TAMPA, Fla. -- The Chicago Fire earned a victory and a clean sheet in their 2016 preseason debut, a rain-soaked 3-0 win over the host University of South Florida Bulls at Corbett Stadium Saturday night.
"I think it was very important for us to see that we are getting the idea of the style we want to play so on that side, I’m very happy," head coach Veljko Paunovic said following his Chicago Fire debut. "We controlled the game but at the same time, we have to differentiate how to manage the rhythm of the play, with and without the ball, so I think those are the things we have to improve in the game next week and work on that."
The Fire opened the game's scoring in the 28th minute courtesy of Arturo Alvarez, the veteran MLS midfielder currently on trial with the club. After a whistle drawn by Chicago's David Accam, the Fire played a quick restart that landed on the foot of a running Gilberto to the left of goal. The Brazilian forward fed Alvarez near the penalty spot, where Alvarez saw his first shot saved before depositing his second attempt past goalkeeper Spasoje Stefanovic.
Accam doubled the lead for the Fire just five minutes later. A clever passing combination in the final third provided Gilberto a shot that was blocked before reaching goal, but Harry Shipp recovered possession and slid the ball toward Accam who was waiting with his one-time finish.
Following wholesale lineup changes at the intermission, Chicago extended its lead in the 53rd minute. In a build-up that began in the back line and consisted of 14 completed passes, the Fire found midfielder Collin Fernandez with space going forward, allowing Fernandez to lift a ball onto the foot of fourth-round MLS SuperDraft selection Vincent Mitchell. A clean first touch with the left foot by Mitchell allowed the former Butler Bulldog to calmly finish to the far post with his right.
With the rain intensifying in the latter stages of the match, Chicago continued to find chances through the play of the 18-year-old Homegrown Fernandez but ultimately walked away with the 3-0 victory. Trialist Matt Lampson (first half) and Patrick McLain (second half) shared goalkeeping duties in earning the shutout.
Click the YouTube player at the top of the page for a complete video archive of the match. Chicago Fire lineups for each half are available below.
The Fire are set to remain in Tampa where they will begin preparations for their next preseason friendly, a matchup with the Philadelphia Union on Thursday, Feb. 11. The match is scheduled to begin at 3 p.m. CT and stream live on Chicago-Fire.com.
• All but two of the players currently in camp appeared in tonight’s match. Eric Gehrig sat out while continuing recovery from surgery that he underwent on Sept. 25, 2015 to address a navicular stress fracture. Kingsley Bryce missed the match after picking up foot contusion in training this week.
• Chicago Fire Academy product Marcus Epps played the full 90 minutes for USF.
CHI – Arturo Alvarez (unassisted) 28’
CHI – David Accam (Harry Shipp) 33’
CHI – Vincent Mitchell (Collin Fernandez) 52’
CHICAGO FIRE (first half): Matt Lampson; Joey Calistri, Vincent Keller, Mauricio Pineda, Michael Harrington; Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, Arturo Alvarez, David Accam, Harry Shipp; Gilberto
CHICAGO FIRE (second half): Patrick McLain; Parker Maher, Patrick Doody, Jonathan Campbell, Vincent Keller; Vincent Mitchell, Drew Conner, Nick LaBrocca, Alex Morrell, Collin Fernandez; Kennedy Igboananike
CHICAGO FIRE STATS:
Shots: 13; Shots On Goal: 6; Saves: 1; Fouls Conceded: 8; Fouls Suffered: 8; Corner Kicks: 5; Offsides: 2.