Fire end in draw vs. Galaxy after Gonzalez header

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Fire end in draw vs. Galaxy after Gonzalez header

Saturday, Sept. 4, 2010
5:32 PM

Associated Press

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP)Omar Gonzalez headed in a corner by Landon Donovan in the 90th minute Saturday, allowing the Los Angeles Galaxy to salvage a 1-1 tie against the short-handed Chicago Fire.

Collins John scored on a free kick in the 87th minute for Chicago, which played with only 10 men since the 21st minute. But with the Fire fans still celebrating, the Galaxy, who had lost their last two, rallied.

Donovan placed the corner kick perfectly, finding Gonzalez right in front of the goal. Gonzalez nudged the ball in with his head, and Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson could do little but wave a hand at it as it sailed into the net.

Copyright 2010 Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

Veljko Paunovic: 'We conceded too many innocent mistakes' in New York

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Veljko Paunovic: 'We conceded too many innocent mistakes' in New York

Major League Soccer is very forgiving when it comes to the playoff race. Even now, with less than a month left in the season, every team is mathematically still alive.

However, the Chicago Fire are in last place in the league and are falling out of contact with the teams just above them in the standings. The Fire have 27 points and are five points behind the closest teams, Houston and Columbus, which have both won two games in a row.

With that in mind, coach Veljko Paunovic seems to have slightly changed his tone regarding the team and the season in general. After the 4-1 loss to New York City FC on Friday, Paunovic said the team “had a really bad game” defensively. He also talked about the Fire “coming back” next year, something he has previously avoided doing while keeping his focus squarely on the next game ahead.

Paunovic reiterated some of those thoughts in Monday’s conference call with media.

“Of course we are not happy with our defensive performance (in New York),” Paunovic said. “I think for us the maturity is still something we have to do. It’s our main task this year I think. I think in this game we conceded too many innocent mistakes and opportunities to our opponent who was very motivated.”

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The Fire set a club-record for consecutive minutes without conceding a goal earlier this season (411 minutes), but have given up 18 goals in the past eight MLS matches. The 18th goal the Fire allowed in MLS play came in the 14th match of the season. This is currently the worst defensive stretch, purely in goals allowed, of the season.

The rise in goals allowed has coincided with an improvement from the Fire’s attack. The Fire have scored in 10 straight matches, which is a notable accomplishment considering the team was shutout in four of its first 10 matches in 2016. Despite the offensive improvement, the defensive downturn is concerning for Paunovic.

“I think in some points of the season we were very strong,” Paunovic said of the Fire’s defense. “These last couple of games I’m not happy with the performance, but we are working on that to fix it.”

The Fire have five games left to “fix” these mistakes. The team is not realistically in the playoff race anymore and a tough pair of games are coming up. The Fire visit Seattle on Wednesday and will fly straight to Columbus for a game three days later. Both teams have won two straight and are surging towards the playoff race.

It won't be easy for the Fire to end the season with some positive results. Paunovic said part of his job is keeping the team motivated, but also said there is extra pressure that goes with being in last place in the standings.

“The team is fighting for not being last on the standings in the league,” Paunovic said. “That pressure sometimes is too big.

“We have to mature. Fortunately we had to commit too many mistakes to pay that price and I believe that the team is getting better, but we still have to work on that.”

Fire give up two goals in a minute in loss at New York City FC

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Fire give up two goals in a minute in loss at New York City FC

For about six minutes things looked pretty good for the Chicago Fire.

That changed quickly.

After earning three corner kicks in the first six minutes, the Fire allowed two goals in rapid succession in a 4-1 loss to New York City FC on Friday. Jefferson Mena kneed in the first goal on a designed short corner kick routine and David Villa doubled the lead a minute later to give the hosts a two-goal lead less than 10 minutes into the match.

Andrea Pirlo played a short corner in the eighth minute that led to Khiry Shelton centering the ball with a header. Mena was open in front to score with his knee and make it 1-0.

Almost exactly 60 seconds after Mena found the net, Villa was there to score again. The Fire turned it over soon after the kickoff and Villa didn’t miss his chance in the box.

That disastrous sequence left the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) chasing for the rest of the match.

[MORE FIRE: What to watch for in the rest of the Fire's 2016 season]

Arturo Alvarez sparked a number of Fire chances in the rest of the half, including assisting Luis Solignac on a goal. Alvarez picked up his seventh assist of the season with a cross that Solignac headed into the net in the 35th minute.

Alvarez later hit the post on a shot that led to a corner kick. David Villa and NYC (13-9-9, 48 points) countered that corner kick. The result was a Steven Mendoza curled shot past Sean Johnson that restored the two-goal lead just before halftime.

David Villa added NYC’s fourth and his second goal in the 83rd minute.

Fire defender Rodrigo Ramos saw his first action since the U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss on Aug. 9. Ramos started at right back after missing the previous eight MLS matches. Also on the backline, Jonathan Campbell did not start for the first time since Aug. 6. Campbell replaced Ramos in the 58th minute.

The Fire go from the East Coast to the West Coast with a match at Seattle on Wednesday.