By Rusty Silber
BRIDGEVIEW — Changes for the second half of the season are expected for the Fire. Nothing seems to be making a difference lately. The club found its way to its 12th draw of the season as they played to a scoreless tie with the visiting Vancouver Whitecaps on Wednesday night at Toyota Park.
The Fire sit just four ties away from the MLS single-season record of 16 set by the New York Red Bulls in 2011. Chicago (3-5-12, 21 points) will need to find ways to get victories with 14 games remaining on their schedule.
"Where do we go from here, is to try to get another win is the plan," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said after the match. "It is what it is. We're obviously not ready to go take another win. Because, we haven't done that by now. Not losing is sometimes a good thing. But at this point of the season you need to win. This was a good opportunity and we didn't do it."
The Fire continue to show that they have chances in games like this one, but their problems still are trying to find the back of the net.
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"I thought we played a pretty good game all around without being dynamic in the final third," Yallop said. "That's what will win you games. We're still kind of in the picture. That's the important thing for the club."
Vancouver's efforts on the road were enough to take a point and move their unbeaten streak to four games.
"They guys couldn't give more effort than what they gave me," Whitecaps head coach Carl Robinson said. "I thought our best period of the game was the first 20 minutes of the second half. We had our best chance of the game and couldn't take it. I can't fault any one of the players, because they were fantastic. I'm not happy with the draw. I'll take the draw with the performance and the effort was there for the guys."
Chicago had the first good opportunity in the 9th minute of play when Mike Magee hit a 25-yard free kick that missed to the right of the post and hit the side netting. Both sides kept going back and forth with limited opportunities until a low cross nearly landed in front of the Whitecaps' Sebastian Fernandez, but the Fire's Jeff Larentowicz stretched out and cleared it out of trouble in the 35th minute.
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"I stepped out to win the ball," said Larentowicz, who was making his first start on defense this season. "It popped to one of their guys. I had to recover quickly. I wasn't sure who was going to take it. But I just was being a defender blocking the shot."
Two minutes later, Vancouver created a foul about 35 yards out. Magee hit the free kick off one of the Whitecaps defenders and over the crossbar. On ensuing corner kick, Magee sent it for Larentowicz. He had a header that went right of the post in the 38th minute. Later, Matt Watson connected a low-line shot from the top left side of the box. But Whitecaps keeper David Ousted made the save diving to his left.
In the second half, Vancouver pushed the tempo up a notch. Darren Mattocks hit a quick shot within 30 seconds that went right of the post. Three minutes later, Erik Hurtado beat the Fire defense and was left alone against Fire keeper Sean Johnson. On the shot, Johnson made the leg save sending the ball out of harm's way. The Whitecaps kept the pressure up, attacking towards the Fire for the next 15 minutes. But they couldn't sustain the effort.
The Fire's best chance came in the 80th minute. Magee sent a pass to Quincy Amarikwa on the run and he fired a shot from the top of the box over the bar. Later, reserve Matt Fondy tried to hook up with Magee in the box, but the ball was knocked over the end line by the Whitecaps.
Johnson recorded his third clean sheet of the season, making two saves on Wednesday night. Vancouver's Ousted made two saves for a shutout.
"I thought we very organized," said Johnson of the Fire defense. "They didn't allow that many chances and kept everything in front of me. I thought we were able to play a bit more out of the back with a bit more of possession going forward."
Chicago returns home to face the Columbus Crew on Saturday, Aug. 2, while Vancouver will have some time off and host Sporting KC on Aug. 10.