Fire shut out by Red Bulls

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Fire shut out by Red Bulls

HARRISON, N.J. -- With record-setting temperatures stifling Red Bull Arena, New York coach Hans Backe asked captain Thierry Henry if he wanted to sit the game out.

Henry declined and scored in the 71st minute to lift the Red Bulls to a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Wednesday.

"The boss asked me if I wanted to play," Henry said. "I told him that I needed to play. I needed to get back into a rhythm, because I haven't been playing much lately. I'm getting better, but to get better, I need minutes. I hadn't scored in a while, so I needed to do something to win the game."

It was Henry's 10th goal of the season - and first since April 28, when he scored the lone goal in a 1-0 win over New England. Henry missed four games in May due to a hamstring strain, returned for one game, then missed two games in June with a strained calf.

The Red Bulls (10-5-5) moved into second place in the Eastern Conference and remained the lone MLS team to be undefeated at home (6-0-3).

Chicago (9-7-4), which was 6-1-3 against the Red Bulls since 2008, remained in fourth place in the East.

Bill Gaudette, playing in just his second game with the Red Bulls, got the shutout without having to make a save.

The game drew an attendance of 15,815 in record-breaking 106-degree temperatures, the hottest July 18 ever recorded in New Jersey.

"It was amazing," Henry said. "I never played in anything like this. It's the kind of day where you want to stay in the air conditioning and drink lots of water. You just do whatever you can."

Backe thought his team played well despite the heat and humidity.

"They were difficult conditions to play in, but it would have been more difficult if we were to lose," he said. "The players had to know how to handle the heat. They could go forward when we had the opportunity, but you can never tell in conditions like this. We made the most of our chances."

After the majority of the game was played to a crawl, Henry blasted a left-footed shot that went off the far right goalpost and into the net.

Rookie Connor Lade, who entered the match only a few minutes prior, made a fine play at midfield to move the ball up the field. Lade fed newcomer Sebastian Le Toux, who made a perfect 35-yard cross to Henry. The French superstar settled the ball with his chest, then put it to his left foot. The shot was from a tough angle, but Henry managed to get it high off the post and past Sean Johnson.

"We wanted to win this game," Henry said. "I got a great pass from Seb and it was striker's instinct. It was one of those things. Sometimes, they go in. Sometimes, they don't."

Le Toux, playing in just his second game with New York, saw Henry make the move to goal.

"A forward like him knows how to score," said Le Toux, acquired last week in a trade with Vancouver. "He knows what to do in space. He made a great touch with his chest and it was a beautiful goal."

The Red Bulls survived a scare in the 84th minute, when Gonzalo Segares' header appeared to go past Gaudette, but an alert Brandon Barklage headed it out of danger to preserve the lead.

The Red Bulls had the better of the play in the first half and had three excellent scoring chances. In the 21st minute, Mehdi Ballouchy hit a low shot that Fire goalie Sean Johnson stopped by making a diving save. Two minutes later, Ballouchy had another chance, but he fired his shot over the crossbar. In the 32nd minute, Le Toux made a brilliant attempt that sailed over the crossbar. Le Toux also had a shot in the closing minute than a sprawled Johnson managed to punch out of the goal.

In the second half, the Red Bulls continued to control play and had a great scoring chance when Henry made a fine feed across to Markus Holgersson, whose header went over the crossbar.

Chicago could not muster any kind of a consistent offensive attack in the sweltering heat.

"It was extremely hot, but we weren't the only ones playing in it," said Fire forward Dominic Oduro, a former Red Bulls player. "You can't run 100 percent of the time on a day like this. The heat was really a factor. Unfortunately, they were the ones who got the goal and we couldn't do anything."

Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa added: "It's hard to get anything going in this kind of weather. They had one nice shot from Henry and that was it. Our shape and fitness wasn't the best for a day like this."

David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

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David Accam is back and that's good for the Fire

David Accam is the Chicago Fire's best player and when he plays the team is better.

While that statement should be obvious to anyone who has watched the Fire on a regular basis this year, it is worth mentioning because of how much time Accam has missed this season.

Accam played a starring role in the team's 4-3 loss in the season opener. He had a goal and an assist. The next match he scored early in Orlando before the Fire were forced to defend while playing down a man due to a red card.

