Thursday, July 30, 2009

BRAZILIAN BATTLE: CRISTIANE VS. MARTA

Check out my Examiner.com feature highlighting this Sunday's anticipated Brazilian showdown: the Chicago Red Stars' Cristiane and the Los Angeles Sol's Marta. This is the last home game of the Red Stars' inaugural Women's Professional Soccer season. The Red Stars are expecting one of their biggest crowds of the season for this clash against the first-place Sol.

~ Charlie Corr
Chicago Sports Examiner at Examiner.com
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

MLS ALL-STARS FALL TO EVERTON IN PKS

Chicago Fire trio sees playing time during MLS's first international loss

Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde and midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco each got the start for the Major League Soccer All-Star Team during the squad's loss to Everton FC on Wednesday at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah. Everton won on penalty kicks, 4-3, following a 1-all regulation.

Defender Bakary Soumare (pictured right) played the entire second half. Soumare, Blanco and Conde were all on the field at the same time at the start of the second half. Blanco and Conde were replaced in the 63rd minute.

CLICK HERE for the Everton-MLS game story at Examiner.com.

• World Cup qualifying call-ups: Cuauhtemoc Blanco (Mexico) and Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica) have been called up to serve with their respective national teams in World Cup qualifying on Aug. 12. Blanco and Mexico take on the U.S. Men's National Team at Estadio Azteca in Mexico City (3 p.m. CST, Telemundo), and Segares and Costa Rica battle Honduras in San Pedro Sula at 8:30 p.m. CST.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

2009 MLS ALL-STAR GAME

The Chicago Fire are well-represented on this year's MLS All-Star Team, which faces Everton FC at 8:30 p.m. (CST) Wednesday, with the game televised on ESPN2. Midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco and defenders Wilman Conde and Bakary Soumare are on this year's MLS squad.

Read my Examiner.com MLS Notebook featuring the MLS All-Star Game, as well as my 2009 Non-All-Star Game inductees. Someone on the Fire made my list.

~ Charlie Corr
Major League Soccer Examiner at Examiner.com
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

Sunday, July 26, 2009

FREEDOM 3, RED STARS 2

Chicago eliminated from WPS playoff picture, falls in closing minutes

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Chicago Red Stars have been prone to allowing late, game changing goals throughout their inaugural Women’s Professional Soccer season. It happened once again Sunday afternoon as the Washington Freedom won, 3-2, in front of 5,226 spectators at Toyota Park.

Chicago’s loss eliminated the team from one of the league’s four playoff spots, certainly an unexpected result from an organization with incredibly high preseason expectations.

“It was an uphill battle even if we won the game today,” Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes said. “For us as a team from this point on, we want to make sure we put in good performances for our fans and start the rebuilding process going into next season. Make sure we have the vital pieces that will push this team on.”

The Red Stars (4-9-5) would have needed to win out and needed a bit of help from above them in the standings. Instead, Chicago lost an early lead Sunday and eventually the game, the last straw an Allie Long goal in the 89th minute to push Washington (6-6-5) past Chicago’s lackluster defensive stance.

“You could tell that there was a little sense of ‘oh, no, we’re on the ropes, this could be the end of our season’ sort of feel,” Freedom forward Abby Wambach said of the Red Stars’ play late in the game. “And as an opposing team we wanted to take advantage as much as we could of that.”

It marked the Freedom’s first win against the Red Stars, having posted a 0-1-2 record beforehand.

“They’ve gotten the better hand of us. They beat us the last game here. That’s how tight this league is,” Wambach said. “There’s ties that probably should have been wins for one team or the other. There’s losses. The games are very tight. And right now coming up, this is the end of the season and the playoffs are in sight. Every game is playoff contention. One win, you’re in, one loss, you’re out.”

Wambach lived up to her typical high billing, scoring two goals and earning several other scoring opportunities in both halves. She out-muscled Red Stars defender Ifeome Dieke in the 35th minute to tie the score at 1-all, and gave Washington a 2-1 lead in the 56th.

