A goal from Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa and a stout defensive performance lifted the Chicago Fire to victory over Toronto FC 1-0 to open the Carolina Challenge Cup at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C. Pappa tallied his third goal of the Fire’s 2011 preseason campaign and the Fire defense played a majority of the match down a man after Logan Pause was shown red for a tackle on Toronto FC midfielder Oscar Cordon in the 36th minute.
The Men in Red came out firing, pressing Toronto FC from the opening whistle. On the goal, Gaston Puerari began the buildup with a charging run in to space down the right side. The Uruguayan forward found an open Davis Paul with a searching ball across the goalmouth. Paul fed Pappa inside the 18-yard box and the Guatemalan struck the ball that took a deflection past TFC ‘keeper Stefan Frei and into the back of the net.
The Fire’s momentum for a second goal was slowed in the 36th minute when Pause tackled Cordon in the middle of the park. Toronto FC took umbrage with the Fire captain’s sliding effort and a slight scuffle broke out before cooler heads prevailed and Pause was shown straight red.
Reduced to 10 men, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos was forced to replace Puerari with newly signed Croatian midfielder Marko Maric.
The Fire’s defense proved the difference in both halves. The new-look Fire backline of Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic and Cory Gibbs withstood Toronto FC’s advances and limited TFC’s shot attempts on Sean Johnson’s goal throughout the match. In the second half, Bratislav Ristic and Gonzalo Segares teamed with Mikulic and Gibbs to preserve the Fire’s 1-0 victory. Johnson faced 10 shots in 90 minutes of play, but was only forced to make one save on the day.
The Fire will meet Eastern Conference rivals D.C. United in the second match of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Wednesday, March 9 at 4 PM CT. The match will be streamed live on Chicago-Fire.com and the club will provide live updates via Twitter at www.twitter.com/chicagofire.
The Fire host Opening Day at TOYOTA PARK against Sporting Kansas City on Saturday, March 26 at 3:00 PM CT. Chicago Fire Season Tickets and single game tickets are available by calling 1-888-MLS-FIRE (657-3473), via Ticketmaster or by heading to the club’s official website at Chicago-Fire.com. The Men in Red will begin their 14th MLS season during “First Kick” week when they travel to Dallas to challenge Brimstone Cup rivals and MLS Cup runners up FC Dallas at Pizza Hut Park on Saturday, March 19 at 7:30 PM CT.
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba (Gonzalo Segares 46’), Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs; Bratislav Ristic, Logan Pause, Baggio Husidic, Marco Pappa (Corben Bone 84’), Davis Paul (Patrick Nyarko 63’); Gaston Puerari (Marko Maric 39’, Michael Videira 50’), Diego Chaves (Gabriel Ferrari 79’)
Toronto FC: Stefan Frei; Dan Gargan, Nana Attakora, Mikael Yourassowsky (Matt Stinson 86’), Ashione Morgan (Andrew Ornoch 46’); Nick LaBrocca (Keith Makybuya 69), Oscar Cordon, Jacob Peterson (Nathan Sturgis 79), Javier Martina; Maicon Santos, Joao Plata (Nick Soolsma 46’)
CHI – Marco Pappa (Davis Paul, Gaston Puerari) 6’
TOR – Joao Plata (caution) 31’
TOR: Nick LaBrocca (caution) 33’
CHI: Logan Pause (ejection) 36’
TOR: Nick Soolsma (caution) 57’
TOR: Mikel Yourassowsky (caution) 67’