes MLS sides Chivas USA and the Houston Dynamo, and Pachuca and Puebla FC.

In last year's installment, the Fire advanced to the final, only to fall to Tigres UANL in penalty kicks. Ever since, the shootout format has plagued Chicago, from last year's MLS Eastern Conference Final against Real Salt Lake to the third round of this year's U.S. Open Cup against the United Soccer Leagues Second Division's Charleston Battery.

The Fire's SuperLiga roster includes Bratislav Ristic, who trialed with the club earlier this season and recently returned to Serbia. It is unknown at this point if the Fire are going to sign Ristic to a contract, but because SuperLiga's rosters allow for 30 players, Chicago wants to take a longer look at Ristic over the next week.

Monarcas participated in the first SuperLiga in 2007 but could not get out of group play, finishing fourth in Group B. But the squad has experienced some recent success, advancing to the semifinals of Torneo Bicentenario earlier this year.