Findley takes over as Real Salt Lake down Fire

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Findley takes over as Real Salt Lake down Fire

Thursday, July 8, 2010
Updated: 11:31 PM

By JJ Stankevitz
CSNChicago.com

Thursday night was World Cup Night at Toyota Park, so it was fitting that the only player on the pitch to play in the 2010 World Cup scored the game-winning goal.

Unfortunately for Chicago, that player was Real Salt Lakes Robbie Findley.

Findley, who appeared in three World Cup matches in South Africa for the U.S. National Team, scored on a penalty kick in the 39th minute. The goal was not an isolated incident, though, as Findley dominated the final seven minutes of the first half.

That dominance began in the 38th minute, when Findley beat Fire keeper Andrew Dykstra but saw his shot go off the right post. A minute later, Findley found himself in Chicagos box and was knocked down on a hard tackle from C.J. Brown.

Brown was whistled for a foul and Findley was given a penalty shot, which he easily converted to give Real Salt Lake a 1-0 advantage.

Coach Carlos de los Cobos was not pleased with referee Terry Vaughns ruling of a penalty kick on Browns challenge of Findley. There was contact between Brown and Findley, but de los Cobosand the Chicago fans at Toyota Parkvehemently disagreed with Vaughns decision to award a penalty.

I dont usually speak about the referee because I respect these guys too much, but they made a big mistake on the penalty kick because I saw very normal contact between C.J. and Findley, said de los Cobos.

Findley nearly gave Real Salt Lake a 2-0 advantage in the 43rd minute, too. The 24-year-old striker got behind Chicagos defense and had just Dykstra to beat, but failed to get a shot off.

Yeah, probably, said Findley with a laugh when asked if he thought he should have had three goals. But you cant make them all, I guess.

Findley didnt notice any changes in Chicagos defense late in the first half that led to his success. I started to read Chicagos defense, and every time I would check, they would be on my back, said Findley of his ease in getting behind Chicagos defense at the end of the first half. When we had the ball, it seemed like they had eight or nine behind the ball. It was tough to get through them, but we did well and were patient, and things opened up.

Chicago failed to mount any serious scoring challenges in the first half. But a pair of substitutions by de los Cobos sparked Chicagos offense in the second half.

At halftime, de los Cobos swapped midfielders, pulling Logan Pause for Justin Mapp. And, to the pleasure of the 17,847 fans at Toyota Park, Arlington Heights, Ill. native Brian McBride was subbed in for Stefan Dimitrov at forward.

Bringing McBride and Mapp to the field, I think the team had a very good change about possession of the ball and control of the game, said de los Cobos.

They came on and gave us that energy we needed, said defender Steven Kinney. We kept the pressure on them for the second half, but it just wouldnt fall for us tonight.

Kinney experienced that frustration of not finishing first-hand. The six-foot defender saw two headers cruelly bounce off both the left and right goalpost in the second half, the first coming in the 48th minute and the second in the 56th minute.

I was feeling that it probably was not our night tonight, said Kinney of how he felt after missing the second header. We got more chances, but it just wouldnt fall for us tonight.

Chicago continued to develop scoring chances throughout the second half, leaving Real Salt Lake only a couple chances on the counterattack. Real Salt Lake conceded nine corner kicks in the second half, but Chicago failed to convert on any of them.

To be fair, though, two of those failed conversions came on a Kinney header going off the post.

Kinney was robbed again in the 71st minute when Real Salt Lake keeper Nick Rimando got a piece of his shot. It wasnt as heartbreaking as his two header misses, but for a Chicago team that currently sits on the outside looking in of the MLS playoff picture, any good, missed chance hurt.

With 17 points, Chicago is in tenth place overall in the MLS table. The top two teams from the Eastern and Western conferences qualify for the playoffs, and the four next-best teams from either conference will also receive playoff bids.

While Chicago has only played 14 of 30 MLS matches, it currently is two points behind No. 8 San Jose. Houston currently is in ninth with 18 points.

Notes

Real Salt Lake subbed Findley out in the 58th minute24-year-old Ghanan forward Patrick Nyarko did not play and was designated as a substitute. Nyarko continued to experience concussion symptoms from a challenge July 3 against Columbus, according to the teamChicago announced Manchester United will hold an open training session at Toyota Park Wednesday, July 14 at 4 pm. The training session will be open solely to ticket-holders for that evenings Fire-Morelia SuperLiga matchManchester United will play the MLS All-Stars Wednesday, July 28 at Reliant Stadium in Houston, Texas in the MLS All-Star Game.

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

As questions about his future remain, David Accam is in his best run with the Fire

For the past two seasons, David Accam was a bright spot on bad Chicago Fire teams.

This season, with more talent on the roster, Accam has blossomed into one of the most dangerous players in the league.

He had a hat trick and an assist in Saturday’s 4-0 win against Orlando. That gives him 10 goals and six assists on the season. Only two other players in Major League Soccer have 16 combined goals and assists, New York City FC's David Villa and teammate Nemanja Nikolic (the leading goal-scorer in the league).

“I thought I could do anything on the pitch today,” Accam said. “I just wanted to enjoy myself and entertain the fans and also help the team win. That’s what we did today, especially after my first goal. I just thought I could get more goals and also help the team win.”

