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09 July 12:13 pm

Full disclosure here: I saw the Twitter campaign the Chicago White Sox did to get Jake Peavy onto the American League All-Star team for tomorrow’s game.  #TakeJake made its way into the Fourth of July Parade and with Dave Kaplan on Chicago Tribune Live and I have to admit, I became a little envious.  

Though it didn’t exactly work (Peavy finished second in MLB Twitter voting to the Texas Rangers Yu Darvish), the Sox right-hander has reportedly replaced injured L.A. Angels southpaw C.J. Wilson on the All-Star team.

 

THE INVERTED WINGER: Patrick Nyarko

 
Last month Fire supporters did an amazing job in registering Twitter votes for the team’s six nominated MLS All-Stars. In a contest with Columbus, the Fire Twitter family quite frankly sent Crew fans back to the cow pasture from whence they came, outvoting them by a 3-1 margin. Though all the while, the victory seemed bittersweet as seemingly one of the team’s most deserving candidates wasn’t included.  
 
You see the journalists of North American soccer (who decided every team’s six All-Star nominees) fight the good fight, though like any other sport, they seem to recognize name a bit more than form or other contributions.
 
Cut to Patrick Nyarko, who over the past three seasons has become one of Major League Soccer’s most underrated players. Even when the side’s on-the-field play hasn’t been sub-par, the Ghanaian winger, forward (let’s just call him attacker?) has always provided danger and shown a constant threat in stretching and exposing the opposition’s defense.
 
A goal scorer he is not… Nyarko has only hit the back of the net nine times in his MLS career but he has found his role as a set up man providing 22 of his 24 league assists in the past three seasons. On top of that, Nyarko finished in the  Top 5 in the league in Big Chances Created (7) and Chances from the run of play (56) in 2011 and is currently tied with Javier Morales for Big Chances (7) and behind only Landon Donovan in Chances Created from the Run of Play (30 to 36). 
 
While speed is one of his best attributes, the most impressive quality that he’s gained over the past 12 months has been his ability to navigate through defenses, maintaining possession of the ball almost as if it never leaves his foot. 
 
Those qualities combined with the fact that Nyarko is fouled a lot (he’s been Top 10 in fouls suffered each of the past two seasons) and still finds a way to get back up is impressive and draws a lot of comparisons to former Fire winger DaMarcus Beasley. Moreover, he currently sits behind only countryman Dominic Oduro for consecutive league appearances at 41.
 
The Ghanaian national team recognized Nyarko’s effort earlier this year when he received his first call-up for the Black Stars in a 1-1 friendly draw with Chile back in February. Coming on as a second-half sub in that match, by all accounts Ghana could have easily won if only they’d found a way to finish one of the many chances created by Nyarko.
 
So while there is no Twitter vote left for the #MLSAllStar’s game vs. Chelsea, there is a chance to make an appeal to the two men who will decide the remaining players to fill out the league squad.
 
Over the next few days I’ll post my open letters to MLS All-Star Head Coach Ben Olsen and League Commissioner Don Garber, laying out the case for a player that has often been overlooked but is deserving of such an honor this season. 
 
Knowing how active Fire fans are in the Twitter-verse, I call on all of Fire nation to send your #PickPat messages to @DCUnited and @TheSoccerDon. Heck, send them over to @MLS_Insider and all your friends too. 
 

Spread the word,
 

 

05 July 12:37 pm

One-named players in the game of soccer are almost exclusively Brazilian. Going by a single name is almost a rite of passage for anyone that learned to play “joga bonito” growing up and its no different for new Fire arrival Alex who didn’t take long to put the Brazilian flare on display in last Friday’s 1-0 victory at Sporting KC.

While Alex shows promise, I thought it a smart exercise to detail the other Major League Soccer’s other one-named players that Alex  should look to as an example.

