Five lucky new or renewed 2011 Season Ticket Holders will be selected to participate in the club’s First Team Open Tryouts

The Season

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As May arrived, the Fire had looked to right the ship, coming off a two-game winning streak to end April with matching 2-0 wins at DC United (April 17) and against Houston (April 24).

Coming off a particularly dominant performance in the win over the Dynamo, there was optimism that the club would extend its winning streak to three games as they welcomed Chivas USA to Toyota Park on May 1.

The Fire absorbed a lot of pressure in the first half and went ahead just after the interval when Marco Pappa played a beautiful ball from left to right, finding speedy right winger Patrick Nyarko. The Ghanaian cut into the box and laid off an easy centering pass at the end line which second-year midfielder Baggio Husidic easily tapped home in the 51st minute.

Chivas USA took the bull by the horns as they looked for equalizer. At first wasting chance after chance, the Goats finally came good when Sacha Kljestan’s corner kick found the head of an unmarked Maicon Santos in the 76th minute.  The rest of the match was a stalemate, but the bitter taste of surrendering a goal in the final 15 minutes would become a familiar one for the Fire.

Looking to rebound the following week, fierce winds and steady rain off Lake Ontario made things tough for the Fire during the trip north to Toronto FC on May 8. TFC midfielder Nick LaBrocca started the scoring when the wind took hold of his cross, evading an anticipant Andrew Dykstra in the 24th minute.  Going into the half trailing by a goal, they came out of the break and quickly went down two as TFC caught the Fire in transition with O’Brian White finishing in the 47th minute.

Fire midfielder Logan Pause responded with just the second goal of his career and what could be the club’s 2010 Goal of the Year to cut the lead in half in the 51st minute, but as the side pressed for the equalizer they were caught out in transition twice by a familiar face.

Former Fire striker Chad Barrett (2005-08), who was traded to TFC as part of the deal to bring Brian McBride to Chicago in 2008, hit his former side twice within three minutes on the counter, scoring in the 66th and 69th to close out the match. The result maybe wasn’t reflective of the entire match but the side eventually fell 4-1 north of the border.

The Fire were met with similar rainy conditions the next week as they visited the Kansas City Wizards on May 15. Salvadoran international Julio Martinez scored his first and only goal for the club, tapping in a cross from Pappa in the 14th minute to go up 1-0. Coming out of the half, veteran Brian McBride took a great feed from Patrick Nyarko and buried it past Wizards keeper Jimmy Nielsen in the 48th minute to go up 2-0. 

With their backs against the wall, Kansas City attacked for the remainder of the half. Coming off an embarrassing miss the previous week in a 2-1 loss at DC United, Kei Kamara found Fire keeper Andrew Dykstra flat-footed with his 50th minute effort cutting the lead in half.

Despite the goal, Dykstra played admirably much of the second half, turning away a number Wizards chances until Kamara struck again as former Fire Super-20 striker Teal Bunbury’s shot was bobbled and the Sierra Leone international was there to sweep up the rebound in the 89th minute.

Taking a break from league play the Fire welcomed the likes of Paris Saint-Germain, Red Star Belgrade and Legia Warsaw for the first ever Chicago Sister Cities International Cup on May 19 and 21.

Chicago Fire rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson made his debut against the likes of Claude Makelele and Ludovic Giuly, but the Fire fell 1-0 to PSG on May 19. In the other semifinal, Red Star Belgrade defeated Legia Warsaw by the same score line.

Two days later, the Fire fell 3-0 to Legia Warsaw, while Red Star Belgrade took the inaugural tournament title defeating PSG on 7-6 on penalty kicks following a 1-1 draw on May 21.

The Fire briefly returned to league play on May 27 as they drew with FC Dallas. The Hoops David Ferreira capitalized on an early misplay by Wilman Conde in the back to go up 1-0 in the 6th minute.  The Fire looked to equalize and nearly found it in the 36th minute when Justin Mapp’s low centering cross from the left was put over the bar by a sliding Mike Banner in the 36th minute.

The fourth-year midfielder was saved by McBride four minutes later as Mapp crossed from the left again, finding the head of the club captain who nodded the ball past Dallas keeper Kevin Hartman in the 40th minute.  Neither team showed a serious threat after the half and the match ended knotted 1-1.

The Fire welcomed a star-studded AC Milan side featuring Ronaldinho, Clarence Seedorf and Alexandre Pato to Toyota Park on Memorial Day Sunday, May 30. A sell-out crowd of 20,356 saw the Fire challenge the Italians, eventually falling 1-0 to the Rossoneri with Seedorf scoring just after the half.

With two matches remaining before the much-anticipated FIFA World Cup break, the Fire welcomed expansion Philadelphia Union, led by one of the clubs legendary players Peter Nowak, to Toyota Park on June 5. The matchup was well-timed as it took place during the Stanley Cup Finals between the two city’s NHL sides. Looking to get the better of the home Fire crowd, Philadelphia wore Flyer shirts under their warm-up tops which they revealed just before the playing of the National Anthem.

The Fire got the last laugh though as Baggio Husidic tallied in the 14th minute followed by Marco Pappa’s 74th minute goal to give the side a 2-0 lead. Union rookie sensation Danny Mwanga scored deep in stoppage time to take the game to 2-1, but it wasn’t enough as the hosts took the first meeting between the two sides.

Four days later, the Fire (3-3-4) welcomed Colorado to end the season series between the two sides. Having drawn 2-2 away to the Rapids on April 10, the Fire surrendered another early lead with Omar Cummings finishing a feed from Conor Casey in the 21st minute. 

Pappa responded twice to put the Fire ahead going into the half. His first strike came just two minutes after Cummings opener, slotting a powerful, low free kick past former Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens in the 23rd minute. Then in first half stoppage time, McBride flicked on for Husidic who laid off a perfect pass for the Guatemalan to put just out of Pickens reach, giving the home side the 2-1 lead entering the break.

 That goal could have been Pappa’s hat trick clincher as he put an earlier 8th minute effort past the Rapids keeper but off the cross bar.

The Fire played valiantly in the second half but failed to close out the Rapids and US international Conor Casey, recently left of his country’s World Cup roster headed home a cross from Jamie Smith in the 91st minute to take a share of the spoils back to Denver as the two sides headed into the league’s first-ever World Cup break.

Solace: Chicago Fire fans that stuck around after the match witnessed the Chicago Blackhawks defeat the Philadelphia Flyers in Game 6 of the Stanley Cup finals on the Toyota Park Jumbotron shortly after the final whistle.

Take that Union…

Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire. Follow him on Twitter @JefeCrandall.