Fire search for victory against Sounders


Fire search for victory against Sounders

The most important match for the Fire last season came against the Seattle Sounders, and the result wasnt what the Fire wanted.

The two clubs met in Seattle on Oct. 4 in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup final, the Sounders winning 2-0. They scored the game-winner, by Fredy Montero in the 77th minute, and Osvaldo Alonso had an insurance goal in stoppage time as the Sounders won their third straight Open Cup and deprived the Fire of winning its fifth overall.

"When you play for a championship, to lift a trophy, its a little different than league play," said Fire captain Logan Pause. "(Seattles) a difficult play to play, going into CenturyLink Stadium, plus they were a very good team and on that day they were better. They deserved to win, but thats behind us."

But itll be a hard result for either side to forget, since 20 of the 27 players participating in the Open Cup final are still on the rosters of their respective teams as the clubs prepare for their first meeting of 2012 on Saturday night at Toyota Park.

Not all Major League Soccer clubs take the summer-long Open Cup tournament as seriously as the Fire and Sounders do.

"We put a lot into it," said Fire coach Frank Klopas, "but we were playing a good team. Its a different season now, and well be playing at home."

So far, it hasnt mattered where the Fire plays the Sounders. The Fire has yet to win, standing 0-3-3 in MLS meetings since Seattle entered the league in 2009. In those six matches the Fire scored just three goals. Both clubs come into Saturdays meeting with some momentum. Seattle is off to a 3-1-1 start, while the Fire is 2-1-1.

"Most of their team is returning, and they still play the same style very disciplined, very hard-working. Itll be a great test for us," said Pause.

The most-marked man for the Fire will have to be forward David Estrada, who has scored four of the Sounders six goals.

"Theyve got guys who understand their roles," said Pause. "What really jumps out is their midfield. Its one of the strongest in the league with Alonso, (Brad) Evans, (Leo) Gonzalez and (Alvaro) Fernandez. These guys are incredibly dynamic, incredibly mobile, and they work their tails off."

Most notable absentee is goalkeeper Kasey Keller, who retired from the Sounders after a brilliant career following last season. Hes now a TV commentator for the Sounders and his replacement, Michael Gspurning, is working on a 248-minute shutout streak. Gspurning played in Greece the last five seasons.

Seattle also has an MLS-best six-game regular season road unbeaten streak (5-0-1), dating back to last season.

The Fire is still unlikely to get newly re-acquired striker Chris Rolfe on the field. He sprained his right ankle in training shortly after leaving Denmark to join the Fire and he spent most of last week in a walking cast. Hes listed as questionable for the Seattle match.

"Theres not much swelling, but he still has pain when he walks," said Klopas. "Every day hes getting better, but hes not to the point where he can run yet."

Fire try to 'escape from the bottom' in season finale at Toronto Sunday on CSN

Fire try to 'escape from the bottom' in season finale at Toronto Sunday on CSN

The 2016 Chicago Fire season will end Sunday and it has been over in terms of chasing a playoff spot for a few weeks, but coach Veljko Paunovic still believes the team has something to play for beyond trying to be a spoiler.

Paunovic wants to see his team avoid finishing last in the league for a second straight year. If the Fire can win at Toronto FC on Sunday, which will be televised on CSN with coverage beginning at 3 p.m., there is a chance the Fire can move ahead of Houston in the standings. The Fire (7-16-10, 31 points) are two points behind Houston, which plays at Colorado as part of the league’s simultaneous kickoffs to close the regular season.

“I think we owe to our job, to our fans, to our club, to everyone in the league professionality and we have to play the game the best we can,” Paunovic said earlier this week. “That’s very important for me. On the other end there is another motivation which motivates me even more. We have the opportunity if we win the game to win that second game in a row, second game on the road this year, but at the same time… we have the opportunity to escape from the bottom in the overall standings.”

Of course, winning on the road against a playoff team won’t be easy. The Fire are 1-13-2 on the road this year and Toronto (13-9-11, 50 points) is playing to get a first round bye in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

Toronto just got reigning league MVP Sebastian Giovinco back from injury. Giovinco played all 90 minutes and had an assist in the 2-2 draw at Montreal last week after missing the previous five games. Giovinco did not play when TFC won 2-1 at Toyota Park on Sept. 10.

“We have to be on top of our performance to play against a team like Toronto and players like Giovinco and other guys,” Paunovic said. “I think they have a very good team.”

In addition to Toronto’s win in Bridgeview, TFC also beat the Fire 1-0 on July 9 in Canada.

“We know what we can expect from them,” Paunovic said. “We know how euphoric they’re going to be, the people, the stands, the crowd and everything.”

The Fire will be without forward Luis Solignac, who will be serving a suspension after being red carded in last week’s win against New England. David Arshakyan, who joined the Fire in August, could see more minutes or get a start in Solignac’s absence. Defender Johan Kappelhof is the only listed injury. Kappelhof is listed as questionable with a hip injury.

The game could also mark the last appearance in a Fire jersey for some of the players. After another disappointing season, more turnover in the roster should be expected. How much change there will be remains to be seen, but in all likelihood at least a couple of Sunday’s starters won’t be back.