The Good 

Welton (New England, 1996; LA Galaxy, 1997-99; Miami 1999-00) - One of my sentimental favorites, Welton (pictured right) never really won a title in MLS and but #OldSchoolMLSFans will remember him as one of the most successful one-namers in league history (as well as a constant on my early MLS Fantasy team).

A traveling man of sorts, the Rio native would tally 43 goals and 34 assists over 144 career matches for New England, LA and Miami. He twice hit for double-digit goals in a season, scoring 11 goals in 1997 and 17 goals in 1998 for the Galaxy.

Fire fans will probably remember him best for ruining Zach Thornton’s shutout bid in the 2000 U.S. Open Cup Final with his 90th minute strike, which was the last goal he would score for an MLS side.

Camilo (Vancouver, 2011-present) – The midfielder led the Whitecaps with 12 goals and three assists over 32 matches in the club’s inaugural MLS campaign last season. His scoring pace is slightly slower this season with only three goals and two assists but he’s aided Vancouver to third place in the West at the half way point.

Preki (Kansas City 1996-2000, 2002-05; Miami 2001) – The best one-namer in league history isn’t even Brazilian. Preki’s (right) story is well known… a Yugoslavian indoor star who made his way back to Europe to play for Everton and Portsmouth before returning stateside to carve out one of the top careers in MLS history.

Spending all but one of his 10 MLS seasons in Kansas City, Preki amassed 79 goals and 112 assists in 242 games from 1996-2005, winning one MLS Cup (2000), two Supporters Shields (2000 KC; 2001 Miami) and one U.S. Open Cup (2004). He was twice named MLS Most Valuable Player in 1997 and 2003 and had four seasons in which he hit double-digit goals (scoring 18 in 1996).

Oh he also scored the United States’ only game-winning goal against Brazil.

Preki was good, that’s all. 

Juninho (LA Galaxy, 2010-present) – There have been more than a few Juninho’s before the Galaxy’s Juninho Paulista came onto the MLS scene but the central midfielder has proven to be one of the best one-namers ever in MLS. Since coming to the Galaxy on loan from Sao Paulo in 2010, Juninho has appeared in 72 matches, tallying seven goals and five assists while helping the Gals to a Supporters Shield and the team’s third MLS Cup last season.

Thiago (Chicago Fire, 2005-2007) – No Fire list of one-name players could ever be complete without Alex’s precursor at the club, Thiago (photo right). After impressing on a trial in 2004, the Porto Alegre product joined the Fire in 2005 and would go on to tally six goals and seven assists during his first season in Chicago.

The following year, he would bag just three goals and two assists in the league but wrote his name into Fire lore for his late-game, close-range tap-in to send Toyota Park into pandemonium as the Fire clinched their MLS-record fourth U.S. Open Cup title with a 3-1 victory over the LA Galaxy on September 23, 2006.

With diminished playing time in 2007, Thiago was released by the Fire that September. Now 30, he’s bounced around Brazil’s lower leagues, winning the Campeanato Gaucho Segunda Divisao with hometown club Porto Alegre in 2009 and currently plays for Sao Luiz de Ijui. 

 

03 July 9:24 am

Happy Tuesday Matchday! The Chicago Fire travel to Houston for their first-ever match at BBVA Compass Stadium tonight at 7:30pm CT LIVE on NBC 5.2 (Channel Finder) and 97.5FM ESPN Deportes Radio.  

Here are five things to know heading into tonight’s Fourth of July-eve match…

1) FOUR GAME WINNING STREAKS…  With a victory tonight in Houston, the Fire would achieve the club’s first four-game MLS regular season winning streak since June and July 2005 when the team took down Real Salt Lake (3-1), D.C. United (4-3), Chivas USA (1-0) and New England (1-0). 

 

PREVIEW: Fire at Dynamo

 
It’s been seven years since it’s happened and even then two of the opponents were expansion teams with only the win against Chivas coming on the road. IF the Frank Klopas’ side is victorious tonight, this streak will be more impressive as it will have come against two teams higher in the standings (New York, Sporting KC) with two matches in difficult environments (Sporting KC and Houston).
 
