Fire fall to Charleston in shootout in U.S. Open Cup

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Fire fall to Charleston in shootout in U.S. Open Cup

Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Updated: 11:34 PM

Associated Press

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP)Lamar Neagle, Mike Zaher and Ian Fuller scored in the shootout to give the Charleston Battery a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Tuesday night in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.

The Battery outscored the Fire 3-0 in the shootout as Chicagos Brian McBride, Kyzysztof Krol and Wilman Conde missed their attempts.

The teams were scoreless through regulation play and two 15-minute overtime periods, a total of about 126 minutes including stoppage time.

Charleston, from the USL-2 league, soccers version of baseballs AA level, visits Columbus in the quarterfinals next Tuesday.

Chicago pressed in the second half, forcing Charleston goalkeeper Tim Melia to make four saves. The best opportunity was a bicycle kick by forward Stefan Dimitrov in the 69th minute.

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 This material may not be published, broadcast,rewritten, or redistributed.

Dax McCarty says transition to Fire has been 'pretty easy'

Dax McCarty says transition to Fire has been 'pretty easy'

Locally, the Dax McCarty trade was a big deal for the Chicago Fire because it gave the team a league-experienced midfielder and a former MLS All-Star.

Nationally, the McCarty trade was a big deal because he was the captain of a contending team and he was not pleased with how he exited the New York Red Bulls.

With that behind him, McCarty began assimilating into his new team during the Fire's preseason in Florida. McCarty joined late after being with the U.S. National Team for the start of the Fire's preseason and coach Veljko Paunovic giving him some extra time after playing for the U.S. in a friendly against Serbia on Jan. 29.

"Obviously a quick turnaround from national team camp," McCarty said. "Luckily I was fortunate enough to talk to Pauno and he gave me the weekend after a national team game to come here with my wife and kind of get a lay of the land a little bit. I've been to Chicago plenty of times, but never really that in-depth. I found a place relatively quickly. After that I flew down to meet the team in Florida for preseason."

Once in Florida, McCarty played in five of the Fire's six preseason games. In four of those five he started next to fellow midfield acquition Juninho. General manager Nelson Rodriguez said one of the bright spots of the preseason was how easily the two fit into midfield. The two have 16 MLS seasons between them.

Beyond appearing to fit well with his new midfield partner, McCarty said he has had little problem settling in with his new teammates. Part of that is from familiarity with some of them, including former college teammate Michael Harrington, who was at McCarty's wedding just before he was traded to the Fire.

"It's been really good," McCarty said. "I've known a couple of the guys from my past that are on the team now. I played with Arturo Alvarez in Dallas for a couple years. I played at University of North Carolina with Michael Harrington so it's been a pretty easy transition."

This was the third trade of McCarty's career. He was taken by Portland in the 2010 expansion draft and then traded for D.C. Eight months later he was traded from D.C. to the Red Bulls.

"Obviously not the first time I've changed teams," McCarty said. "I kind of know how the transition works. Obviously it's just the same as any other preseason, trying to get ready for an important season for the Fire."

Offseason changes have brought confidence within Fire

Offseason changes have brought confidence within Fire

As has been the case in the last few years, there has been a lot of change to the Chicago Fire's roster this offseason.

However, unlike the last few years the reasons for optimism to go with those changes seem more justified. In year two of coach Veljko Paunovic's tenure, the Fire figure to at least compete for a playoff spot.

"I think we improved for sure," Paunovic said. "I think where we improved is in leadership. Obviously our players that we brought this year, they have strong careers behind them and careers that they were successful and they proved their leadership role on their teams. That's very important. I think when you have that then you bring other pieces. Now we have to make them play as a team, which I think we are doing."

Preseason results typically don't mean much, but it is possible to learn things about a team based on how it played in those matches. For example, Juninho and Dax McCarty, two of the most notable additions in the offseason, seemed to have an easy time playing with each other in central midfield. Nemanja Nikolic and Michael de Leeuw look like they should be more efficient in finishing chances than the Fire were last year.

Beyond player changes, Paunovic said the team has shifted formations, although somewhat subtly. As opposed to the 4-2-3-1 system the team used most games last season, Paunovic mentioned changing to a 4-4-2 for this season. For the most part, the difference between the two formations is how the two strikers interact with each other. As opposed to having Nikolic play as the lone striker with an attacking midfielder playing somewhat underneath him, de Leeuw will play as a second striker alongside him.

"I think that me and Michael are the same type of players," Nikolic said. "The both of us run a lot looking for the free spaces behind opponents and it gives us opportunities in the attack. For defenders I think this is the most difficult. They have players everywhere who also help in the team defensively and in offense."

Nikolic said playing with de Leeuw in a 4-4-2 is beneficial to both players.

"I play with somebody else in front and it gives us more opportunities and more players are close to the box and close to the goal to score," Nikolic said of the 4-4-2.

[RELATED: Fire putting finishing touches on roster as season nears]

Nikolic, added this offseason, and de Leeuw, who joined in the middle of last season, give the Fire's attack a different dynamic to go along with speedster David Accam. Accam used to be the main threat for opposing teams to focus on, but that could change this season.

"I think this team in the past, a lot of the gameplanning has been around David Accam," McCarty said. "Rightfully so with his speed, it's a gamechanger. This team has kind of just been known as a team that wants to counterattack with David and hope that they score goals and see what happens. I think this year adding myself, Juninho, Nemanja Nikolic, Michael de Leeuw with another season under his belt, getting a new goalkeeper (Jorge Bava) that's very good with his feet and has a lot of experience. I think this team has a lot of weapons and we're going to be a pretty dangerous team."

The new pieces encourage optimism, but also likely mean the Fire will need some time to properly jell. Both Paunovic and general manager Nelson Rodriguez preached patience, a common theme from those two, while also emphasizing the importance of a strong start to 2017.

Every team will have players and coaches say they are confident just before the start of a new season and the Fire are no different.

"Last year we came out of preseason and the mood was excitement and hope," Rodriguez said. "A year of experience has taught me preseason really means nothing in terms of results. The mood this year is decidedly different. I think the mood this year is one of confidence."

Paunovic delivered the most confidence, again using that P word, playoffs, that has eluded the Fire the past four seasons.

"What I think is that we are in a very good spot and I am very confident that we can achieve the playoffs this year."