Shortly after the Red Stars’ Heather Garriock came into the game for midfielder Lindsay Tarpley in the 68th minute, Garriock provided the game-tying assist to Karen Carney. Carney’s strike hit just inside the far left post in the 69th minute and tied the score at 2-all.

But the Freedom continued to hold the edge attacking-wise and had the final say in the 89th. Caroline Jonsson (pictured above) made a whopping 11 saves in the net for the Red Stars. Her counterpart, Erin McLeod, only made two saves.

Chicago appeared to be ready for this match from the start, though. Megan Rapinoe gave the Red Stars a 1-0 lead in the 15th minute. Carli Lloyd provided a perfectly timed send from the back. Rapinoe got the ball in stride, evaded one defender on the right flank and shot near post past McLeod for the tally.

The energy level appeared to drop from that point forward.

“After the first goal, I think we were very flat,” Hayes said. “We looked quite tired. The heat seemed to drain us quite a bit. We struggled to retain the ball and equally struggled to transition when we lost it.”

* * *


Next up: The Red Stars play in their final home game of the season against the first-place Los Angeles Sol on Sunday, Aug. 2. Game time is at 5 p.m., with a telecast on Fox Soccer Channel.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: Though the Red Stars are out of the playoff picture, the full season debut reflection can be put on hold for a couple of weeks. Quickly said, it is disappointing to hear Hayes use the phrase “rebuilding process” when this lineup had some key U.S. National Team talent and some spark from Cristiane to use as this team’s foundation. More was expected from this group.

Back to Sunday’s game, the Red Stars were outplayed by the Freedom for the majority of the match. And Jonsson has simply been in a position where she has faced far too many shots against Washington all season. She has saved Chicago on numerous occasions, making her one of the most vital players and top goalkeepers in this league. Who knows where this team would be without her. But she can’t do everything in every tight game. The defensive line and the midfield needed to do their part, too.

The second-half substitution of Rapinoe was a bit of a head scratcher in the 55th minute. This is not a slight on Ella Masar, but rather a surprise that the team’s only goal scorer up to that point was taken out in a must-win situation.

This team has had issues regarding the timing of their runs and passes. The Lloyd-Rapinoe hookup in the 15th minute probably was one of the more fluid runs all season. But beyond that, there was the return of several half shots/crosses, a couple passes with no Red Stars player in the vicinity, a lack of possession, some chatter from Carney and Lloyd trying to get on the same page in one particular non-sequence.

Those are the challenges that this Red Stars team failed to meet. Individual talent helps, but from a cohesive and execution standpoint, it has been quite a bumpy road. Those are issues that can’t be a topic of discussion having had 18 games now to get that corrected, and thus they will not see the postseason in 2009.

It is all for pride at this point. A win against Marta and the Los Angeles Sol would be a nice accomplishment. The Brazilian foes, Marta and Cristiane, go head-to-head. Perhaps this matchup will make for one of the Red Stars’ best attendance draws of the season.

If only they were playing for a little bit more.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

FIRE 0, SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC 0

Chicago earns draw, nearly pulls off upset in closing minutes

The script would have been perfect for Chicago Fire defender Brandon Prideaux:

The Renton, Wash., native playing in Seattle, in his final Major League Soccer season, in his 241st game without having scored a goal (an MLS record), and getting a chance in the closing minutes to put an end to that string and give Chicago a late lead in front of a packed Qwest Field.

In the 88th minute, Fire midfielder Justin Mapp took a corner kick and Prideaux cut to the near post. He struck the ball solidly, and Seattle Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller did not even move. Only Prideaux's header struck the crossbar, the ball hit the ground and was then cleared away.

The classic ending did not come to fruition. Instead, the Eastern Conference-leading Fire (7-3-8) took a smaller sense of satisfaction in managing a scoreless draw Saturday in front of 32,405 Sounders supporters.

Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch (pictured above) earned his sixth shutout of the season with five saves. His counterpart, Keller, made two saves for Seattle (7-3-8).

Chicago played for 5 minutes shorthanded when midfielder John Thorrington picked up a second yellow card in the 54th minute on a reckless tackle against Sounders midfielder Freddie Ljungberg. It appeared to be the boost Seattle was hoping for, until the 59th minute.