IF the Fire win tonight, it would mark just the seventh time in 15 years that the team has strung together a four-game winning streak. It happened twice in 1998, once in 2000, twice again in 2001 and not again since 2005. A win tonight would not only be good from an historic perspective but would also move the side into third place in the Eastern Conference.
 
2) WHAT A WIN TONIGHT WOULD MEAN… Aside from equaling a little bit of history, a win tonight would also equal the team’s total victories (nine) achieved over the course of 34 games during each of the past two seasons. 
 
3) FIRST TIME IN A NEW STADIUM… Thankfully and for what seems like the first time in a while, the Fire aren’t the team having to open a brand new MLS stadium. Tonight will however mark the team’s first visit to BBVA Compass Stadium where the Dynamo are unbeaten (4-0-2) since opening their new downtown facility with a 1-0 victory over D.C. United on May 12. 
 
But let’s keep this about the Fire, who are 9-15-7 all-time in their first match at an MLS stadium. The last time the team won in this instance was a 1-0 victory against San Jose in a one-off match for attendance purposes at McAfee Coliseum on April 12, 2008. In a more permanent venue, the last time the Fire won in this instance came with another 1-0 victory in the Dynamo’s first home, Robertson Stadium on May 20, 2006. 
 
4) 50th CONSECUTIVE… Last season Fire forward Dominic Oduro scored his team-leading 12th goal in his first return to Houston since being traded to the Dynamo by the Fire following the first week of the MLS campaign. IF he steps on the field in his second return to Houston tonight, he’ll make his 50th consecutive appearance for the Fire. The current Fire “iron man” has appeared in every regular season match since joining the team last March, providing 17 goals and four assists. 
 
Who’s next closest to Dom in consecutive appearances? Fellow Ghanaian Patrick Nyarko who is set to make his 40th straight appearance tonight.
 
5) 25 GOALS FOR MARCO… Marco Pappa has sort of quietly wrote his name into the Fire history books over through the first half of the season. Since the start of the season, the Guatemalan international has moved from ninth on the club’s all-time MLS goal scoring list all the way to fifth with his game-winner Friday night. his  and with one more goal will tie inaugural Ring of Fire inductee Piotr Nowak for fourth on the list at 26. Two more goals will make Pappa the all-time leading scorer among Fire midfielders.  
 
02 July 4:07 pm

I remember my 15th birthday like it was yesterday. I woke up early and went to the DMV with my mom to secure my Learner’s Permit – gaining the ability to drive (with supervision) was a true right of passage growing up just outside of the Motor City. 

Coming up later this year, October 8 to be exact, the Chicago Fire officially turn 15 years old and to celebrate our Quinceñara, we’ll be counting down the 15 most memorable matches, goals and top players in Fire history, as part of our #Fire15 series.


We started last Friday by posting this video counting down Games #13-15 on our list. We’ll have a video each week in the above categories as we lead up to our 15th Anniversary celebration to be held Wednesday, October 3 against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park. 

#Fire15: Memorable Matches 13-15

#15  -  Chicago Fire 2, New York Red Bulls 0 - June 25, 2006   MLS Regular Season - Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
 
In the Grand Opening match of Toyota Park, a capacity of 20,133 watched their Chicago Fire take on the New York Red Bulls in Major League Soccer’s newest soccer-specific venue.
The players responded to the enthusiastic crowd and captain Chris Armas put the Fire ahead in the 12th minute by jumping on a bouncing ball at the top of the Red Bull box. New York ‘keeper Tony Meola got a hand on the shot, but it wasn’t enough as the ball slowly rolled past the goal line. Later, 
Brazilian Fire midfielder Thiago capped off the day by making a diagonal run into the Red Bull box and beating the goalkeeper with a low, powerful shot (69’) to ice the match at 2-0.
 
