The Chicago Fire were forced to soldier on through two league matches during the FIFA international break. Missing the likes of Uruguayan DP midfielder Arevalo Rios and Estonian Joel Lindpere, the team took just one point but the pair both found success with their countries in World Cup qualifying.
Rios played 180 minutes over two very big games for Uruguay: a 2-1 win at Peru last Friday and was pointed to as particularly convincing in their 2-0 home victory vs. Colombia on Tuesday.
With the six points, Uruguay now sit in the fifth place playoff spot in CONMEBOL qualifying, tied with fourth place Ecuador on 22 points ahead of what is sure to be a pivotal visit to Quito on October 10.
“We’re very happy to get six points and so glad that we’re close to a World Cup berth,” Rios told Chicago-Fire.com Friday. “That’s been our goal and now we obviously have huge matches vs. Ecuador and Argentina next month.”
Meanwhile in Europe, Joel Lindpere and his teammates nearly became part of Estonian soccer history as the small Baltic nation drew The Netherlands 2-2 in UEFA qualifying in Tallinn last Friday.
Lindpere played 85 minutes and assisted on Konstantin Vassilev’s go-ahead goal in the 57th to make things 2-1. Just as it looked like Estonia would get the biggest result in the nation’s history, Manchester United striker Robin van Persie earned a penalty and converted deep into stoppage time to save Holland from defeat.
“It was a great atmosphere and great game and unfortunately the referee gave six minutes of extra time, a penalty came. I don’t know if it was, but that’s how it is with big countries when they play the children.”
Lindpere said the team left the match with disappointment, knowing if they’d won a shot to qualify for the second place playoffs out of Group D was still there for the taking.
Still, he takes pride in being part of the small nation’s historic result vs. Holland.
“I’m very happy that we made one of the best games in Estonian history in front of a full stadium and with a huge atmosphere behind us against guys like Van Persie and [Wesley] Sneijder.”
Lindpere and Rios returned to training Friday with both. How do they feel going into Saturday’s game vs. New England after long plane rides and games away with the national team?
“The travel is normal for an international player,” said Rios. “You get used to it and I feel good for Saturday. We know how important the game is after the points we dropped but the playoff hope is still there.”
Lindpere admitted he’s still adjusting to the time change but echoed Rios’
“I fall asleep early at night and wake up very early,” he joked. “It’s like seven or eight hours difference and a flight that was 10 hours. You feel it a little bit but I feel ok and will be ready and prepared for the game.”
Fire head coach Frank Klopas confirmed that both players would be available for selection Saturday vs. New England.