Ljungberg tried to draw a foul on Fire defender C.J. Brown near the top of the box. The referee felt Ljungberg took a dive and carded him. Ljungberg complained to the official and was handed a second yellow for dissent - a huge turn of events. Ljungberg got so close to the official that even Busch stepped in the way to break things up. From then on out, both teams played with 10 men on the pitch.

With fewer players, there was more space to work with, and the Sounders created the lion share of chances. In the 71st minute, Seattle's Nate Jaqua (pictured left) had a couple opportunities, one saved by Busch, and then the other cleared by Fire defender Gonzalo Segares for a Sounders corner. In the 80th minute, Brown gave Sounders forward Fredy Montero a substantial gap and Montero decided to take a long strike that hit the corner frame. Then in the 85th minute, Patrick Ianni headed the ball into the ground, it scooted past the defense and Busch, but the Fire's Chris Rolfe was there for the clear.

Seattle had the bulk of chances in the first half, as well. Busch averted a strong Seattle attack when he rose above Jaqua and Brown and punched the ball away on a Sounders free kick in the 32nd minute. Five minutes later, Jaqua was on the attack again. Montero provided a perfect looping cross to Jaqua for aheader. Busch made the save, Jaqua got the ball again, took another shot attempt, and Busch had a second save.

* * *


Next up: The Fire host Real Salt Lake at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 1, at Toyota Park. The game is televised on My50.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: There are boring scoreless draws and exciting ones, and this game clearly fit into the latter category. It had everything: strong technical play, some gritty play, momentum changers, ejections, a brief shorthanded situation working against the Fire, big saves, a raucous crowd and several scoring chances that hit the post or crossbar.

The Fire's frame strike was a bit unfortunate, and the three points would have been an impressive road accomplishment. Still, a scoreless draw has never occurred for Seattle this season, and without injured Brian McBride (shoulder injury), Logan Pause (U.S. Men's National Team) and Bakary Soumare (suspension - yellow card accumulation), that makes this effort a positive one.

Thorrington's energy was good, until he let that filter into his decision-making process. When he picked up his second yellow card in the 54th minute, it was one of those situations where you had a feeling that was going to happen. He had a bad angle on Ljungberg, who appeared as though he was anticipating the tackle from behind or to the side. It was a poor decision on Thorrington's part, and now Chicago is without his services next week. The exact same thing can be said about Ljungberg, and if he just walked away, the Sounders would have had 30 more minutes of a one-man advantage to work with.

The Fire offense had a few runs here and there in the final third, with a couple decent chances by Rolfe. But this game was all about the defense. Chicago faced the challenge of playing in the energetic Qwest Field environment and held the host Sounders scoreless. You can't ask for much more than that, though a Prideaux goal would have been poetic.

* * *


Soumare added to MLS All-Star Team

Fire defender Bakary Soumare will join teammates Wilman Conde and Cuauhtemoc Blanco on the MLS All-Star Team for Wednesday's game against Everton FC. The game, which takes place at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah, will be televised on ESPN2 at 8:30 p.m. (CST).

Soumare is replacing Houston Dynamo forward Brian Ching's spot. Ching is being given a rest following a long stretch of matches with the U.S. Men's National Team in the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

The league also announced Saturday that Real Salt Lake midfielder Will Johnson is replacing New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph, who was diagnosed with bone bruising in his right knee.

PREVIEW: FREEDOM AT RED STARS

Chicago, Washington fight to stay in WPS playoff picture

So many elements have to work in the Chicago Red Stars’ favor. One thing they can control is their finish during their three remaining regular-season games - the next two at home.

The Red Stars (4-8-5) host the Washington Freedom (5-6-5) at 3 p.m. Sunday in Women’s Professional Soccer play at Toyota Park (Web cast available at ChicagoRedStars.com).

Chicago rallied past Washington, 2-1, earlier this month at Toyota Park, the only come-from-behind effort in WPS play. The Freedom and Red Stars are currently fifth and sixth in the WPS standings, outside of the three available postseason spots up for grabs (the Los Angeles Sol already clinched a spot in the WPS final).

