Frigid afternoon can't cool down Fire in opener

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Frigid afternoon can't cool down Fire in opener

Saturday, March 26, 2011
Posted: 7:17 p.m.

By Dieter Kurtenbach
Contributor to CSNChicago.com

Goals from Diego Chaves, Gaston Puerari and Marco Pappa lifted the Chicago Fire to a 3-2 victory over 10-man Sporting Kansas City in the team's home debut.

The Fire earned their first win of the year in a testy affair on a frigid afternoon. The game kicked off with a stiff breeze and a just-quite freezing 32 degree temperature.

"Three points, first game of the year, I think we're happy about that," Fire midfielder and captain Logan Pause said. "Obviously we made it pretty interesting. The priority is the first game at home, setting the tone three points, crucial."

The Fire's first goal was scored on the counter attack half-an-hour into the game. A Kansas City free kick inside the Fire defensive zone was cleared with a lob pass over the Kansas City back line that a streaking Puerari took on a breakaway.

One-on-one with Kansas City goaltender Jimmy Nielsen, Puerari was fouled from behind by Kansas City striker Omar Bravo.

Referee Jasen Anno awarded a penalty kick on the foul, and after a two-minute verbal fracas that migrated from the penalty area to the sidelines and back, Bravo was given a red card and sent off.

In both of the Fire's games this season, their opponent has had to play a man down for significant time. Last week against FC Dallas, the Fire had a man advantage for 38 minutes. Saturday, it was nearly an hour.

Chaves took the penalty kick for the Fire, blasting a bending shot into the right corner of the net.

It was the second breakaway opportunity for Puerari in as many games. In the Fire's 1-1 draw against FC Dallas last week, Puerari had a similar oppurtunity, but his shot was saved by Kevin Hartman.

Puerari broke through four minutes after the first goal, cutting in behind the Kansas City defense inside the penalty box in rhythm with a Michael Vidiera lead pass. The goal was Puerari's first of the year and first in MLS.

Chaves and Puerari both signed with the Fire coming from separate Uruguayan clubs in the offseason, and are best friends off the field. That chemistry has manifested itself in three of the Fire's four goals on the season.

"We have different styles, but the same mentality," Chaves said. "We know where the other is on the field, we know where the other guy moves,"

Pause isn't surprised at the tandem's success.

"I think it's important that they work when they have the ball, and they work when they don't have the ball, and that's so important in this league," Pause said. "I'm just happy they were both rewarded with goals tonight."

Kansas City pushed back in the second half, despite their player disadvantage. Teal Bunbury entered the game for the former Wizards at halftime and was able to create opportunities as a right wing and striker, exploiting the Fire's three-man defensive core.

Bunbury's play highlighted several minutes of sustained offensive pressure from Kansas City at the onset of the second half. Kansas City would break the shutout six minutes in, when Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson took an aggressive line to intercept a crossing pass and missed, leaving Kansas City midfielder Chance Meyers with an open net and plenty of time to strike.

Johnson took responsibility for the goal after the game.

"The second half they put a decent amount of pressure on us, and the first goal I should have dealt with it better," Johnson said. "I'll put that one on my back."

Marco Pappa scored in the sixtieth minute to reestablish the Fire's two goal lead. Summoning his inner Derrick Rose, Pappa went through four Kansas City defenders with an ankle-breaking drive to goal that started outside the penalty area.

"He's such a great player, and his head, it's always up," Chaves said of Pappa's goal. "I was to his right, and he was always looking to me, and just the look the guys came with me and he got his space."

"I think it was a lucky goal," Pappa said with a head shake and a chuckle.

Kansas City would get that goal back when Bunbury, serviced by a errant backpass from Chicago's Gonzalo Segares, beat Johnson on a breakaway in the seventy-third minute.

Pause said that the second-half defensive lapses are to be expected, given that it's early in the season and Kansas City had no choice but to full-out attack.

"It's tough when you're up 2-0, up a man, they're just throwing numbers forward, and they have to take risks," Pause said. "Some of those risks paid off for them."

Even if it's easy to excuse the goals, Pause called the second-half performance careless.

"Concentration, we let it slip a little bit. Those are things at this point of the year, we're kind of wiping our brow, saying 'phew, we got away with one' We'll take the three points."

With 12,157 in attendance on a not-ideal day, head coach Carlos de los Cobos was pleased that his team matched the intensity of the supporters with their play on the field.