#14  -  Chicago Fire 4, Dallas Burn 3 - May 24, 2000  -  MLS Regular Season -  Soldier Field, Chicago, IL
 
Before any of the scoring occurred in this match, Fire defender and current TV Analyst Evan Whitfield was ejected from the match in the 15th minute. With the man advantage, Dallas would open the scoring with a 37th minute goal from Jorge Rodriguez but the Fire would pull level when the Burn’s Richard Farrer redirected his clearing header into to his own net just before the half. The Burn pulled back ahead in the second half, adding two more goals from Jason Kreis (57’) and Chad Deering (63’). 
 
Down 3-1, the Fire looked like they were heading for an inevitable loss at home. Ante Razov, however, began the counter crusade with a goal in the 79th minute. Entering pandemonium, Dema Kovalenko tied the affair with one minute left in the match. The Fire were not content with a draw and kept pushing up the field, receiving a glorious stoppage time winner from Ante Razov (91+’) to close the book on one of the best comebacks in club history.
 
#13  - Chicago Fire 1, LA Galaxy 0  October 21, 2007  -  MLS Regular Season -  Toyota Park, Bridgeview, IL
 
After a slow start to the 2007 campaign which resulted in the firing of head coach Dave Sarachan midseason, the Fire rebounded under Juan Carlos Osorio to make a late playoff push. As a result of their strong form, the team needed just a draw in this match on the final day of the regular season and would control the lion’s share of this meeting having outshot the Galaxy 10-1 by the end of the match. 
 
Playing in front of a sellout crowd of 21,374, the Fire saw great chances from Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Chad Barrett and Wilman Conde go begging. Just as it looked like the team would back-in to the playoffs with a 0-0 draw, then-rookie forward Calen Carr popped up the ball over the Galaxy’s back line to an unmarked John Thorrington. The former Manchester United midfielder chested down the bouncing ball and with one touch chipped the LA ‘keeper Joe Cannon to give the Fire a dramatic win in the 93rd minute.

 

 

 

29 June 11:37 am

Coming off a Thursday in which the club saw a favored U-18 side bow out of the U.S. Soccer Development Academy National Playoffs, the U-16s resurrected the chance Friday, with a 2-1 group finale win over Real Salt Lake-Arizona to advance to next month’s National Finals in Houston.

The two teams entered Friday morning’s match with identical 2-0-0 records but RSL-Arizona held the second tie breaker with eight goals scored to the Fire’s seven, meaning the Boys in Red would have to win the match outright to advance.

Larry Sunderland’s side struck first blood when Collin Fernandez broke up a play in the attacking end, worked up the right and slotted a ball across for Jeff Farina who coolly slipped his fifth goal of the tournament past the RSL keeper in the 26th minute to take the Fire into the half up 1-0.

The side would find some more breathing room in the 63rd when Christian Hennock received the ball after a build up out of the back, strode towards goal up the right put a ball in leaving Marcus Epps an easy opportunity to knock home his fourth of the tournament and give the Fire a two-goal advantage.

Needing just two goals to advance, RSL poured on the pressure in the final 15 minutes and pulled one back in the 70th when a ball knocked across the box was redirected into the back of the net by a Fire player to take things to 2-1.

Despite the goal, the team was able to sustain the remaining pressure and grind out the 2-1 result to finish a perfect 3-0-0 atop what was deemed the tournament’s “Group of Death”. Together Farina and Epps accounted for all nine of the team’s goals in the three matches.

“RSL pushed very well at the end there,” said Sunderland. “I think being based in Arizona, they dealt with the heat much better than us and pressed us a lot longer. They’re a very good team but we did well to finish the chances we created and then completed it with a strong defensive performance.”

The win makes the Fire U-16s one of eight qualifiers to the U.S.S.D.A. Finals next month in Houston where the team will take part in another round-robin tournament, with the group winners playing for national title.

“Navigating this group and beating a team like RSL to qualify -- we have to take a lot of confident from that with us into the finals next month,” continued Sunderland. “I’m very proud of the way this team has performed and peaked just at the right time.”