Beyond the comfort of a home field, where Chicago has won back-to-back games, the Red Stars also have a full and healthy roster, which has not been the case all season.

The last time at home, Brazilian forward Cristiane became the first person to earn a WPS hat trick en route to a 3-1 win against FC Gold Pride. With Karen Carney, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe (pictured above) and Lindsay Tarpley all returning from their respective national team duties with England and the U.S., Cristiane won’t be in the position where she feels she needs to do everything to create some scoring chances. Their absences significantly affected Chicago’s attack in a heartbreaking 1-0 defeat to Sky Blue FC last Sunday.

This weekend’s match is the Red Stars’ “Green Game,” and the players’ green jerseys will be auctioned off. A pre-game concert by Chicago’s Hello Dave will be in the Red Stars Fun Zone starting at 2 p.m.

PREVIEW: FIRE AT SEATTLE SOUNDERS FC

CLICK HERE for my Week 19 Examiner.com MLS Preview, which leads with the Chicago Fire-Seattle Sounders FC showdown. The match takes place at 2 p.m. (CST) Saturday at Qwest Field in Seattle. The game is televised on ESPN.

* * *


Fire adjust offensively to fill McBride's scoring void

The Chicago Fire are 1-for-1 so far without veteran forward Brian McBride, who is out several months with a right shoulder injury. Chicago posted a 2-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes last week, and the final 10 minutes were a positive sign heading into this weekend's road game against Seattle.

With a target man out of the lineup, however, the Fire's attack obviously has to make some adjustments.

"We'll have to knock the ball around a little bit more, and some of the long balls that we hit have to be more to the corners instead of more central to (where McBride attacks)," Fire midfielder and forward Chris Rolfe said.

Rolfe (pictured) has had an interesting season that has ranged from becoming one of the first players off the bench in the early part of the season, to midfield play, and several opportunities returning to the forward role he has been more used to in his career. Coach Denis Hamlett has utilized Rolfe's versatility, and Rolfe was excited to get the chance to push forward last week.

"Tonight it was awesome playing that role," Rolfe said. "It's just a quick change in mind-set. You've got to change a little bit of your thinking on your runs, what you can do on the ball in different areas on the field. It felt great."

Forward Patrick Nyarko (pictured left) has showcased some strong flashes of quickness and sure-footed maneuvers. Nyarko tallied the game-winning goal against San Jose, and he knows that he needs to supply some finishing power that McBride established early on in the season. But obviously in his own methodical style.

"(Brian's) an integral part. He's a big guy, he's strong, and he scores goals," Nyarko said. "That's what he does. ... There's no way I can match Brian McBride. I bring a little bit more pace, and it's just a matter of getting a little bit closer to what Brian does on the field."

The word "depth" has been thrown around all season. And on both ends of the field, this team has felt more than comfortable saying that if there are some key absences, just about anyone can fill the void.

"From Day 1, right from preseason, I knew this team had depth, and that anything we put out there, we feel like we can win any game," Nyarko said. "It's unfortunate for Brian to go down. I feel like we have a better chance of winning with him in there. And we're left a little bit shorthanded. But then we feel like we have a deep team and anyone can step up on any single day."

* * *


Pause reflects on Gold Cup experience, semifinal victory

On Thursday, Fire midfielder Logan Pause was at Soldier Field as the U.S. Men's National Team defeated Honduras, 2-0, to win their semifinal match in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. The U.S. MNT advanced to Sunday's final against Mexico.

Pause's stint with the team has been a huge success, and the journey now reaches the final, which starts at 2 p.m. (CST) Sunday and is televised on Fox Soccer Channel. Here are a few comments he had following the match:

• "It was exciting, obviously. Getting the result was huge. I'm looking forward to Sunday. Anytime you get a chance to play at home, it's wonderful."

• "I think we were confident in ourselves. We knew that it was going to be a much different, tougher game than the third game (of the tournament). We put a lot into it. We were concentrating on that. We focused on ourselves. We just felt like if we played well and did the little things right that we would come out on top."

