Fire, Red Bulls end match in scoreless draw

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Fire, Red Bulls end match in scoreless draw

Sunday, Aug. 8, 2010
11:39 PM
Associated Press

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (AP) -- On the field with some of soccer's biggest names, Sean Johnson stole the show.

The Chicago Fire goalkeeper made seven saves Sunday night, including two on shots by Thierry Henry and another by Juan Pablo Angel in stoppage time, to preserve a 0-0 tie against the New York Red Bulls. It was only the second Major League Soccer game for the 21-year-old Johnson.

"We should have won the game," said Henry, who doesn't expect to miss any time after leaving the game in the 45th minute with a groin injury. "We had chances to win the game, but Chicago and their goalkeeper had a great game."

The Fire and Red Bulls have dominated Major League Soccer headlines with their big-name acquisitions over the last few weeks, and the chance to see all the stars drew a crowd of 21,868, the largest ever for a Fire game at Toyota Park.

Mexico captain Rafael Marquez, who followed Barcelona teammate Henry to New York, was in the starting lineup for his Red Bulls debut. Freddie Ljungberg was playing his first home game since being traded to Chicago from Seattle on July 30, and Mexico international Nery Castillo was greeted with fireworks when he came on in the second half, his first appearance since Shakhtar Donetsk of Ukraine loaned him to the Fire.

But it was Johnson who made the difference.

The Red Bulls peppered him with five shots on goal in the second half, including a shot by Angel at the beginning of stoppage time. Positioned just inside the 6-yard box, the Red Bulls captain got his head on the ball and swung hard. But Johnson got a hand on the ball, punching it clear.

"I'm disappointed. I think we should have won the game," Angel said. "We had a number of chances, we just couldn't put them away."

Henry, playing in his second MLS game, gave New York its best chances in the first half. In the 20th minute, he stopped Fire defender C.J. Brown with a stutter step and took a shot from close range, but Johnson stopped it easily. Ten minutes later, Angel fed Henry on the run, but he got tangled up with a defender in the box and Johnson smothered the ball.

But he tweaked his groin -- he left New York's exhibition against Manchester City with a similar injury -- and left in the 45th minute.

"For me, it's the preseason," said Henry, who signed with New York on July 14 after being released by Barcelona. "Guys out there are fully fit and it's not easy to try and get fit. But I'm going to try and do it as fast as I can."

Chicago's offense has suffered since the departure of Cuauhtemoc Blanco, lacking the creative touch that made the Fire so dangerous up top. But the trade for Ljungberg appears to have solved that. He had several nice give-and-gos with McBride -- but he blew a chance to give Chicago the lead in the 43rd minute.

McBride made a nice run up the right side, looking for Ljungberg all the way as Ljungberg charged to the left post. McBride made a perfect cross, but Ljungberg duffed the shot just inside the 6-yard box.

"I'm very happy because Freddie adapted very fast with all the teammates. He's a big professional and looked very good to me," Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said. "Nery Castillo, when these guys have more knowledge of each other, I'm sure we will improve in front, in the attack."

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.”