Chicago Fire U16/U18 Academy Playoff Results

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) 3-0 W
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) 1-3 L
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) 2-1 W

 

29 June 8:29 am

1) FIRE LOVE NBC SPORTS… If you didn’t already know, tonight’s match can be seen LIVE on NBC Sports Network and that’s a good thing for the Fire. The side has won both previous matches on the national sports network earlier this season (3-2 at Toronto April 21; 3-1 vs. New York June 17) and had three different players score in both matches. Will the good ride on NBC Sports continue tonight?

2) GRAZZINI OPTION PICKED UP, ALEX ELIGIBLE FOR DEBUT… It was announced Thursday that Sebastian Grazzini’s option to stay with the Fire has been picked up by the club but the Argentine midfielder wouldn’t be in the 18 because of a lack of training this week. That all coincides quite well with Brazilian attacker Alex, who trained with the side the past three weeks, now being eligible for the team upon the opening this week of the summer transfer window.
 
3) WHETHER OR NOT WE SEE HIM START… It’s probably not likely that Alex will slot directly into the starting lineup to replace Grazzini in his debut. The most likely to move into the attacking hole would be Chris Rolfe, who has replaced Grazzini in the position in each of the past two matches. The returning veteran looked best there on June 17 against New York when he scored the icing goal and setup what should have been a Dominic Oduro goal from the spot.
 
Other options include Rafael Robayo, who played in the spot on May 26 in Columbus and Daniel Paladini who has filled in previously when Grazzini was injured.
 
4) SEGARES RED CARD… Fire defender Gonzalo Segares will miss Friday night’s match after receiving a straight red card for a mis-timed challenge on Tony Tchani in Saturdays 2-1 victory over Columbus. The third red card of the Costa Rican international’s MLS career, the Fire have actually faced Kansas City before when Segares was suspended from an ejection in the previous match. The team earned  a 2-0 win over the Kansas Wizards on August 25, 2007 after Sega was ejected in the 66th minute of a 3-2 loss (also against Kansas City) three days earlier…
 
5) THE LEFT (and right) BACK QUESTION…  Segares last missed a match to suspension (yellow card accumulation) on September 10 last season, falling 2-0 at San Jose at the small pitch at Buck Shaw Stadium. In that match, first-choice right back Dan Gargan played on the left while midfielder Logan Pause replaced him on the right. That was the same shift Frank Klopas made to the Fire back line after Segares’ sending off Saturday but is it good for 90 minutes?
 
Fire rookie Hunter Jumper is a natural left back but is he ready for his first start? If not, Gargan likely moves back to the left for this one. 
 
If that’s the case, who does Klopas use on the right? In the 2-0 loss at Colorado, we saw earlier this year how much not having Pause in midfield to break up attacks hurt the team. With Arne Friedrich back, is it prudent to instead move Jalil Anibaba back out to the right and leave the captain in the middle of the park? Is Friedrich good to go 90 minutes?
 
The decisions across the back will be the most interesting to come out tonight…
 
PREVIEW: Chicago Fire at Sporting KC
28 June 11:04 am

Germans and baseball? In this edition of Touchline TV, Brendan Hannan talks to Arne Friedrich prior to his first pitch at the Cubs game on Tuesday, with Arne questioning why there isn't a batter at the plate for his ceremonial throw.

The TLTV Crew then follows the big German as well as teammates Dominic Oduro and Dan Gargan for the practicing and eventual traditional singing of "Take Me Out to the Ballgame" during the seventh inning stretch at Wrigley. 

28 June 9:12 am

U-18s Have Nothing to Lose in Today’s Group Final vs. Home-Standing Solar SC

The Fire U-18s had the day off Wednesday to rest and prepare for this morning’s tournament finale vs. group leaders Solar Chelsea SC. The Dallas-based side leads the group with six points from two matches and needs just a draw in this morning’s game to advance to next month’s national finals.