• "It was a great, great effort, starting with Troy (Perkins) in goal, making some huge saves, especially in the latter part of the game. Our back line was phenomenal. I think it started up top with Brian (Ching) and Davy (Arnaud) working their tales off up top and it just trickled all the way down to the back."

• "Anytime you put yourself with a chance to win a cup, that's what it's about. That's what this group and the national team has been working so hard for for a long time. It's good to get the opportunity."

• "Anytime you get an opportunity like that, to wear the jersey of the national team, you take honor in it. It's a privilege. Coming into it, I just looked at it as that - an opportunity to come. I tried to stay within myself and play my role and do what I can to help the team, similar to my other job here in Chicago."

Friday, July 24, 2009

U.S. ADVANCES TO GOLD CUP FINAL

The U.S. Men's National Team advanced to the CONCACAF Gold Cup final, defeating Honduras, 2-0, on Thursday at Soldier Field. The U.S.-Honduras game story and a sidebar on Stuart Holden are available at Examiner.com.

~ Charlie Corr
Major League Soccer Examiner
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

Thursday, July 23, 2009

EXAMINER.COM MLS POWER RANKINGS

The Chicago Fire maintained third place in Examiner.com's MLS Power Rankings through Week 18. CLICK HERE to read more.

* * *


I will likely be providing in-game tweets (CorrSports) from the U.S. Men's National Team's CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal match against Honduras on Thursday night at Soldier Field (6 p.m. start). Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause has earned some decent playing time, and goalkeeper Jon Busch just recently joined the U.S. MNT.

~ Charlie Corr
Major League Soccer Examiner
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

MLS NOTEBOOK: FIRE'S BLANCO NAMED MLS PLAYER OF THE WEEK

Goalkeeper Busch joins U.S. MNT for Gold Cup

Read my Examiner.com MLS Notebook, which includes mention of Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco's MLS Player of the Week honor and goalkeeper Jon Busch's call-up to the U.S. Men's National Team for Thursday's CONCACAF Gold Cup semifinal at Soldier Field.

~ Charlie Corr
Major League Soccer Examiner
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

Sunday, July 19, 2009

SKY BLUE FC 1, RED STARS 0

Hanks' stoppage-time goal dooms Chicago

The Chicago Red Stars' playoff hopes for their inaugural Women's Professional Soccer campaign hit an all-time low Sunday. Sky Blue FC's Kerri Hanks scored in second-half stoppage time en route to a 1-0 victory over Chicago at Yurcak Stadium in Piscataway, N.J.

With three regular-season games remaining, Chicago is almost out of the four-team playoff picture. The Red Stars fall to 4-8-5 and have 17 points, sitting in sixth place. Sky Blue improved to 6-6-4 and 22 points, good for the fourth spot in the WPS standings.

"I don't think that the team was good enough today in the attack," Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes said. "And we weren't able to create a great deal of chances. Sky Blue FC deserves credit for that."

It did not help that the Red Stars were without four of their regular starters - Karen Carney, Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley. Carney was playing for England's national team and the remaining trio was with the U.S. Women's National Team for a 1-0 victory over Canada. Only Rapinoe saw playing time.

Sunday's WPS match clearly had that feel of some missing stars. Sky Blue FC and the Red Stars combined for seven shots on goal - only two from Sky Blue. But Hanks' was the only one in the back of the net, a goal that came 44 seconds into stoppage time as she struck the ball at the top of the box. Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson did not even move, possibly dealing with the low sun glaring at her eyes and unable to read the ball.

Jonsson had only one save while Sky Blue's Jenni Branam had five.

Sky Blue certainly deserved an early lead in this game. In the 5th minute, Natasha Kai received a cross from Kacey White and had a 1-on-1 situation against Jonsson. But Kai's shot missed left of the goal as the Red Stars' defense caught a huge break.

The Red Stars' offense lingered near the goal on a few occasions, but rarely did they put a solid strike on the ball toward the goal. The best look probably came from Chioma Igwe (pictured above) in the 57th minute. Jill Oakes provided a good ball from a free kick and Igwe's header went just right of the net.

