CHARLESTON, S.C. -- Even with a few new faces on the field, the Fire showed they were able to do what they so often did last season, coming back from a 1-0 deficit to defeat the Houston Dynamo 3-2 Saturday night in the opening game of the Carolina Challenge Cup.
“We gave up two goals so I think we need to look at that and improve in certain situations but I was happy with the opportunities we created,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas. “We scored some very nice goals and had a few opportunities to get a couple more.”
RELEASE: Fire down Dynamo 3-2
After an early free kick from Adam Moffat put the Fire behind in the 14th minute, the team did well to respond 10 minutes later as Dilly Duka played a great ball to put Sherjill MacDonald into the box before the Dutchman finished past Dynamo ‘keeper Tally Hall for his first goal of preseason.
The Fire took the lead minutes later as Patrick Nyarko broke up the right and centered for Duka, where the new Fire winger caused an own goal in the 27th minute.
Playing in just his second match since being traded from Columbus, Duka improved off his debut last Saturday vs. San Jose, working well up the left flank and showing why Klopas was keen on bringing him to Chicago.
“We know that in the final third he’s a very good one-on-one player,” said the Fire manager. “He can beat defenders and create for himself and his teammates. He’s got the willingness, his attitude has been fantastic and he works hard.”
The Fire would take the 2-1 lead into the break and threatened immediately when substitute right back Jalil Anibaba’s cross picked out Chris Rolfe whose snap header forced a diving save from Hall in the 47th minute.
On the ensuing corner kick from Joel Lindpere, the Estonian connected with his midfield partner Jeff Larentowicz who headed back across goal to give the Fire a 3-1 lead in the 48th minute.
Following the goal, the Dynamo pushed back and after a great save from Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was put out for a corner kick, Cam Weaver would head home for Houston and take the Chicago lead back to one goal.
The Fire had their chances to close out the match, with the best being Maicon Santos penalty kick that was well saved by Hall.
In the end, the missed opportunity didn’t matter as the Fire came away with a 3-2 victory. While production on two of the three goals came from Klopas’ new signings in midfield, the Fire manager pointed to the overall team effort in victory.
“I feel good about the depth in the team. Those guys are good, quality players. This is only preseason but I like where we are at now compared to the past couple seasons at this point.
"Still, we have a lot of work to do."
* With the victory, the Fire move to 3-1-1 in preseason and 2-1-1 against MLS opponents.
* Fire left back Gonzalo Segares left the game in the 31st minute after suffering an ankle injury which was not deemed to be serious.
* When Segares came out of the match, the Frank Klopas interestingly shifted captain Logan Pause to left back as substitute Jalil Anibaba filled in on the right.
* Jeff Larentowicz's 48th minute goal was his second straight in preseason for the Fire after notching a late, game-winning penalty in last Saturday's 1-0 win over San Jose. With two goals, Larentowicz sits tied with 2013 SuperDraft selection Yazid Atouba for the team lead in preseason.
* The only unsigned player to appear for the Fire Saturday night, Atouba continued to impress in the offensive end, drawing the penalty kick in the 81st minute.
* Though he didn't play for the Fire Saturday night, trialing French defender Pascal Chimbonda is expected to play in Sunday's reserve match against Coastal Carolina (Follow @ChiFireMatch beginning at 12pm CT).
* With Vancouver's matching 3-2 victory over Charleston in the night's second game, the Fire currently sit tied with the Whitecaps on three points atop of the round-robin table. The Fire will face Charleston in Wednesday's second match beginning at 6:15pm CT, live on USLNation.com.