Chicago Fire at Toronto FC

When: 3 p.m. Sunday


Where: BMO Field, Toronto, Ontario

The top 10 goals at Toyota Park in 2016

The top 10 goals at Toyota Park in 2016

Chicago Fire fans may not have seen the best results this season, but Toyota Park was host to a number of quality goals.

Here’s a look at the 10 best goals in Fire games at Toyota Park in 2016.

1. Tommy McNamara’s curler for NYCFC in the season opener (March 6)

Arguably the best goal Toyota Park saw this season was the first goal it saw this season. New York City FC’s Tommy McNamara received the ball in space 15 yards outside the box, dribbled in and unleashed a curler that banged in off the post from more than 20 yards out. The big crowd for the Fire’s season opener was immediately deflated in what was one of the most entertaining games of the season. McNamara has been one of the breakout stars of this MLS season with five goals and nine assists and one of his finest efforts came in Bridgeview.

2. Ignacio Piatti curler wins it late for Montreal (April 16)

Not to be outdone by Kennedy Igboananike’s curling shot on nearly the same part of the field earlier in the game, Ignacio Piatti came up with the goods in added time to give Montreal a 2-1 win. All three goals in this match were fantastic, but this was the standout. Piatti is just outside the corner of the box when he shoots and manages to strike an unsavable shot. Très bien.

3. Kennedy Igboananike looping curler from an angle against Montreal (April 16):

Looking back, this goal is slightly amusing because the two players at the heart of the goal, Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto, are both no longer with the Fire. After a defensive mistake, Gilberto had plenty of room to start a break and fed Igboananike wide. From there, Igboananike squared up just barely inside the box and launched a perfect arching, curling shot that left goalkeeper Evan Bush with no chance. Look at the replay of the goal and just admire the trajectory that ball takes.

4. David Accam makes comical work of Ft. Lauderdale’s defense in Open Cup to set up Michael de Leeuw (July 20)

This is one of the most hilarious goals the Fire scored this season. David Accam takes control of a ball just inside his own half and then goes on to destroy Ft. Lauderdale’s defense like he was playing against children. Gale Agbossoumonde falls over while trying to defend Accam at the edge of the box (a la Leo Messi embarrassing Jerome Boateng), then Accam dribbles around the diving goalkeeper and gets one more defender to slide to no avail before giving Michael de Leeuw a tap in at the back post. This is de Leeuw’s goal, but it was all about Accam.

5. Didier Drogba backheel (April 16)

This goal starts with a bad turnover by goalkeeper Matt Lampson, but finishes with some Didier Drogba class. The Ivorian was all alone in front after former Fire winger Dominic Oduro got the steal and made the centering pass. From there, Drogba did a Drogba thing and flicked it in with a right-footed backheel.

6. Adam Jahn’s turnaround volley for Crew (Oct. 13)

It’s hard to know if Jahn’s first touch was entirely intentional here, but once he saw the ball pop up he knew exactly what to do. Initially it looks like Jahn is just trying to keep the Corey Ashe cross from getting past him while staying clear of a sliding Joao Meira. Watch his eyes on the replay. He tracks the ball the whole way, which allows him to make strong contact even though his back is to the goal when he first receives the ball. The goal nearly allowed Columbus to stay alive in the playoff race, but did at least make for a fun last 10 minutes while the Crew sent everything they had at the Fire.

7. Accam’s weaving rup vs. Indy Eleven in the Open Cup (June 15)

David Accam is a fun player to watch and this goal is a great example of why. Accam gets a loose ball about 30 yards from goal after Indy Eleven turns it over, splits two defenders, blows by another, jukes back on another before shooting and scoring. He gets a minor ding for the shot taking a deflection on its way to the goal, a deflection that may have been required to score, but gets some bonus points for the importance of the goal. Accam saved the Fire from an embarrassing loss with this extra time equalizer. Either way, this is something you would see in a FIFA video game. Accam gets two players to slide in unison on the same cutback move. Glorious.

8. Matt Polster diving header against the Red Bulls (Aug. 2)

What a way to score your first MLS goal, Matt Polster. Not only does Polster get some credit for a diving header, but look at the ball from John Goossens. Good stuff from both on this goal.

9. Arturo Alvarez shake ‘n’ bake to set up his left foot against Philly (Sept. 3)

By the time Arturo Alvarez scored this goal the match was already decided, but Alvarez put an extra exclamation point on it with a nifty move on Ken Tribbett. Alvarez crossed up Tribbett just enough to give himself space for his favored left foot and then perfectly drilled a low shot in the side netting of the far post.

10. Michael de Leeuw makes outside foot finish look easy (Oct. 16)

This isn’t a typical highlight-reel goal, which is why it sits at the bottom of the list, but it shows off what Michael de Leeuw is good at. Brandon Vincent sends a low centering ball to de Leeuw, who is able to roof the ball with the outside of his right foot with his first touch. New England never should have left de Leeuw, a noted poacher, that wide open that close to goal, but de Leeuw still didn’t have that many options to beat goalkeeper Brad Knighton. Because de Leeuw is in front of the near post when he receives the ball, a low shot can likely only beat Knighton if it goes to the far post, which would be an incredibly difficult shot. De Leeuw recognized that he had to elevate the ball and gets style points for doing so with the outside of his right foot.