Fire, Chivas USA Play to a Draw at Toyota Park

Fire, Chivas USA Play to a Draw at Toyota Park

Saturday, May 1, 2010
Updated: 11:18 p.m.

By Justin O'Neil
Special to CSNChicago.com

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Fire were unable to extend their two-game winning streak Saturday, failing to hold onto a second half lead in a 1-1 draw against Chivas USA at Toyota Park. The match saw both teams with chances to win in the second half, but ended with a point for each.

Both teams were in the midst of recovering from mediocre starts to the season. The Fire had begun to hit their form, and after two losses and a draw in their opening three games, the team earned back-to-back 2-0 wins. Chivas USA came to Bridgeview looking to improve their dreadful road form. The Southern California club had not managed a road goal in their previous two road games, both losses, and had been outscored 5-0 away from home.

The Fire opened the scoring on its first true chance of the match from a fantastic team build up in the 53rd minute. Marcus Pappa chipped a pass to a free Patrick Nyarko on the right wing in the penalty area, and Nyarko did well to bring control the ball and slide it across the goal to Baggio Husidic for the goal.

The goal was Husidics second of the season and Nyarkos fourth assist of the season, tying him with the L.A. Galaxys Landon Donovan for the MLS lead.

The Fire appeared to be in control, but a substitution and change of tactics by Chivas USA head coach Martin Vasquez altered the course of the game. Striker Maicon Santos was brought on in the 68th minute for midfielder Michael Lahoud as Chivas pushed forward.

It took less than 10 minutes to prove dividends and Santos was able to get a free header off a Sacha Kljestan corner and score the equalizer.

Shortly after the goal, Chivas shifted back to a four-man midfield, taking off striker Justin Braun in the 79th minute for midfielder Chukwudi Chijindu.

Chivas continued to push forward in the closing minutes of the match, but the Fire defense did well to clear a series of dangerous crosses.

Nyarko had the Fire's best chance for a winner in the 80th minute, controlling a cross in again on the right side of the Chivas penalty area and beating his defender, but Chivas goalkeeper Zach Thornton did well to cut down the angle and save Nyarkos effort.

Referee Jasen Anno denied the Fires penalty claim in the 89th minute when substitute Stefan Dimitrov, on the pitch for just seconds, went down on a cross into the penalty area and three minutes of stoppage time produced no further chances for either team.

The Fire were left to feel they had let a game slip away.

We didnt have a good night, head coach Carlos de la Cobos said through a translator. We had some real opportunities. We had a chance to make it two-nil, but we didnt take opportunity of that. We had a lack of concentration, especially on the set piece where they score the goal.

You go into these games expecting a win, and we just got a draw, Nyarko said. In the end, I thought we had the better of the chances.

Both teams appeared to plan their tactics around shutting down the oppositions captains.

Fire captain Brian McBride started as the lone forward, as de los Cobos opted to start with a five-man midfield. McBride did a decent job of fighting for the ball and holding it up for his teammates as the Chivas USA defense marked him tightly and physically until he was substituted in the 88th minute.

Twenty-four-year-old Chivas captain Sacha Kljestan, playing in a free role in the middle as a secondary striker, distributed the ball well, but was locked down by the Fire defense from making any dangerous runs. Kljestan managed two decent efforts from outside the box and the best effort came from a free kick in the second half, but Dykstra had his post covered and made the save. Kljestans excellent corner provided the assist for the lone Chivas goal.

The match lacked chances for both teams for much of the match, and the first half ended without either keeper being truly tested.

Midfielder Justin Mapp aggravated a leg injury in warmups, and had to be substituted in the 22nd minute.

Fire midfielders Pappa and Nyarko made the biggest attacking efforts for the squad in the first half. Pappa had a nice period of play, with a dangerous cross in the 25th minute from the right side to the far post, but no Fire attacker was there to meet the cross.

Pappa managed one of two shots on goal for Chicago in the first half. Thornton easy corralled Pappas long effort in the 39th minute and Thornton did well to punch curling ball off a free kick by Peter Lowry.

NotesTickets for the Fires May 30 friendly with 17-time Italian champion and seven-time European champion AC Milian went on sale Saturday. Attendance for Saturdays match was 13,224. ... McBride scored his 200th career MLS point with an assist in last weeks 2-0 win over D.C. United.

Brandon Vincent plays 33 minutes in MLS All-Star Game

Brandon Vincent plays 33 minutes in MLS All-Star Game

Chicago Fire rookie Brandon Vincent played 33 minutes at the MLS All-Star Game on Thursday.

The All-Stars lost 2-1 to Arsenal. Costa Rican Joel Campbell gave Arsenal the lead in the 11th minute via a penalty kick. Didier Drogba, who used to play for Arsenal's London rival Chelsea, scored just before halftime to tie the match. Chuba Apkom scored the game-winner in the 87th minute.

Vincent subbed on for FC Dallas' Kellyn Acosta in the 57th minute. Vincent registered one shot, which was off target.