Ella Masar had a header attempt in the 90th minute on a Cristiane pass. Masar tried to find the right side of the net, but Branam was in a strong position to make the save.

* * *


Next up: The Red Stars host the Washington Freedom for a 3 p.m. match on Sunday, July 26, at Toyota Park. A Web cast will be available at ChicagoRedStars.com.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: Mathematically, it's not over. But the tires have definitely lost a lot of air. The Red Stars need a lot of help, and they obviously need to win out over their final three matches.

Chicago looked completely lost offensively on Sunday. Cristiane being the only substantial threat tried to do quite a bit on her own to dribble through Sky Blue's defense, but to little success. Masar showed some hustle, but Chicago's front line posted some very weak shots. Masar's rolling shot in the 42nd minute, with a high-percentage angle and distance, was just one of several instances where Chicago could have challenged Branam a bit more.

One of the few bright spots was the play of Chicago defender Oakes. She had an assortment of strong markings and clears when Sky Blue tried to establish an attack, whether it was during a run or a set piece.

The Red Stars' back line play, which was shuffled around earlier in the season, has actually had some stronger moments of late. Unfortunately the team's offense has not done its job, netting two or more goals only three times this season, accounting for three of the team's four wins.

The full Red Stars team returns to close out the season for three more games, but the playoffs look nearly lost at this stage.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

FIRE 2, EARTHQUAKES 0

Chicago’s offense wakes up in 2nd half en route to 2nd home win

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Two big questions heading into Saturday night’s Chicago Fire game against the San Jose Earthquakes:

Who will step up offensively with injured Brian McBride unavailable? And will they find enough to defeat the San Jose Earthquakes and erase their struggles at Toyota Park?

It took more than 80 minutes, but Patrick Nyarko and Cuauhtemoc Blanco provided the damage as Chicago defeated the Quakes, 2-0, in Major League Soccer play.

With the victory, Chicago (7-3-7) claims sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference. Earlier in the day, Toronto FC played the Houston Dynamo to a 1-all draw, briefly holding a one-point conference lead before Chicago’s victory. The Fire also earned just their second victory at home this season.

“It’s nice to break that slump at one point. I’m glad it was today,” Nyarko said. “Hopefully we can sustain that and can make it tough for our opponents to play here.”

“They’re a very tough group,” Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said. “There’s disappointment with Brian’s news. We came out with the idea that hey, we’re still a team. He’s an important part of the team. But at the same time, it’s an opportunity for guys to step up. And tonight as a group, I’m very proud of the guys.”

The game’s first goal came in the 82nd minute. Blanco (pictured) provided a left-footed feed to Nyarko who slipped into the middle of the field and found the near post, striking the ball past Quakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon’s left for the 1-0 Chicago lead.

Hamlett went a bit more defensive minded, bringing in Wilman Conde for Justin Mapp a couple minutes later to preserve the win. But Chicago decided to add to the advantage.

Shortly into second-half stoppage time, Conde assisted Blanco, who chipped the ball over Cannon for a 2-0 lead. Blanco then ran to the stands and attempted his best “Lambeau Leap” impression on the north end of the field.

That final 10-minute stretch was a huge difference from the previous 90. The offense was nonexistent on both ends.

With the Fire utilizing a much different lineup that included Blanco and Marco Pappa on the bench, guys such as Mike Banner earned a rare start. And Chicago was certainly trying to do a little too much with the ball. In fact, the Fire and Quakes combined for only one shot on goal in the entire first half.

“That’s kind of what happens when you have some of the younger guys out there,” Fire midfielder and forward Chris Rolfe said. “And the group we had tonight was extremely unselfish and working hard for each other. So we’re always trying to make that extra pass. We’re a little too unselfish at times. I feel that’s definitely not a problem. That’s something that’s easily fixable.”

The lone shot on goal in the first half came from Banner in the 13th minute. He received a John Thorrington cross and drilled a solid strike on goal. But Cannon dove to his left and cleared the ball away.

A setback for the Fire is the loss of Bakary Soumare (pictured) for a game. Soumare’s yellow card in the 17th minute means he will miss Chicago’s next game against Seattle Sounders FC because of yellow card accumulation.