Accam’s big game comes after he sat out the previous two games, which were both played on turf. He wasn’t listed on the injury report, but coach Veljko Paunovic said, “he didn’t recover from the physical issues that he had in the previous game.”

The rest seemed to do Accam some good, but his success in the game (as well as his recent run of eight goals and four assists in his last eight matches) coincides with questions about his future. He was recently rumored to be the target of a Turkish club.

In the past, Accam has spoken about his ambition to play at the highest levels. Typically, that means Europe. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said last month that he expects offers to come in for the 26-year-old because he is a good player in his prime ages.

So is Accam playing like someone trying to earn a new contract? That could be either impressing potential suitors in Europe or boosting his negotiation position with the Fire. Rodriguez has talked about contract negotiations with Accam before, and said those will not resume again until after the season.

“I wanted to be in a team where I would develop as a person and also win trophies, whether here or somewhere (else) I don’t know,” Accam said. “For me, I’m doing really well here and every year if I keep playing well there will be always interest. I know there is a lot of interest because I’m doing well. For me it’s always extra motivation to keep doing well. You don’t know where I will end up, whether here or somewhere else. I’ll just keep playing.”

Accam’s play earned him another call-up to the Ghanaian national team. He will join the team on Sunday for a pair of friendlies in the U.S. The Black Stars will take on Mexico in Houston on June 28 and the U.S. in East Hartford, Conn., on July 1 as the two North American countries prepare for the Gold Cup.

“That’s where I want to be,” Accam said. “I want to be playing for the national team so it’s extra motivation for me to perform well and also to go to the national team.”

Accam has been one of the most productive players in MLS this year, based on goals and assists, and is young enough to draw the attention of plenty of teams. For now, the Fire have him as a key part of the best season the club has had in years.

“I think that he understands very well how to play with the team that we have now and with the teammates that he is surrounded with,” coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We just have to work to give David opportunities… Then we expect that performances like that will come even more.”

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Fire dominant against Orlando for seventh straight home win

Are the Chicago Fire still getting better?

The Fire entered Saturday’s match against Orlando unbeaten in eight straight MLS games, yet showed a level of domination the team hasn’t had for extended periods this year. David Accam scored two goals in the first eight minutes and finished with a hat trick to lead the Fire to a 4-0 win against the visiting Lions on Saturday.

Accam’s first goal was a beauty in the third minute. It came at the end of a 17-pass buildup, which started with a Matt Polster throw in. In the end it was Polster hitting a low cross to Accam, who scored with a pretty backheel from five yards out.

“I think the main thing from the group is that we’re just all moving off the ball," Polster said. "Our movement has been very good in terms of we’re always finding the open man. We’ve been creating a lot of space for each other... I think that’s kind of what we’re trying to build, a lot of running off the ball and creating a lot of space for each other.”

Five minutes later Accam had another goal after Bastian Schweinsteiger’s long ball put Accam all alone with goalkeeper Joe Bendik in the box. Accam dribbled around Bendik and scored.

That incredibly fast start seemed to set the tone for the show. The Fire were not only dominating the game, but they were seemingly having fun while doing so. There were plenty of flicks and tricks and creative set plays on display.

Nemanja Nikolic added one in the second half, on an Accam assist. Accam finished off his hat trick, which he said he believed was the first of his professional career, in the 63rd minute on a penalty kick.

Nikolic now has 14 goals to add to his league-leading total. Even though he is in the running for the Golden Boot, there was no question who was taking the penalty kick.

“I just took the ball and he gave it to me," Accam said. "We share responsibilities with the penalties every time. I know he wants to score every game. For me I try to help him to score goals and I’m glad I did today.”

The Fire (10-3-4, 34 points) remained within a point of Toronto (10-2-5, 35 points) for the best record in the league and reached double-digit wins for the first time since 2013. The regular season is halfway finished.

“We have to understand that this is going to be a long season and we still have to look for the peak of our performance by the end of the season,” coach Veljko Paunovic said.

Orlando (7-6-5, 26 points) was without its leading scorer (Cyle Larin), was coming off a midweek game at Seattle and has one win in its past 11 MLS matches. Even with that, the Lions are in a playoff spot in the Eastern Conference and the Fire thoroughly dominated.

Orlando didn’t have a shot on target and the Fire had plenty of chances to score more than four. There’s another half to the season remaining, but this Fire team is coming off arguably its best result of the season (last week’s win at New England) and seems to be still improving.

At the beginning of the season, simply ending the team's five-year playoff drought would have been viewed as a minor success. Now, midfielder Dax McCarty, who is set to leave with the U.S. national team following this game for the Gold Cup, says the Fire are hoping for bigger things.

“The mentality is certainly now, let’s not just make the playoffs because that’s not good enough," McCarty said. "Sure, we want to make the playoffs, but we want to win the Open Cup, we want to win MLS Cup, we want to compete for the Supporters’ Shield. Is that realistic to compete for all three, why not? Why not us? I think that’s our motto and our attitude in the locker room right now. Why can’t we win every game. Clearly MLS is a long, hard grind and you’re going to have off days, but we step on the field every day now to compete and win games.”