The plot is much more difficult for the Fire, who have gone 1-1-0 through the first two and need a 3-0 win over Solar combined with Concorde Fire not winning by four or more goals over Alberston SC.

“We have our game plan in place”, said Sunderland. “The team knows we have a bit job ahead of us this morning and this group has long done well to make things interesting for themselves. This could be the last match with the Fire Academy for some of these guys and I don’t think they want that.”

Follow live updates of today’s U-18 group finale vs. Solar Chelsea FC can be found @ChiFireMatch beginning at 11am CT. 

U-16s Down Seattle Sounders FC 3-0 Wednesday to go 2-0-0 in Group 4

The Chicago Fire U-16s took a giant step towards a place in the Development Academy national finals Wednesday night with an emphatic 3-0 victory over Seattle Sounders FC Academy in Frisco, Texas.

For the second game in a row it was Jeff Farina who opened the scoring for the Fire as Colin Fernandez cut in from the left side to feed the forward who slotted the ball back across goal in the 20th minute.

The Fire would make it 2-0 in the 31st minute when Martin Alba sent a ball from the left to Farina who then floated it back over Sounders FC keeper Connor Adkisson and into the back of the net.

Having already put their mark on the match, the Fire would ice the game in the 52nd minute when Christian Hennock’s cross from the right found Marcus Epps at the top of the 18. The Mississippi Fire Juniors product sent a bending, one-time chip to the bottom right corner to end the scoring at 3-0.

Farina (four) and Epps (three) have combined for all seven of the team’s goals at the tournament.

With the win, the Fire sit tied atop Group 4 on six points with Real Salt Lake Arizona who downed Clearwater Chargers 4-1 in Tuesday’s other match. Though the teams sit tied with a +5 goal difference, RSL-AZ holds the second tie breaker, having scored eight goals to the Fire’s seven.

What does that all mean? Friday’s group finale between the squads is purely a “win and you’re in” scenario for the Fire while a draw would be enough for RSL to advance to the national finals. The game kicks off at 9am CT Friday, with LIVE updates @ChiFireMatch.  

“The 16s are feeling pretty good right now,” said Academy Director Larry Sunderland. “I felt before the tournament that this team might peaking just at the right time. We know what we have to do in Friday’s match and we know it will be much more difficult than the first two. RSL is a residency program which brings in players from throughout the country but we think we match up well with them.”

DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW/RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) 3-0 W
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch

 

27 June 4:49 pm

Daniel Paladini and defender Hunter Jumper took time out last week to answer questions for the Chicago Fire Kids Club newsletter, powered by American Family Insurance.

Check out their interesting answers to Kids Club member questions below and be sure to sign your young Fire fan up for the Kids Club for awesome giveaways at home matches, exclusive player autograph sessions and much more! Best part is it's FREE! Register here.

27 June 9:15 am

U-16s Open with 4-2 Win Over Clearwater

Tuesday was the Chicago Fire Academy’s busiest day at the U.S. Soccer Development Academy Playoffs in Frisco, Texas as both the U-16 and U-18 sides were in action and came away victorious to keep hopes of advancement to next month’s national finals alive.
 
In the mid-afternoon 100+ Texas heat, the U-16 Academy opened their playoff run with a 4-2 victory over Clearwater Chargers (FL) in a match that saw the two sides trade the first four goals back and forth. 
 
Dealing with the weather conditions, the Fire went ahead 1-0 when Mississippi Fire Juniors product Marcus Epps fed Jeff Farina through in the 12th minute. Seven minutes later Clearwater would respond of what was described by Fire Academy Director Larry Sunderland as “a long bomb”.
 
The Fire would get a bomb of their own from Epps on a 25-yard effort that screamed inside the bottom right corner in the 34th but Clearwater would again respond two minutes later to take things to 2-2.
 
“The heat here is incredible and is having a great effect on the play,” said Sunderland. “Through the first two goals, it looked as if both teams were playing five men on each side off the field and not playing with any type of midfield. We both looked tired 20 minutes into an 80-minute match.”
 