All 26 players for the MLS All-Stars played. For Arsenal, American Gedion Zelalem came off the bench and played 23 minutes.

Veljko Paunovic talks Fire's identity, home vs. away record and positive signs

Veljko Paunovic talks Fire's identity, home vs. away record and positive signs

Veljko Paunovic has talked about the Chicago Fire forming an identity throughout his first season as the club’s coach.

Now that he is nearly five months into the season, he says the team is starting to form that identity.

“We are committed to our style now, which is being tough,” Paunovic said on Wednesday during a conference call with reporters. “Our identity is being a tough team at home, a team that fights until the end of the game, to win the game and we have that positive result for us. We fight to defend it.”

Despite being in last place in Major League Soccer, Paunovic says he has seen enough positive things from the club, at least in terms of improvement compared to the start of the season. The Fire are unbeaten in eight straight games at Toyota Park and have won three straight league games there.

[SHOP: Get your own Fire home jersey right here]

Now the road record, that’s another story. Even if you forgive the part of the current league-record 35-match road winless streak that Paunovic didn’t oversee, the Fire have been bad on the road this season, and have gotten worse. Since two promising draws at Orlando and New York City FC in the beginning of the season, the Fire have lost eight in a row away from home.

Paunovic hasn’t been shy about addressing that record, but that doesn’t fit as well with this identity he says the team is forming. The Serbian coach remains an optimist though.

“I think we improved overall, especially with the addition of Michael de Leeuw we improved in our performance in attack,” he said. “Then also it was very important for me to see in the last game in New England we were very, very close to winning. I’m not saying to tie the game, we were very close to winning. If we scored the opportunities that we had, if we scored one goal I think we would win that game. Again it was a learning experience for us. We finally had that feeling that we can win on the road and we’re just going to help build and improve on that.”

In a few other Fire news tidbits from the conference call and training on Wednesday, Paunovic said Razvan Cocis and Joey Calistri are nearing returns from injury, but are still not at 100 percent. Calistri, who had to pull out of Wednesday’s MLS Homegrown Game as part of the All-Star Game festivities, was in training on Wednesday and sounds like the closer of the two to returning.

Paunovic remained tight-lipped when asked about potential additions before the transfer window closes Aug. 3. The Fire have 19-year-old South Korean forward Jung-Hyun Seo, who was at Wednesday’s training session, with the team on a trial.

Fire's Brandon Vincent trying to 'enjoy the moment' at MLS All-Star Game

Fire's Brandon Vincent trying to 'enjoy the moment' at MLS All-Star Game

All-star games always come with extra hoopla and attention and bring the biggest stars together in one place for a few days.

The national soccer media has descended upon San Jose for the MLS All-Star Game, which will take place Thursday. For Chicago Fire rookie defender Brandon Vincent, who was selected to the MLS All-Stars, he gets to fly a bit under the radar.

“I’m not one of the superstars so I’m not one of the top guys for the media, but there has been a lot of fanfare,” Vincent said. “I had a couple appearances out playing soccer tennis with a couple fans. It’s been great. Having the open training in front of the fans has been really cool.”

[SHOP: Get your own Fire home jersey right here]

For Vincent, the trip to San Jose is a bit of a homecoming as well. Vincent just completed a standout four-year career at Stanford in the fall, capped off by a national title. He said he has seen some friends and that his family will be in town for the game.

“This is my first go at a big thing like this,” Vincent said. “It’s a lot to take in. Obviously I’m really lucky to be a part of it and it’s really exciting and I’m happy to be here.”

The MLS All-Stars have had two training sessions ahead of Thursday’s game against Arsenal. This meant Vincent has been training alongside Kaka, Andrea Pirlo and David Villa among other MLS stars.

“I’ve pinched myself sometimes seeing these players who are absolutely legendary players and world-class,” Vincent said. “It’s pretty crazy to think that I’ve grown up watching these guys on TV and I get to take the field with them one time. It’s amazing.”

Because Vincent is a rookie this can be viewed as more of a learning experience. At least that’s how Fire coach Veljko Paunovic has talked about his left back’s selection.

“It’s a great achievement and we are very happy for him to be there,” Paunovic said. “It’s going to help him also having that experience to learn from, the more experienced guys on the All-Star team.

“The only thing is that whatever minutes (he plays are) for him and for us to build his overall performance, his experience and become the player that we are all looking for.”

Paunovic said he spoke with Dom Kinnear, who is coaching the All-Stars, on Monday during meetings in San Jose. Paunovic didn’t want to influence Kinnear’s decision on how much to play Vincent. Vincent said the players haven’t heard much about how much they will play other than that there will be a lot of rotation as they game goes on.

The All-Star nod goes along with Vincent’s recent senior national team call up and appearance back in early February. Comparing the two is tough, but Vincent was able to break it down.

“The national team has been something that’s been a dream of mine so getting that call up was I think the biggest, but this has been just as cool honestly,” he said. “I had no idea this was coming. It was such a pleasant surprise that I can’t help but enjoy it and enjoy the moment.”