* * *


Next up: The Fire hit the road to take on Seattle Sounders FC at 2 p.m. (CST) on Saturday, July 25. The game will be televised on ESPN.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: The entire first half felt like a carryover from Chicago’s previous scoreless draw against the Columbus Crew. There were some deep shot opportunities to be had at the top of the box or just beyond it. But they did too much dribbling and perhaps over thinking to create a perfect chance.

In the second half, the game opened up a lot more. As soon as Blanco and Pappa came into the game in the 60th minute, the tempo naturally picked up.

In the goal, Chicago’s Jon Busch needed to make four saves, but they were pretty strong ones. The 70th minute was probably one of the biggest turning points because San Jose forward Ryan Johnson got well past the Fire’s defense. No offside was called. He took a shot, Busch made the save, and the deflection struck Johnson and bounced out of bounds for a goal kick. Shortly after, Busch turned away a Darren Huckerby shot.

So the defense once again came up big. The offense was definitely the question mark heading into the game, since the Fire had not scored an MLS goal at Toyota Park since a 1-all draw against the New England Revolution on May 9.

There is no such thing as replacing a target man such as Brian McBride. But the Fire are 1-for-1 so far. A major test awaits at Seattle’s Qwest Field.

PREVIEW: RED STARS AT SKY BLUE FC

The regular-season countdown is now at four games. This is not a bad time to regularly repeat the "must-win" motto as the Chicago Red Stars stand on the outside of the Women's Professional Soccer playoff race.

Chicago (4-7-5) stays out on the road to take on Sky Blue FC (5-6-4) at 3:30 p.m. (CST) on Sunday at Yurcak Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. The game will be televised on Fox Soccer Channel.

Sky Blue has had the upper hand over the Red Stars this season with a 2-0-1 record head-to-head. They also have outscored Chicago, 3-0, with former Red Stars preseason goalkeeper Jenni Branam posting three clean sheets.

With Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley away with the U.S. Women's National Team and Karen Carney with the England National Team, the Red Stars have plenty of voids at midfield and forward to make up for.

Chicago's leading goal scorer, Cristiane, will be the obvious centerpiece this weekend. She has six goals out of her 16 shots on goal, and she became the first WPS player to net a hat trick on July 12 against FC Gold Pride.

Outside of Cristiane, Chicago has scored only seven goals, with its four national team absences accounting for six of them. That means Cristiane and Brittany Klein (pictured above; one goal against Boston on April 25) are the only Red Stars on Sunday's road trip to find the back of the net this season.

FC Gold Pride has its international absences, too, with defender Christie Rampone and midfielder/forward Heather O'Reilly (U.S.) and midfielder Kelly Parker (Canada) missing this Sunday.

Heading into the weekend, the Red Stars and Washington Freedom are tied in fifth place with 17 points apiece, and Sky Blue is clinging onto the fourth and final playoff spot with 19 points. St. Louis Athletica (23) and the Boston Breakers (21) are currently second and third, respectively, with the Los Angeles Sol dominating with 37 points.

Friday, July 17, 2009

FIRE'S MCBRIDE POSSIBLY OUT FOR SEASON

CLICK HERE for my Examiner.com piece about Chicago Fire forward Brian McBride, who had surgery Friday to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder. McBride is expected to miss three or four months, not the 4-6 weeks that the Fire medical staff originally anticipated.

• PREVIEW: SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES AT CHICAGO FIRE

With McBride out, Chicago's depth comes to the forefront

The Chicago Fire announced that forward Brian McBride had surgery Friday to repair a labral tear in his right shoulder. McBride could miss the remainder of the Major League Soccer season.

Eastern Conference-leading Chicago (6-3-7) plays its first stint without McBride on Saturday when the Fire host the San Jose Earthquakes (3-9-4) at 7:30 p.m. at Toyota Park (televised on My50).

Patrick Nyarko has been playing off the bench of late and is likely to see regular playing time with McBride out. There also is the option of pushing up midfielder Chris Rolfe. Forward Calen Carr also is working his way back into the fold.

