The Chicago Fire Player Development Department took a major bow this week with three big victories over longtime rivals the Michigan Bucks (PDL) and Chicago Magic (Academy).
Wednesday night, both the Fire U16 and U18 Academy teams downed their cross-town rivals with matching 1-0 score lines at Brother Rice High School in Chicago.
Getting the night started, the Fire U18’s played a strong game, allowing the side to create a number chances but failed to find the back of the net in the first half. Coming out of the gate in the second frame, the Fire buildup towards goal improved and they got their marker when Midfielder Patrick Doody’s left footed free kick beat Magic goalkeeper Miles Herbert in the 60th minute.
The Magic’s attempts at an equalizer were thwarted and the Fire U18s came away 1-0 victors with Tom Serratore earning the clean sheet in net.
The U16 match that followed was a much more chippy affair, seeing four Magic players shown red cards by the end of the 90 minutes. The result and the goal were much the same as the U18s match with Victor Pineda’s free kick on the cusp of halftime holding through the rest of the match. Robert Euler stood tall in the Fire goal to earn a matching clean sheet.
“You take pride in winning games against a local rival,” said Academy Head Coach Larry Sunderland. “We obviously look to compete more with the Academy sides from MLS teams but this one is important as well. I thought through long stretches of both matches we played some very good soccer and stayed out of the physicality that the Magic were trying to bring. I’m very proud of our guys for their performance and now we look ahead to the possibility of both teams qualifying for the playoffs this weekend.”
Thursday night the Fire PDL welcomed long-time rivals the Michigan Bucks to the Toyota Park Turf Field, coming away 2-1 winners over their Great Lakes Division foes.
In a tale of two halves, the Detroit-based side probably should have gone into the interval with the lead, having dominated the first half shot count 8-2. Fire goalkeeper Patrick Meves made all three of his saves in the first half and was strong off his line claiming a number of dangerous Bucks crosses.
The Bucks finally capitalized on their first half performance when 2006 Fire SuperDraft selection Simon Omekanda broke up the right side and sent a low cross to Rubin Bega who buried the chance past Meves in the 54th minute.
Nine minutes later the Fire responded on a similar play when defender Sam Redmond’s cross found Domenic Barone, netting his second goal of the PDL campaign in the 63rd minute.
In a physical affair that saw a number of tough challenges the two clubs traded blows, with Michigan leading in the yellow card count 4-1. As the 90th minute loomed the Fire began to takeover offensively, earning two of their three corner kicks in second half stoppage time.
Bucks goalkeeper Mitch Hildebrandt made a number of save to keep the match level but it was a former teammate that proved too much for the Oakland University backstop.
Teammates with the Kalamazoo Outrage during the 2009 PDL season, Fire striker Tom Oatley rocketed a shot at Hildebrandt which the Michigan keeper bobbled, resulting in the ball falling to the feet of Mark Blades. The Fire left back, turned wing midfielder finished the chance from close range in the 93rd minute of play, giving the home team an invaluable three points.
“Games against the Bucks are always intense and this one was no different,” said PDL Associate Coach Mark Spooner. “It’s a game where we didn’t always have the best of the play but we learned a lot about our guys tonight after two disappointing results last week with Cleveland Cincinnati. They battled to the very end, knowing three points was available and we’re proud to take the win.”
With the result, the Fire PDL side moves to 12-6-1 all-time against the Bucks since 2001. The victory also puts the team at 3-1-1 and second in the PDL Great Lakes Division, just one point behind the Dayton Dutch Lions. The side will take on the Kalamazoo Outrage on Saturday night at 7:30pm for the return leg of the two club’s 2010 series. The Fire downed the west Michigan side 2-0 in their opening match on May 19.