Pardo announces his retirement

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Pardo announces his retirement

AVE MARIA, FL. The Fire caught flight to the first phase of preseason training on Sunday with one notable absentee. Pavel Pardo, the legendary Mexican midfielder, announced his retirement before the flight took off for this small college town on the outskirts of Naples.

Pardos retirement was no surprise. At the age of 36, he had been considering it for some time and the Fires acquisition of Jeff Larentowicz in a trade with the Colorado Rapids last week made the decision more clear-cut.

Still, Pardos 19-year professional career was filled with brilliant moments and he was always a class act.

The second-most capped player in the history of Mexicos national team, Pardo was one of the greatest international stars of his era. He played in 148 matches for Mexico after being a mainstay for Atlas and Club America.

Fire coach Frank Klopas, admitting Pardo has been a "fantastic" player, felt the need to build for the future and the recent acquisitions of Larentowicz and New York midfielder Joel Lindpere meant that Pardos role would be inevitably diminished. He had partnered with captain Logan Pause for much of the last two seasons and was a key component in the Fires revival after missing the Major League Soccer playoffs in 2010 and 2011.

For the Fire and its fans having Pardo on the roster though for only 41 matches was an honor. He joined international stars of the past like Peter Nowak, Hristo Stoitchkov, Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Brian McBride, Freddie Ljungberg and Arne Friedrich in wearing the Fire jersey and made great contributions to the team.

Fire owner Andrew Hauptman said it was "truly a great experience having Pavel Pardo represent the Chicago Fire on and off the field."

President of soccer operations Javier Leon also lauded Pardos performance in MLS during the twilight of his career.

Pardo arrived in the middle of the 2011 season, one in which the Fire won just two of their first 20 MLS matches and had turned to Klopas as head coach. The club finished 7-2-1 in the last 10 matches to finish at the .500 level (9-9-16) and barely missed postseason play. The team's playoff slumber ended in 2012.

Although Pardo is ready for his next step off the field, his decision to call it quits didn't come easily.

"It was a difficult decision," he admitted. "The journey has been exciting, and Im proud of the things Ive accomplished."

Fire try to regroup after season's most lopsided loss

Fire try to regroup after season's most lopsided loss

Momentum is something Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic talks about frequently.

When the Fire beat Montreal on the road for the team’s first road victory in more than two years Paunovic talked about the need to capitalize on that momentum. After a home draw against the LA Galaxy and more recently a resounding 6-2 road loss to D.C. United, it’s clear that the Fire were unable to keep the momentum going from that streak-busting road win.

“You can just go back and see how the mood changed after we won the game in Montreal, how positive everything was,” Paunovic said. “Then you can see the same thing or the opposite thing when you lose the game against D.C.

“Momentum is very important and at least we have some control of how we can react and how we can respond to the momentum that we are leading now. We have to understand that the next game will give us another boost.”

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Khaly Thiam’s red card in the first half at RFK Stadium changed the match just a few minutes after Michael de Leeuw tied it with his second MLS goal. Paunovic said he talked with Thiam about the red card.

“He is aware that he made a mistake and we have to understand that he is a young player still adjusting to our league,” Paunovic said. “My most important thing that I could share with you from our conversation is that he learned. He learned that he has to control his emotions, he has to control his competitiveness and of course he has to know that every action we make on and off the field represents our team so he learned from all this and he also addressed the locker room and we move forward. That’s very important for us to learn from our mistakes, but for sure don’t forget them and don’t repeat them again.”

The loss at D.C. was a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes. D.C. is in the all-important sixth spot in the Eastern Conference and is now nine points ahead of the Fire. Chicago has nine matches to make up that ground, which would be a tough task for any team, let alone one currently with the worst record in the league.

Despite this, Paunovic still brought up the playoffs during Tuesday’s conference call with reporters.

“We have games to play and we are not abandoning and we are not giving away our goals to reach the playoffs,” Paunovic said.

The Fire’s next three matches are all at home against Eastern Conference teams currently in playoff positions. In order to maintain this playoff chase, the Fire likely need to win all three considering a three-game road trip follows.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

Defensive mistakes, red card cost Fire in ugly loss at D.C.

RFK Stadium hosted one of the stranger games of the Chicago Fire’s season on Saturday.

It also may end up being a killer blow to the Fire’s playoff hopes.

