Winless April draws to an end for Fire

Winless April draws to an end for Fire
May 1, 2011, 4:09 am
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Saturday, April 30, 2011
Posted: 10:59 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
CSNChicago.com
The Chicago Fire extended their winless streak to five games and ended the month of April without a win for the first time in the franchises 13-year history after drawing with the Colorado Rapids 1-1 Saturday night in Commerce City, Co.

It was a difficult match, Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said postgame. I thought we played a very good first half, but I think it was a good match, difficult because both teams are having a difficult moment.

With the draw, Colorado ended their three-game losing streak, but extended its winless streak to four games.

Were going in for three points, Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. Even though the season is young, weve just been crawling on the table. Well take one point against losing a game right now its good start in a positive direction.

Despite the Rapids owning possession for more than two-thirds of the first half, the Fire dominated in early scoring chances, and netted the games opening goal in the forty-third minute. Marco Pappas third goal of the season was set up by a Gastn Puerari chipped lead pass to Oduro along the right sideline. Oduro, using his prodigious speed, outran his marker, Anthony Wallace, into the box, and made a centering pass to Pappa.

Oduros pass just beat Rapids defender Tyrone Marshalls sliding effort to clear, and a falling Pappa was able to direct his first touch into the back of the net.

Weve been working on this in practice, Oduro said. All I had to do was play the ball right to him and he did a great job in finishing.

Things didnt play out as easily for the Fire after the goal. A failed possession and a lapse in defensive form helped the Rapids equalize the game just after halftime.

After a failed counter-attack, a Fire turnover in its defensive third went to the most dangerous man on the pitch, Rapids striker Omar Cummings. Catching Fire defender Yamith Cuesta floating without a mark, Cummings slid the ball to Andre Akpan, who blasted a shot from ten-yards out, hitting the upper left corner of the net after Fire goaltender Jon Conways fingertips could not deflect the ball away.

The forty-ninth minute goal was Akpans first in Major League Soccer.

Both teams locked down on defense in the second half, but relied on its goaltenders to make big stops down the stretch. Conway, starting his third consecutive game for the Fire, made five saves in the game.

Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos used a five-man midfield against Colorado with captain and central midfielder Logan Pause out of the game with right hamstring injury. In Pauses absence, Pappa wore the captains armband Saturday.

The injury and formation shift gave Corben Bone and newcomer Daniel Paladini their first starts of the season. Bone went seventy-five minutes before being replaced by Orr Barouch.

Oduro, who played out wide Saturday, thought the five-man midfield helped the team stay compact in the middle and win more balls. His coach agreed, despite the games unfavorable outcome.

I liked the new formation, de los Cobos said. I liked it because my intention today was to have the ball, to keep the ball, because its important, when you have control of the game, you have to have control of the ball. These guys Bone and Paladini have this skill, this quality.

"I think Paladini was very important for us this game, de los Cobos continued. He was the balance of the team.

The Fire lost central defender Josip Mikuli in the thirty-ninth minute to a shoulder injury sustained in a collision with Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens. Mikuli went down because of the injury three times in the first half, forcing de los Cobos hand. Central defender Dasan Robinson replaced Mikuli and played a solid fifty-one minutes in relief.

The draw gave the Fire its sixth point through seven games. Chicago sits in eighth place in the Western Conference, two points ahead of last-place Sporting Kansas City, which lost 1-0 to Red Bull New York Saturday afternoon.

The Fires next game will be May 7 against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps at Toyota Park.