The Chicago Fire Super-20 team sits tied atop Group A with four points after playing their first two group matches of the 2010 USL Super-20 North American Finals in Rockford on Thursday.
Because of an uneven amount of 11 teams present at the Finals this year, the Fire’s group is being contested by three teams, playing each other twice in abbreviated 60-minute games.
One of the favorites coming into the tournament with a perfect 10-0-0 regular season record, the Fire opened their fourth straight Super-20 Finals with an emphatic 5-0 win over Alpharetta United (GA).
The Fire got things started in the 14th minute and never looked back after Javier Torres buried a feed from Harrison Petts.
Six minutes later the Fire kept up the pressure and were rewarded when Callum Mallace finished a set piece to take the match to 2-0.
Just before halftime, Ethan Finlay streaked into the box
from the right and cut back a pass to Greg Jordan who made no mistake in
finishing past the United keeper, sending the match into half time at
After the interval, the Fire continued the onslaught, holding a majority of the possession while threatening the United goal a number of times.
The side added a fourth goal with 15 minutes remaining when Finlay’s redirected free kick fell at the feet of a streaking Harrison Petts who finished calmly to raise the score line to 4-0.
Just before full time, substitute midfielder Felipe Carrasco hit a low-driven shot that tucked just inside the bottom right corner of the United goal to finish the match at 5-0.
“Our game this morning was a good outing for us,” said Super-20’s head coach Larry Sunderland. “We jumped on them early, we moved the ball around well and we made sure we made the most of our time with these shortened halves. Once we got the first goal we settled in and it was simple from there.”
Things went differently in Game 2 Thursday afternoon as the Fire took the first blemish to their record on the year, drawing 1-1 with Beachside FC (CT).
Though the club held the majority of the first half possession, it was the New England-based club that drew first blood when Beachside striker Scott Brown pounced on Krystian Witkowski’s poorly hit back pass to goalkeeper Jordan Godsey. The Fairfield University striker rounded Godsey and finished easily into the open net in the 12th minute.
Frustrated but undeterred, the Fire responded with two quality chances within 10 minutes of each other.
Midfielder Ethan Finlay’s cross from the right drove through the box but left back Callum Mallace put the ball back in, finding Finlay whose low effort was saved on the line by defender David Barna in the 19th minute.
Just before the half, Harrison Petts cutback back a pass to Javier Torres, but the striker’s sliding attempt went just over goalkeeper Sergio Lara’s cross bar.
The Fire came out into the second half with composure, holding the lion’s share of possession but didn’t get a quality chance until midfielder Jaymie Bullard’s half-volley from 25 yards out was saved by Lara in the 38th minute.
After a few yellow cards were handed out to Milan Tica and Greg Jordan in the 41st and 44th minutes respectively, the Fire finally found the back of the net when Finlay broke up the left wing and centered a left-footed pass across goal which Torres first-timed into the back of the net, evening things at 1-1 after 48 minutes.
Looking for the go-ahead goal late, Finlay again played Torres through on goal up the left, with the striker forcing an impressive save out of Lara. His rebound effort trickled just wide of the right post and the referee blew the final whistle seconds later.
“We came out flat this afternoon,” said Sunderland. “I didn’t think our intensity was what it should have been after winning 5-0 this morning. Beachside is a physical, run-and-gun, very direct team, which on the small fields tend to favor. They managed to take advantage of our mistake in the first half and just battled and made it hard for us to find any sort of a rhythm. Credit to them, they did a great job in breaking up our play.”
The result moved both teams into a tie atop Group A with four points following Beachside’s 4-2 win over Alpharetta United earlier Thursday afternoon. Though tied on points, the Fire currently hold the tiebreaker with a +5 goal difference compared to Beachside’s +2.
The two sides will meet again Friday afternoon at 1pm, before the Fire take on Alpharetta United again at 5pm.