The Chicago Fire can’t catch a break right now. Winless in their last four league games plus two friendlies, they were unable to get a result in a friendly against AC Milan.
Clarence Seedorf scored at the start of the second half, and the Milan defense made the former Dutch international’s tally stand up, giving the Italian giants a 1-0 victory over the Fire in front of a sellout crowd of 20,356 at Toyota Park Sunday night.
Seedorf gave Milan the lead in the 47th minute. Fire center back C.J. Brown failed to clear a bouncing ball on the left side of the box and the Brazilian took full advantage. He pounced on the loose ball and slotted home from a tight angle past charging Fire keeper Andrew Dykstra.
By then, Chicago could’ve had a lead in the 35th minute, when Giuseppe Favalli nearly put one into his own net. The Milan defender accidentally headed Marco Pappa’s driven corner kick on net, and goalkeeper Dida did well to save the low ball.
The Fire responded well, particularly through halftime substitution Julio Martinez, who nearly drew the Fire level on two separate occasions.
The first came in the 55th minute when forward Patrick Nyarko found midfielder Mike Banner near the top of the box. Banner played a square ball to midfielder Baggio Husidic, who fed the onrushing Martinez down the right side of the box with a through ball. Martinez ripped a shot toward net, but Dida deflected the ball over the crossbar.
“In the second half we kept the ball a lot,” said Fire midfielder Justin Mapp. “We had a couple of chances and could have evened it up or taken the lead, but [Dida’s] a good goalie and he made some good saves.”
The Rossoneri almost doubled their advantage in the 80th minute of play. Substitute midfielder Mancini unleashed a 40-yard blast and nearly found the top left corner for what would have been a stunning goal.
Martinez’s second close call came in stoppage time, as the Salvadoran redirected a corner kick toward goal. But, again, Dida was there to parry the last-ditch attempt at an equalizer over the bar, condemning them to yet another disappointing result.
Despite the loss, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos was proud of the way his team performed.
“I am very happy with our players,” de los Cobos said. “They make a very big effort and we have good moments in the game… We put up resistance to this team. It was not was easy for them and I am very pleased about the game.”
The match was not without strange incidents. Twice, fans ran onto the field. The first disruption occurred in the 32nd minute, when a fan clad in a Milan jersey ran toward Milan forward Ronaldinho. The pitch invader was able to kiss the Brazilian star’s feet and give him a hug before security reached him.
The second trespass occurred in the 83rd minute, when security stopped a fan from harassing Seedorf.
The Fire get back to league play next Saturday, when the Philadelphia Union come to town for the first time ever.