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

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.

Disappointed in 2016, Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez believes team has opportunity in offseason


Disappointed in 2016, Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez believes team has opportunity in offseason

The first full season for Chicago Fire general manager Nelson Rodriguez and the first season for coach Veljko Paunovic did not yield notably better results than the year before.

A year ago, the Fire managed just 30 points, the lowest total in club history, and gave up a league-worst 58 goals.

Despite much change within the team and staff, the Fire managed 31 points this year and picked up one fewer win. The Fire scored one fewer goal than last season (42 vs. 43) and allowed the same number of goals.

Rodriguez, when speaking at the final of three Q&A sessions with local media on Tuesday, even remarked that “it’s incredible” how similar the two seasons were.

“When I first came here and I first took the job just over a year ago, I have to be honest, I never for one second saw a last place finish,” Rodriguez said. “I thought that progress would see more results and I thought it would be much easier to show tangible progress than what I think most people can look at this year.”

Still, Rodriguez spoke highly of the additions he and Paunovic made in the offseason, saying all of them “proved themselves as MLS players” to some degree. The Fire do have more younger players that appear to be viable long-term options than a year ago thanks to the emergence of rookie defenders Jonathan Campbell and Brandon Vincent, for example.

But if the on-field results didn’t show the change, where is it?

“I think one big thing that has changed over the course of our eight or nine months with the group is we learned how to compete,” Rodriguez said. “What we didn’t learn was how to win. We had many self-inflicted wounds throughout the year. We unfortunately seemed to repeat some mistakes, some of that can be attributed to youth, some of that can be attributed to lack of cohesion that only comes by being together over time.”

[Final MLS Power Rankings: Red Bulls red-hot going into playoffs]

Many of the players had exit physicals on Tuesday at Toyota Park, although some are already out of town, marking the official start of the offseason. As the offseason begins, the Fire enter rebuilding yet again. The Fire have now missed the playoffs in four straight seasons and six of the past seven.

Rodriguez believes moves made in 2016 have better positioned the club for this coming offseason.

“I know that we’re in a better position on the team’s salary budget than we’ve been in the past,” Rodriguez said. “I know that we’ve assembled a group of very hungry players that are either entering their prime or in their prime. We have two first-round picks. We have two DP slots. We have allocation money. So we’ve set the stage.”

There will be change within the Fire this offseason, but Rodriguez wouldn’t detail if it will be similar to last offseason when just 10 players from 2015 were retained, and two of those were shipped off midseason, or if it would be a more moderate rebuild. Rodriguez said that eight players currently have guaranteed contracts heading into 2017: defenders Johan Kappelhof, Michael Harrington and Joao Meira, midfielders John Goossens and Collin Fernandez and forwards Michael de Leeuw, David Accam and David Arshakyan. Meira’s contract initially had a club option for 2017, but met a clause that guaranteed the contract for next year.

The first date to know for this offseason is Dec. 13, when the expansion draft for Minnesota and Atlanta will take place. Before then, the Fire will have to announce which contract options they will pick up and which they will decline as well as which players they will protect for the expansion draft. After that, most of the moves will likely happen in January, when the international transfer window opens and when the MLS SuperDraft takes place.

“I know already that the first expectation is January and what will happen in January and everyone is pointing to January,” Rodriguez said. “I’ll just repeat it again, for me it’s about getting it right, not getting it fast. It’s about assembling a team that we believe can build and yield a championship program, one that’s sustainable. Today, is the first official day that we’ve begun work on 2017 although we laid groundwork and have been eyeing for this.”

Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016


Fire’s younger players a mixed bag in 2016

When Joey Calistri subbed on for Arturo Alvarez in the 81st minute of the Chicago Fire's 3-2 loss at Toronto on Sunday it was the first time the rookie homegrown player had seen the field in over a month.

The nine-minute appearance was also more time than he'd seen in a league game in July, August, September and October combined. Calistri played 10 of the Fire's first 13 league matches totaling 333 minutes. In the final 21 matches of the year he made four appearances totaling 15 minutes.

Because Calistri's substitution was the third and final sub for the Fire, it also signified that fellow homegrown players Patrick Doody and Drew Conner would not play in 2016. Both made the list of available substitutes in Toronto, but did not get the call to sub into the match.

This offseason the Fire got younger with first-round draft picks Brandon Vincent (22 years old) and Jonathan Campbell (23), second-rounder Alex Morrell (22), homegrowns Calistri and Conner (both 22) and international players Rodrigo Ramos (21), Khaly Thiam (22) and David Arshakyan (22) joining the team. Some of the players like Vincent and Campbell were major contributors in 2016 and could be a significant part of the team in the future. Meanwhile, the Fire's four homegrown players, 19-year-old second-year pro Collin Fernandez in addition to Calistri, Conner and Doody, combined for two starts. Fernandez made two substitute appearances for a total of eight minutes.

Campbell played in 33 of the Fire’s 34 matches, starting 30 of them at center back, and was in the early running for Rookie of the Year before Jordan Morris, Keegan Rosenberry and Jack Harrison solidfied themselves as the top three in that race. Vincent finished with 24 starts and 26 appearances at left back and was named to the MLS All-Star team. Those two, along with Johan Kappelhof, could potentially form the core of the team’s defense next year.

Another young defender, Ramos, showed flashes of being a dangerous attacking right back and made 16 starts. However, the Brazilian seemed to fall out of favor with Paunovic in the final two months of the season and the Fire will have to pick up the option on his loan to make him a permanent member of the team.

A pair of younger international players, Arshakyan and Thiam, saw semi-regular playing time down the stretch after joining during the season, but neither made a big impression. Thiam, like Ramos, joined on loan so his future remains up in the air. Arshakyan joined the team in August and both Arshakyan and Paunovic have said he is still settling in.

General manager Nelson Rodriguez has talked about trying to form a core of players to build around for years to come. Campbell and Vincent showed the potential to be valuable parts of such a core, but for many of the Fire's younger players, 2016 was a season of missed, or a lack of, opportunities.