BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- From the first whistle of Wednesday night’s 3-2 international friendly defeat to Club America, the Chicago Fire looked like they’d be on the back foot. Two forced saves out of Fire ‘keeper Paolo Tornaghi inside the first five minutes saw to that.
If the early barrage wasn’t enough, the sellout crowd of 20,042, a large majority of which were Club America supporters, made things even more difficult on the actual home side.
The fact that Club America came to Toyota Park as reigning Liga MX champs didn’t deter Fire head coach Frank Klopas from putting out a mostly reserve lineup.
“We had a stretch of a lot of games and a lot of guys, their recovery has been tough,” said Klopas. “We’re going to have a tough stretch coming up and there are certain guys with the data that we had were not fully recovered and there was risk if we played them too many minutes we may have injured them.”
So a Fire side that started just three regulars showed resilience through the opening moments and struck first when Maicon Santos swung a cross to Daniel Paladini at the back post who whipped the ball back across goal and in the right side netting in the 19th minute.
It didn’t last long though when Aguilas Luis Gabriel Rey cleaned up from close range on a set piece in the 25th minute to take the teams into the half knotted 1-1.
Both sides made significant changes beginning at halftime with the Fire entering notables Shaun Francis and Victor Pineda. Francis, a Jamaican defender who officially signed and received his visa clearance hours before kickoff, entered for Gonzalo Segares, earning his first audition for potentially filling in for the suspended Costa Rican international in Sunday’s match at Vancouver.
Homegrown midfielder Pineda, who has yet to make his competitive debut, provided good second half moments as he hopes to step on the field for the Fire in an official match before season’s end.
America continued to dominate the game and two second half penalties for Christian Bermudez (63rd) and Antonio Lopez (83rd) put the Fire to their end fate but not before an unlikely goal from Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald in second half stoppage time.
The striker was put in with a great through ball from Quincy Amarikwa and slotted coolly past Carlos Lopez to tally his first game of the season.
“I was happy for him obviously and I think everyone on the team was,” said Klopas. “I think it’s good sometimes to get rewarded sometimes like that. Quincy played him a terrific ball and you see the pace. It’s good for his confidence, he’s been working hard and it’s good to see him score.”
While the Fire extended their international friendly winless streak to 10 matches dating back to 2008, Klopas was proud of the effort put in by his mostly reserve squad.
“It’s all about the team. You build a squad throughout the season and you gotta rely on different guys and I thought the guys that stepped in had a very difficult performance.
“It shows that at any moment they’re ready to step in and help the team.”