Luckily for the Fire, the team pulled away just before the half when AJ Jeffries slotted Farina into the box with a diagonal ball and the striker coolly finished for his second of the night in the 39th minute. Just after the break, Christian Henock was chopped down in the area to draw a penalty kick which Epps stepped up and finished in the 43rd.
 
With a two-goal lead in hand and taking advantage of a tired Clearwater team, the Fire possessed throughout the rest of the second half to kill of the game and take a 4-2 opening victory. With the result, the U-16s sit tied on three points with Real Salt Lake Arizona atop Group 4 who scored a matching 4-2 victory Tuesday over Seattle Sounders FC. 
 
The U-16s will look to move to six points when they take on Sounders FC at 6:30pm CT tonight in Frisco, Texas. Follow the game LIVE @ChiFireMatch
U-18s Leave it Late to Rebound from Opening Defeat 2-1 over Albertson
 
In what was another physical match against a bigger opponent, a smaller Fire U-18s side earned a hard-fought 2-1 victory over Albertson SC (New York) to keep their hopes for advancement to the National Finals alive Tuesday night.
 
Knowing the team needed a victory, the U-18s braved the heat, spreading the ball around to create opportunities but Albertson, who dropped their initial match 4-1 to Solar Chelsea Monday night resorted to long-ball and physical tactics to keep things scoreless at the break.
 
The Fire pressed the issue in the match after the break and thought they’d earned a sure penalty in the 72nd minute when forward Andrew Oliver navigated through three defenders into the box before being shoved from behind but no call was given.
 
The situation would be resurrected five minutes later when Manny Rios received the ball on the right and entered the box on the run before being hauled down. 
 
Fire midfielder Victor Pineda stepped up to the penalty spot and channeling Andrea Pirlo on Sunday, cheekily chipped his penalty effort right down the middle and just over the line to give the team a 1-0 lead.
 
“At that point in the match, when we’d played better soccer and things hadn’t been called, I didn’t mind Victor making a statement with his penalty,” said Sunderland. “We know Victor’s abilities and I don’t think it’s a bad thing for the club to have a player with the confidence in himself to do something like that.”
 
The Fire would stave off an equalizer in the 82nd minute when defender Dan Lojek cleared a ball off the line but Albertson would equalize in the 87th. 
 
Staring elimination in the face, late second half sub Manny Chavez would find the stoppage time winner for the Fire when he picked up a loose ball 25-yards out of the box and sent a looping effort that tucked inside the bottom right corner to clinch a 2-1 victory.
 
“The 18s haven’t played our best soccer of late but Tuesday night it felt we got our game back a little bit,” continued Sunderland. “Guys are excited and feel good about having to get three goals on Thursday.”
 
Sunderland refers to the scenario by which the U-18 side would find its way to the top of the group after Solar Chelsea defeated the Concorde Fire 2-0 in the day’s other group match. The Fire would need to defeat the Dallas-based club in the group finale Thursday at 11am CT (LIVE @ChiFireMatch) and hope Concorde doesn’t win by four clear goals in their finale vs. Albertson.
 
“I told them last night, since we’ve had these guys when they were 15 and 16, they always liked to make things interesting on themselves. We’ve scored three goals before and Solar’s given up three goals – we have nothing to lose on Thursday.”
DATE TIME CHICAGO FIRE OPPONENT FOLLOW/RESULTS
6/25 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Concorde Fire (GA) 1-2 L
6/26 4:00pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Clearwater Chargers (FL) 4-2 W
6/26 8:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-18 Albertson SC (NY) 2-1 W
6/27 6:30pm CT Chicago Fire U-16 Seattle Sounders FC (WA) @ChiFireMatch
6/28 11:00am CT Chicago Fire U-18 Solar Chelsea SC (TX) @ChiFireMatch
6/29 9:00am CT Chicago Fire U-16 Real Salt Lake (AZ) @ChiFireMatch