"We need to create a very strong advantage for Chicago Fire here at home," de los Cobos said. "Last season we lost a lot of points, we lost games and the intention of this year is different, and I am very satisfied. I know we need to improve in some things, but what's most important is that players create a great community in each other, and they are fighting every minute."

"We have no stars this year," Chaves said of the team's mentality. "We're just players that want to take things how do you say? 'To put the Fire on the top.'"

Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

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Fire continue road trip Wednesday at improved Seattle on CSN

One team is playing as well as it has all season and is closing in on a playoff spot. The other team is facing the possibility of elimination by the end of the night.

A hot Seattle Sounders team hosts the struggling Chicago Fire on Wednesday on CSN. Coverage begins at 9:30 p.m.

Seattle (11-13-5, 38 points) is 5-1-2 in its past eight matches. The Sounders have been boosted by the arrival of Argentine playmaker Nicolas Lodeiro and likely Rookie of the Year winner Jordan Morris has been red-hot. Lodeiro has three goals and eight assists in nine matches. Morris is up to 12 goals on the season after scoring four in the past four games.

“Of course we are very, very careful with their transition with guys like Morris up in front,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They can be very dangerous in attack.”

[SHOP: Pick up a Fire home jersey here]

The Fire played at New York City FC on Friday. The team returned to Chicago before making the trip to the Pacific Northwest. All that travel in a short period of time plus facing a surging team in front of a big crowd at CenturyLink Field is not a good recipe for success for the Fire.

While the Sounders are closing in on the playoffs — they sit three points back of sixth-place Portland but have two games in hand — the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) are trying to get out of last place. The Fire are five points below the closest teams in the standings, Columbus and Houston. If Montreal beats San Jose and D.C. defeats Columbus, both games that will finish before kickoff Wednesday in Seattle, the Fire would need to get at least a tie to avoid being eliminated from playoff contention.

Despite the long odds to make the playoffs, Paunovic says motivation is not a problem.

“That’s part of our job, keep them motivated and work on that,” Paunovic said. “So far because of their commitment, I think that was easier to do. We of course have to continue doing that. The team is already addressed on that.

“We have the responsibility for ourselves. We have the responsibility for our profession and we have a responsibility for our supporters.”

The Fire arrived in Seattle without goalkeeper Matt Lampson, who is out for the second straight game with a toe injury. Lampson hasn’t started in MLS play since Aug. 6. The only other injury listed by the club is John Goossens, who has missed the past two matches with a back injury. Goossens is questionable.

The big news out of Seattle is that Clint Dempsey’s irregular heartbeat, which has kept him out of the past five matches, has ended his 2016 season early. Dempsey’s loss is massive, but Seattle still has plenty of talent for the Fire to worry about.

“They like to keep the possession, especially in the opponent’s half,” Paunovic said of the Sounders. “They have very quality players in the final third. Since the coming of Lodeiro I think the team improved very well. They look more confident and of course they have much better results. Playing at home I think they have very good support and they feel more confident, but they are a team that is not unbeatable. They also had early in the season their issues and there are some weaknesses we can say that we detected and we are going to try to take advantage of.”

Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders

When: 9:30 p.m. Wednesday

TV: CSN

Where: CenturyLink Field, Seattle

Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

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Soldier Field reportedly a finalist to host 2017 MLS All-Star Game

According to a report from Crain's Chicago Business, Chicago's Soldier Field may be in the running to host next year's MLS All-Star Game.

The report says the city and Major League Soccer are discussing Chicago hosting the All-Star Game, which includes a number of other events in the lead up to the game.

Toyota Park, which is located in suburban Bridgeview, hosted the All-Star Game in 2006 less than two months after the stadium opened. Soldier Field has never hosted the MLS All-Star Game.

The Chicago Fire played in Soldier Field from the team's expansion season in 1998 until Soldier Field renovations in 2002. The Fire moved back to the renovated Soldier Field midway through the 2003 season before heading to Toyota Park.

If Soldier Field hosts the All-Star Game, it would be the first non-MLS venue to host the game since 2010 when Houston's Reliant Stadium hosted the MLS All-Stars against Manchester United.

This year's All-Star Game was in San Jose's year-and-a-half old Avaya Stadium. Arsenal beat the MLS All-Stars 2-1.