The Fire lost 6-2 to the host D.C. United, falling nine points out of the playoffs with nine matches remaining.

Patrick Mullins had a hat trick and former Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko played a role in three of D.C.’s goals. The six goals were the most the Fire have allowed this season.

Fire midfielder Khaly Thiam received a red card in the 34th minute in a match-changing moment. Thiam fouled Nyarko then argued with the ref and dropped the ball on Nyarko’s face while Nyarko was still on the ground.

Nyarko keyed the opening goal in the 25th minute with a backheel in the box to Marcelo, whose low cross was finished off by Mullins.

Michael de Leeuw answered for the Fire (5-12-8, 23 points) by tucking away a big rebound from goalkeeper Bill Hamid after Matt Polster hit a half-volley at Hamid. The relief was short-lived for the Fire because Thiam was sent off a few minutes later.

Nyarko set up Mullins for a goal in the 40th minute and then Luciano Acosta did the same for Mullins in first half added time to make it 3-1 D.C. (7-8-11, 32 points). Razvan Cocis got the Fire back within one on the final kick of the half with a long shot that took a big deflection, lofting the ball perfectly over Hamid and into the net.

However, Nyarko quickly restored D.C.’s two-goal lead out of halftime with a goal in the 51st minute. Mullins finished off his hat trick in the 76th minute and Nick DeLeon finished the scoring in the 89th.

David Accam, who was favoring and icing his left leg after Wednesday’s draw with LA, did not start the match. He subbed on at halftime. He and David Arshakyan, who made his Fire debut off the bench, will both leave for international duty and miss next weekend’s match against Philadelphia.

Fire look for another road win at D.C. United on CSN+

Fire look for another road win at D.C. United on CSN+

The Chicago Fire are back on the road and have a new face joining the team on the trip.

The Fire play at D.C. United on Saturday. The match will be televised on CSN+ at 6 p.m. with coverage beginning at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live.

The new face joining the team is Armenian forward David Arshakyan. The Fire signed the 6-foot-4 Arshakyan from FK Trakai in the Lithuanian league on Aug. 3, but he didn’t get his visa and arrive in the country until Wednesday night. He was then shuttled to Toyota Park during the match against the LA Galaxy.

Arshakyan’s first training with the team was Thursday and he made the trip with the team to D.C. He could make his debut, but would likely have to do so off the bench. Arshakyan is also set to leave for international duty with the Armenian national team. He and David Accam of Ghana will leave for their national teams after the D.C. match.

Accam missed a chance to join Ghana in late March when he was injured and missed six MLS matches with that injury, but is excited to get another chance to represent his country.

“I’m really excited to be in the team again because I’ve worked really hard to come back into the team," Accam said. "We (Ghana) have a lot of good players and for me of course I’m doing something good here and that’s why the coach keeps calling me.”

Accam is actually battling an injury again. He is listed as questionable due to left quad injury. After Wednesday's match against LA, he was favoring his left leg a bit and had ice around his thigh. Accam said it was an issue he had before the game and he didn’t think it was a major injury. Arturo Alvarez is also listed as questionable (groin).

Beyond Arshakyan’s potential debut, Saturday is a big match in terms of keeping the Fire’s playoff hopes alive. D.C. United (6-8-11, 29 points) is currently in the sixth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Fire (5-11-7, 23 points) are six points back. A road win, which would be the Fire’s second straight, would bring the Men in Red within three points of D.C. with a game in hand.

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The Fire are undefeated in eight straight MLS home matches (3-0-5) and won the previous road match. The additions and integrations of Michael de Leeuw and Luis Solignac have boosted what had been a struggling attack and fewer injuries have helped create needed stability in the lineup.

“We finally feel like a team that can win (against) anyone in this league,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “We always believe, we always said that, but finally you can see it. You can see it coming and you can see that this team is growing.”

D.C. features a pair of notable former Fire players in Patrick Nyarko, who scored when D.C. drew the Fire 1-1 in April, and Kennedy Igboananike, who made his first start for D.C. on Wednesday. Igboananike is yet to score for D.C. in four appearances since being traded from the Fire. Defender Kofi Opare will be suspended after earning a red card late in the match against Montreal on Aug. 24.

Chicago Fire at D.C. United

When: Saturday 6 p.m. (coverage begins at 5:30 p.m. with Fire Pregame Live)

TV: CSN+ (channel finder)

Where: RFK Stadium