Then he got injured. Accam missed six games and the Fire scored four goals in those matches without him. After making two abbreviated appearances during the team's recent road trip, he was unable to play last week at home due to a suspension.

“It’s difficult for me because I’ve been through a lot in the last two months," Accam said. "For me I’m just happy to be on the pitch now and playing. It will take some time for me to get into match fitness and start going, but I’m happy with my performance today.”

Accam scored in Saturday's 1-1 draw against Portland. It was his first start at home since his barnstorming season debut back on March 6. It was also his first 90-minute outing since March 11.

Kennedy Igboananike assisted on the goal. The partnership in the attack between Igboananike and Accam is one the Fire needs to become a fine-tuned weapon for the team to have a successful season.

“I think what we are looking for is to have associations in the team and the two of them work very good together," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We could see that in the first game when David was fit, also in the second game until we had the (red card). Since then David was injured, but David is very important. Not only because of his individual qualities, but he improves our team in how our team feels better on the field and offensively with more potential."

Accam had five shots, two on goal, and Igboananike had four shots, three on goal. Accam thinks the team is starting to improve its on-field chemistry.

“I think so, especially in the front three," the Ghanaian said. "We are creating chances. Last week we created a lot of chances and today, too.

“In the last two games we started to feel the way we wanted to play and for me it’s been much better. We conceded one goal in the last three games and we created I think more than five clear chances so for me it’s getting better.”

Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

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Fire unable to find winner in tie with Portland

Getting a second goal is becoming a thing for the Chicago Fire.

A thing they aren't getting.

The Fire pushed for a go-ahead second goal against Portland on Saturday, but it never came. The team's inability to find a second goal, something the team hasn't scored since the season opener, meant they had to settle for a 1-1 tie against the Timbers.

In a lot of ways, the Fire played better. They outshot Portland 17-8, 6-2 in shots on target, and in the second half had rare extended stretches of possession. But they were still not able to break a halftime deadlock.

"It was just that we didn’t score that second goal, which was very important for us," coach Veljko Paunovic said. "We are building the momentum. We were close to winning this game today and we are happy with the performance.”

The Fire (2-5-5, 11 points) are now 2-2-3 in seven home matches.

Portland (4-6-4, 16 points) took the lead in the 18th minute when Diego Valeri took advantage of a poor Rodrigo Ramos clearance. Ramos' ball got caught up in the wind and stayed near the box. Valeri won the ball back and beat Sean Johnson from a tight angle, sliding a shot just inside the far post.

Almost immediately the Fire leveled the match through David Accam. Accam, making his first home start since the season opener, redirected a Kennedy Igboananike centering pass to tie things back up.

“I know when he goes wide I need to be in the box," Accam said. "I know he has a good left foot also to put that ball in the box so I was in the right position when the ball came in.”

It was Accam's third goal of the season and his first since March 11. Accam and Igboananike created most of the dangerous chances for the Fire, linking up regularly other than the goal.

Another forward who could have joined the attack, Gilberto, was out for personal reasons. The Brazilian had played his best of the year last week.

The Fire had a strong wind at their backs in the second half and used it to keep the ball in Portland's half and extend the lead in shots they took into halftime. Despite being unable to get the win at home, multiple players claimed they are seeing progress in the team's performances.

"I think we’re finally putting full 90s together as a team," midfielder Matt Polster said. "I think during the beginning of the season we were getting used to each other. I think we put in good 65, 70 minutes of a game. As we’re growing as a team now I think we’re putting a full 90 together.”

Now the Fire go on break for the Copa America. The team will not train next week other than a fitness plan given to the players. The next match will be in the US Open Cup on June 15 with both location and opponent to be determined on June 1.

The next MLS match is June 18 at Philadelphia and the next MLS home match will be July 1 against San Jose.

Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

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Sale looks to stop the slide as White Sox face Royals on CSN

The White Sox take on the Kansas City Royals on Sunday, and you can catch all the action on Comcast SportsNet. Coverage begins with White Sox Pregame Live at 12:30 p.m. Be sure to stick around after the final out to get analysis and player reaction on White Sox Postgame Live.

Sunday’s starting pitching matchup: Chris Sale vs. Edison Volquez

Click here for a game preview to make sure you’re ready for the action.  

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