The Fire, eagerly awaiting the arrival of new designated player Nery Castillo, took a positive step without him Tuesday night. Finally, it was able to defeat a non-Major League Soccer team.
Pumas UNAM of Mexico were the Fire's 1-0 victims before 9,429 at Toyota Park. The Fire had been 0-5 and had scored only one goal in its previous games against non-league opponents
Still, the Fire was out of the SuperLiga semifinals, win or lose.
''But the guys gutted it out,'' said assistant coach Mike Matkovich, who handled postgame interviews instead of coach Carlos de los Cobos. ''It didn't mean anything as far as us getting into the next round, but it was a good step in the right direction with a game against the best team in our league coming up.''
Losses to Monarcas Morelia, a Mexican club, and the New England Revolution, an MLS rival, left the Fire with little to play for. Pumas' slim chances of reaching next month's semifinals required a one-sided win over the Fire coupled with a Morelia loss at New England.
Morelia went down 1-0, as New England won the group with a 3-0-0 record. Morelia was 1-1-1, the Fire 1-2-0 and Pumas 0-2-1.
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