Chicago Fire

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.

Thrown into the Fire: Christian Dean hoping fresh start will benefit his career

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USA TODAY

Thrown into the Fire: Christian Dean hoping fresh start will benefit his career

It didn’t take long after Christian Dean was traded to the Chicago Fire for him to see significant playing time.

Dean was acquired by the Fire in a trade from Vancouver on Aug. 9, the last day before trade deadline, and has already made two appearances totaling 175 minutes. He was thrown into the deep end in Montreal after Joao Meira went down with an injury five minutes into that game, which took place a week after the Fire traded for him.

On Saturday, Dean made his first start with the Fire. He played all 90 minutes in the 3-1 loss to Toronto FC, in which he had the assignment of defending national team striker Jozy Altidore.

Despite jumping straight into the mix in a playoff race and getting playing time right away, Dean said the transition hasn’t been difficult.

“It’s actually been very easy,” Dean said. “The guys are very welcoming. I think the coaches are welcoming, the staff is welcoming so I really enjoy it here.”

Dean was added to give the Fire extra depth at center back. Before he arrived the team had only three, Meira, Johan Kappelhof and Jonathan Campbell. Dean got the starting nod ahead of Campbell on Saturday.

“He’s a player that we have eyed and scouted for a long time,” general manager Nelson Rodriguez said on Tuesday. “Sometimes it just doesn’t work in a certain environment and we know Vancouver put a lot into Christian and had high hopes for him and worked hard with him, but he had a rash of injuries that probably hurt his time there, but he’s still very young. We still believe he has a lot of high level qualities. He’s very good on the ball, he’s a very good decision maker. He’s got great athleticism. He has a hunger for the game and he’s a good person. Time will tell. We didn’t acquire him with just six months in mind, but how long that extends will in large part be determined by how we interpret his performance.”

Dean, 24, was the No. 3 pick in the 2014 draft. Playing time was limited in Vancouver, partially due to injuries. A broken bone in his foot cost him the entire 2016 season. Another foot injury, this time a stress reaction in the fifth metatarsal of his left foot suffered in training on April 25, kept him out of the rotation for the Whitecaps after he started three of the team’s first five games this season.

“I’m feeling really good right now,” Dean said. “This is the most healthy I’ve felt in the past two years. I’m just trying to take my opportunity.”

Soccer wasn’t always the focus for Dean. As he put it, he grew up in a basketball family. His half-brother, Josh Huestis, plays in the NBA for the Oklahoma City Thunder.

At 6-foot-3, Dean stands out on a soccer field due to his size. When asked if he can dunk, Dean responded with a laugh, “Oh yeah.”

Despite playing a lot of basketball growing up, Dean made the decision to focus on soccer.

“I think when I was like 16 I realized I really actually wanted to play soccer,” Dean said. “I went into college thinking I was just going to enjoy my time playing in college and I started playing well there and got opportunities.”

After three years at Cal, Dean got a Generation adidas contract, making him an early entry player into the draft.

Dean said he fits into coach Veljko Paunovic’s style, which, as he described it, is to play the ball out of the back and through midfield.

His move to the Fire has given him a fresh start and another chance to get regular MLS minutes.

“I’m very, very happy that the club wanted me,” Dean said. “It seems the players really want me.”

In losing big showdown, Fire see why Toronto is best team in MLS

In losing big showdown, Fire see why Toronto is best team in MLS

Saturday night was a big occasion for the Chicago Fire.

The Fire hosted league-leading Toronto FC in a meeting of two of the top three teams in the Eastern Conference standings. A crowd of 21,891, a Toyota Park record for a Fire regular season game, was there to see the improved Fire take on TFC’s deep and talented roster that features Sebastian Giovinco, Michael Bradley and Jozy Altidore.

The tension of a big game was clear in the reactions from the crowd and the large section of traveling Toronto fans. The sellout home crowd was raucous, but couldn’t will the Fire to a win or even a draw.

The Fire simply ran into a better team in the 3-1 loss. Now the Fire are nine points behind Toronto with nine games to go and are in all likelihood out of the Supporters’ Shield race.

“I always say Toronto is doing a great job,” Fire midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger said. “They have up front Giovinco, Altidore. That’s a different category.”

Now the Fire’s focus turns to securing a good playoff seed and chasing down New York City FC for the second spot, and with it the first-round bye. The Fire’s club record nine-game home winning streak is a thing of the past and now the Fire have lost three in a row and five of six.

Given the recent schedule, it’s not as bad as it sounds. Four of those came on the road and losing to Toronto is no shame, even if it came at home. The Fire aren’t suddenly a bad team again, but they have fallen off from the team’s fast start to the summer.

“We played the first half of the season maybe over our limit, more than expected I would say, so we did a great job,” Schweinsteiger said. “Now, we can see what we are missing in our game and we have to find a way to come back and to win a game and we have to play all on a little bit better level.”

Three-game losing streaks have been very rare in Schweinsteiger’s career. The German played for Bayern Munich, the German national team and Manchester United. That’s the bluest of blue bloods in the sport. A three-game losing stretch for any of those teams is a full-blown crisis. Losing five of six? That’s something different for Schweinsteiger.

“Yes, it is,” Schweinsteiger said. “It is very frustrating, very disappointing. I absolutely don’t like that. It’s new.”

So is Schweinsteiger worried about the team’s recent slump?

“If you don’t win games, don’t make points, in a way yes,” he said.

While Schweinsteiger isn’t used to losing this regularly, the Fire are still in a decent position. They are still almost certainly going to make the playoffs and the schedule will get easier. Three of the next four are back at Toyota Park and two of those are against the last place team in each conference, Minnesota and D.C.

Coach Veljko Paunovic is well aware that teams go through streaks, both good and bad, through an MLS season.

“This is like a marathon,” Paunovic said. “Things like this happen and you just have to stay positive and you actually have to know that every team in the league has these kind of moments. They come and they go so we just have to believe, keep working and keep the mood.”

Toronto beat the Fire with Giovinco, a former league MVP, not being much of a factor until he put the game away with a goal in the 90th minute. Altidore was very effective in holdup play and distribution, but only had one shot. With neither of TFC's highly-paid, talented strikers playing decisive roles in the match, the Fire still lost by two goals.

The Fire, which also lost 3-1 in Toronto back in April, got a glimpse of what the bar is at the top of the league and did so in front of a playoff-like atmosphere.

“It was a great rehearsal for us, playing against one of the best teams we could face in the playoffs,” Paunovic said.