Fire, Guadalajara play to 1-1 draw

A 41st minute tally from veteran forward Brian McBride looked good enough to keep the Chicago Fire perfect in preseason but Guadalajara midfielder Adrián Domínguez struck late in second half stoppage time to give Chivas a share of the spoils in Thursday afternoon's friendly match played at the Mexican club's Verde Valle training facility.

Setting out in a 4-5-1 formation, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos employed a lineup that many would consider the projected starting 11 when the club opens the 2010 regular season March 27 at Red Bull New York. Their opponents put out a side mixed of first-team and reserve team players.

On loan from Mexican side Club Leon, the 7th minute saw Fire midfielder Julio Martinez connect on the end of a ball played over the top of the Guadalajara defense. In alone on goal, the Salvadoran international caught the Chivas netminder off his line but trickled a shot just wide left after rounding the goalkeeper.

The next chance came in the 24th minute when longtime Fire veteran Justin Mapp broke free down the right side before being chopped down just outside the Guadalajara penalty area, earning a free kick, which he ended up putting just over the Chivas goal.

Momentum shifted towards the home team midway through the first half, when the Fire committed a couple dangerous fouls close to the penalty area, though Chivas were unable to convert on their few chances.

The Fire struck first blood in the 41st minute following a string of combination passes between the back line and midfield, central defender Wilman Conde played a long ball over the Chivas defense, putting Brian McBride through one-on-one with the Chivas keeper. The retired U.S. international chipped the netminder with his first touch, putting the Fire up 1-0 going into the interval.

"We were happy overall with the performance in the first half," said Fire Technical Director Frank Klopas. "We had a few chances that could have us up comfortably going into halftime, but that's not what these matches are about - the players showed well, putting into practice the things we've been working on in training."

The second half saw wholesale changes to the Fire lineup, with de los Cobos putting out a mixed side of veterans, draftees and trialists. The first ten minutes were relatively uneventful, with a number of attempts to play trialing forward Collins John through on goal thwarted by the Chivas keeper coming quickly off his line each time.

In the 57th minute, a Chivas winger beat trialing defender O'Brian Woodbine down the right, ripping a low, hard shot to the left post. Substitute goalkeeper Sean Johnson was equal to the effort but was unable hang on to the ball, forcing a clearance from draftee Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Three minutes later, John nearly made it 2-0 after breaking through the Guadalajara defense but the Dutch striker cracked a right-footed drive off the crossbar from the top of the 18, the bar, keeping the score within the Mexican club's reach.

With the action slowing down midway through the second frame, de los Cobos continued to look for a second goal, using substitutions to bring on attacking players Patrick Nyarko, Drew Yates and Stefan Dimitrov in the 68th, 73rd and 83rd minutes, respectively.

The game got chippy as the Fire worked to keep possession with Chivas pressuring high, looking for the equalizer. The play saw defender Dasan Robinson and midfielder Peter Lowry picking up yellow cards.

Guadalajara continued to keep the Fire on their toes, sending an in-swinging free kick from the left, the ball grazed over Johnson's bar on 87 minutes. Three minutes later though, the Mexican side finally broke through when Adrián Domínguez struck a low, hard shot, beating Johnson to his right and earning the hosts a draw.

"The second performance we didn't see as much offense, but we're still pleased with the possession we saw," said Klopas. "This was a good game against a tough opponent and will be very helpful when it comes time for us to make roster decisions going forward."

The Fire will continue training in Guadalajara through March 4, with a friendly against an opponent to be confirmed on March 3.