Oduro scores in preseason opener

989835.png

Oduro scores in preseason opener

AVE MARIA, FL. If nothing else the Fires first preseason game proved one thing on Sunday. Dominic Oduro can still score.
The striker from Ghana was the clubs Golden Boot winner in 2011 after coming in an early-season trade with the Houston Dynamo. He was also a finalist for Comeback Player-of-the-Year in Major League Soccer, but his scoring tailed off last season and he wasnt a starter when the campaign ended.
Oduro wasnt in coach Frank Klopas first 11 on Sunday either, but he scored the first goal and set up the other in a 2-0 win over Florida Gulf Coast College. The match, played at Brown Park on the campus of Ave Maria University, was contested in three 30-minute periods. Klopas used 28 of the 32 players on his preseason roster.
"To get a game was good, to get opposition other than ourselves, said Klopas. "But this is preseason. Legs are heavy, and from a mental standpoint weve got to get stronger because preseason is a lot shorter than last year. Some players were a little bit better than others.
Klopas didnt want to go into who was better than who, but Oduro and Paladini took on a heavier workload. Both returnees played 60 minutes. Oduro scored unassisted in the 39th minute when he pounced on a loose ball in the box after a Fire corner kick and tapped it into an open net.
Eight minutes later he set up Paladini, who had an open shot for a 2-0 lead.
Oduro, though, will have to remain productive to earn his starting spot back. Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald were paired up top in the first 30 minutes. Oduros first partner in the second 30-minute segment was Maicon Santos, who was picked up in the re-entry draft from D.C. United.
Klopas didnt use Patrick Nyarko, who arrived in camp late. Still yet to report are goalkeeper Sean Johnson, in training with the U.S. national team; Corben Bone, in training with Atletico Madrid; and Arne Friedrich, who was given permission to join the club in California.
Alec Kann, a trialist, was given the start in goal and played with a veteran lineup the first 30 minutes. Joining Rolfe and MacDonald were midfielders Joel Lindpere, Jeff Larentowicz, Logan Pause, Wells Thompson and Alex. The defenders were Jalil Anibaba, Austin Berry and Gonzalo Segares.
The Fire opened training at Ave Maria on Jan. 20 and will finish up here on Tuesday before heading to Bradenton, FL., and the first preseason match against an MLS rival. The Fire will face the Columbus Crew at IMG Academy before heading back to Chicago. The players and staff will get a brief break before heading to Ventura, Calif., for the second phase of the preseason.

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Nemanja Nikolic channels his inner MJ in jersey number

Jersey numbers can be a big deal in soccer. Who is the team's No. 10? Who is the No. 9?

Nemanja Nikolic, a forward who joined the Chicago Fire this offseason as a Designated Player, didn't have the choice of either number that is famously associated with marquee attacking players because both were taken by returning players on the Fire. Instead, he landed on a number more famous in Chicago sports than in soccer.

Nikolic will be wearing 23.

The Fire announced the jersey numbers for the 2017 season with Nikolic's 23 a part of the list. Every returning player kept the same number as last season.

It goes without saying that wearing the No. 23 in Chicago comes with an extra bit of notoriety. Ever since Michael Jordan donned the No. 23 for the Chicago Bulls, it has been a common sight to find the best player on a Chicagoland high school basketball team wearing No. 23. That doesn't translate to the world of soccer, but in Chicago fans will notice.

A spokesman for the club said the number was more coincidence than intentional MJ reference, but if Nikolic has a good season don't be surprised to see signs at Toyota Park referencing Nikolic's jersey number.

In the preseason some of the players have been wearing different jersey numbers from what they will in the regular season. Nikolic has been wearing No. 9 in preseason matches.

Here is a list of the other newcomers and the numbers they will be wearing:

Jorge Bava: 1

Dax McCarty: 6

Djordje Mihailovic: 14

Juninho: 19

Daniel Johnson: 20

Stefan Cleveland: 30

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Fire score five goals for fourth preseason win

Preseason wins don't necessarily translate to regular season wins, but the Chicago Fire haven't had much trouble racking up February wins in Florida.

The Fire made it 4-for-4 in the preseason with a 5-2 win against North American Soccer League foe Miami FC from the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Fla., on Sunday.

The game featured some aesthetically pleasing goals, but the opener was a reminder that it's preseason and the players aren't in midseason form yet. A back pass from a Miami defender turned into a through ball for Luis Solignac. Solignac took the gift and scored uncontested with a slotted shot in the box in the third minute.

Miami evened things up in the 38th minute when Dylan Mares was left open on the left side of the box and scored with a low shot.

The Fire regained the lead with a penalty kick a few minutes later. A Brandon Vincent cross resulted in a handball in the box and John Goossens rifled the penalty into the upper 90.

Trialist Taylor Peay got the start at right back, his first appearance of the preseason. Three draft picks, Daniel Johnson, Brandt Bronico and Matej Dekovic, also started.

In the second half the Fire went with an entirely different lineup and the attack livened up. Arturo Alvarez kicked things off by cutting in to his left foot and scoring with a shot into the side netting in the 49th minute. A few minutes later the Fire piled on the pressure with David Accam getting free from his man and then setting up Nemanja Nikolic, whose shot was saved onto the post and back into play. The Fire came right back with a long shot from Juninho that forced a rebound that David Arshakyan tucked away.

The fifth goal was the best of the bunch. A 10-pass sequence with mostly one-touch passing and Drew Conner at the heart of the buildup led to Nemanja Nikolic centering a ball to David Accam, who scored into an open net.

Nikolic, Accam and Alvarez provided an immediate spark to the attack after a first half in which the Fire struggled to create chances from the run of play.

The game also featured the usage of the video replay system the league is using in select preseason matches in preparation for the system's use in the regular season. In the 71st minute the referee used the replay system to go back and call a penalty kick on a Michael Harrington foul. Goalkeeper Stefan Cleveland, drafted by the Fire in the second round in January, saved the penalty kick, but Ariel Pedro Martinez was able to score on the rebound.

In other news, goalkeeper Matt Lampson has a sprained MCL. A spokesman for the Fire said he could return for the season opener. Jorge Bava got the start on Sunday and appears to be in line to begin the season at the Fire's No. 1 keeper.

On the live stream of the match former Fire TV analyst Kevin Egan said former Newcastle United right back Ryan Taylor, 32, is expected to join the Fire in camp as a trialist shortly.

The Fire's next preseason match is against USL side FC Cincinnati on Wednesday.

See gifs of the first two Fire goals and Arshakyan's second half rebound below: