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Mar 242013

The Chicago Fire are keeping the bottom of the Eastern Conference Table warm after a tough home loss this afternoon to Chivas USA, 4-1.

The wind whipped strong though Toyota Park as the fans filed in to watch this weekends match between the Chicago Fire (0-2-1) and Chivas USA (1-1-1).  Chicago hope they can find the back of the net for the first time this season in a game where the home advantage may be a factor.   Chivas have played all of their games so far this year in LA and with the wind chill hitting 24 degrees at kickoff. Chicago need to take the wind and the cold and turn them in their favor.

On the field Chicago brought out a 4-2-3-1 formation featuring newcomer Wells Thompson at right back and goaltender Paolo Tornaghi.  Chivas put forward an aggressive 3-4-3 formation which has been standard for them under El Chelis.

Chicago had a chance to strike early when in the second minute, Sherjill MacDonald made an excellent overlapping run down the left.  The pass was threaded through by Alex and MacDonald struck the ball but the shot flew straight at goal keeper Dan Kennedy, who easily made the save.

The fire didn’t go back on their heels, and in the fifth minute they had a chance on a set piece.  Hoping to take advantage of Chivas’ short back line, Midfielder Dan Paladini sent in a beautiful in-swinging cross.  Chicago had a chance to capitalize but the play was stopped short by an excellent clearance by the Chivas defense.

Again, in the tenth minute Paladini sent in a looping ball from a set piece on the left side.  The ball was headed goalward but was forced wide by a great reaction save by Dan Kennedy.

Wells Thompson was called upon in the game several times, and grew into his position as the game progressed.  Chivas frontman Juan Agudelo tended to favor the left side of the pitch challenging Thompson who is new to the right back position.

Chris Rolff had a chance to end Chicago’s scoring lapse with a ripe opportunity when a pass threaded the defense in the 39th minute providing him with a wide open break away chance on the Chivas goaltender.  Kennedy had other plans and timed his run out to the ball well, sliding to deny the Chicago veteran.

Dan Paladini has had another strong showing throughout this game.  He created chances on offense and worked hard on defense, playing the midfield position how it’s meant to be played.  His persistence almost paid off in the 50th minute when he had a ball slotted through the back line by Alex onto his perfectly timed run.  He took an extra step at the goaltender and let the ball go toward the bottom left corner, glancing off the outside of the post the ball wound behind for a goal kick.

Chivas found the Score board in the 57th minute with a lovely strike from Chivas midfielder Edgar Mejia.   After a corner kick Chicago was unable to find all of the opposing men on the field.  The ball caromed from one Chivas player to another until popping out onto the waiting foot of Mejia who sent a rocket ball with eyes into the top corner of the net.

In the 65th minute Chicago carried the play up the right side of the field.  The ball was sent into forward Sherjill MacDonald who corralled the ball and with a clever piece of footwork pushed the ball past three defenders to Patrick Nyarko.  Nyarko took a touch and slyly slid the ball under Dan Kennedy.  Finally, drought over, and all the fans in Toyota Park breathed a sigh of relief as The Men in Red put home their first goal of the season.  Chicago Fire’s Section 8 Fan area, not willing to settle for a tie, immediately began the chant, “One more Fire, one more.”

There would be one more, at least one, unfortunately it would not come from Chicago in fact Chivas would begin its assault shortly after Chicago equalized.  In the 74th Minute from a set piece on the left, the ball was crossed in and Chicago’s goaltender came out to play the ball but misjudged the distance.  He tried to recover and back into the right position but found himself in no-mans-land.  Chivas’ Joaquin Velázquez was wide open on the back post to finish it off with a well-placed header.

Chicago were reeling and just two minutes later Juan Agudelo would make it a two goal game.  Chivas would retrieve the ball after play started again and a chip pass from 45 yards out on the left side was floated in on the wind. The Chivas forward made no mistake about it, curling the ball past the Chicago goaltender into the bottom right corner of the net.

In the last twenty minutes Chicago pushed players forward looking to get pressure in the offensive third.  It worked but Dan Kennedy stood tall stopping a barrage of Chicago Fire strikes, including a header from Jeff Laretowicz that was The Fire’s best chance after their goal.

And there is nothing like adding insult to injury and that is just what happened in the 89th Minute when Jalil Anibaba sent the ball into his own goal.

When the final whistle went it was a welcome relief to the floundering Chicago Fire, who walked away dropping 3 more points on the season.

So the goal drought is over, but Chicago have yet to win a game and with only one point so far this season, there is a long road ahead of them if they want to get back into contention. Chicago now have two weeks off to go over the tapes and contemplate how they can muster their first win in the match April 7th at home against the New York Red Bulls.


Jeff Engelmann

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