Earlier this season, Chicago played host San Jose to a 3-all draw. Rolfe came through with an 85th-minute goal to salvage the tie.

* * *


SlideTackles.net prediction: It is a good thing that Hamlett has had SuperLiga a U.S. Open Cup match and an occasional MLS game here and there to work in some of the other players. Not only is Chicago without its leading goal scorer in McBride. But defender Gonzalo Segares and midfielder Logan Pause are playing in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. And defenders Wilman Conde and Brandon Prideaux have had hamstring injuries.

The Quakes beat the Houston Dynamo near the start of the season, a 3-2 victory that almost looks like a typo at this stage of their season. This isn't a team to take lightly, though, especially since San Jose was just minutes from topping Chicago earlier this season. Ryan Johnson has six goals, Arturo Alvarez is versatile and veteran goalkeeper Joe Cannon is still capable of coming up with big saves.

Chicago has yet to figure things out at home with its 1-2-4 Toyota Park record and five goals. Fire fans are anxious to get a second home win, and as long as you're in first place, you have to figure this team is more than capable of switching the tone at home. Chicago Fire 2, San Jose Earthquakes 1

* * *


• HUSIDIC GETS STARTING NOD

Libertyville native, UIC standout earning his wings in 1st season

Chicago Fire rookie midfielder Baggio Husidic knew he would have to prove himself to earn some playing time, especially on a squad that has some depth. The Libertyville native and University of Illinois-Chicago standout has gotten that chance of late with his first two Major League Soccer starts against Colorado Rapids on July 4 and the Columbus Crew on July 11.

In his first start against Colorado, he also posted his first MLS assist on a Marco Pappa goal as the Fire won, 2-1. In these early stages, Husidic seems to be making an impression.

"I thought he was good," Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said following the Fire's scoreless draw against Columbus. "I thought in the first half he got himself in good spots in the final third. I just didn't think we saw him. We ended up probably running with the ball too long instead of making the early pass."

Husidic also got the start during Wednesday's 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution in the SuperLiga semifinals. His standout moment in the game came in the 26th minute when Fire defender Daniel Woolard provided a cross from the left side. Husidic made a strong run in the middle of the field, but his header went over the crossbar.

Those moments will improve over time, and with injuries and numerous players participating in non-MLS tournaments, Husidic will continue getting those chances.

"I think it's nice, especially early on in my career, to get opportunities to play and get confidence," Husidic said. "That's pretty much all it is, is just getting game experience. And right now I'm getting that, which is good. So hopefully I'll get more and more coming in the future."

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

SUPERLIGA: FIRE 2, REVOLUTION 1

Blanco free kick lifts Chicago into SuperLiga finals

Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco tallied the game-winning goal and an assist as Chicago defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, on Wednesday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass., to advance to the SuperLiga championship.

The Fire host Tigres UANL at 7 p.m. on Aug. 5 at Toyota Park.

Blanco’s game-winning free kick came in the 63rd minute. Marco Pappa ran over the ball and Blanco struck the ball with his right. He found the left side of the net, with Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis not even moving to try to stop the shot.

Blanco also assisted the game’s first goal by Brian McBride (pictured) in the 34th minute. He sent a cross from the left side directly to McBride, who had plenty of space in the center and struck the ball for a 1-0 lead.

The Revolution responded just before halftime in the 44th minute. Chris Tierney fed the ball to Edgaras Jankauskas, who chest-trapped the ball to his left foot. Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch appeared to have a good read on the projection of the ball, but John Thorrington tried to flick the ball away. Busch already committed to his left, and the ball flew past his feet as the Revs tied the score at 1-all.

New England was heavy on the attack all game, with a 23-11 shots edge over the Fire and a 9-4 shots on goal edge. Busch made eight saves and Reis had two.

* * *


Next up: The Fire return to Major League Soccer play when they host the San Jose Earthquakes at 7:30 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park. The game is televised on My50.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: The Fire were outplayed by the Revs in just about every way. Yet it is these types of games where it helps to have a star-studded and healthy lineup that lives up to its billing, coming through with clutch goals and defensive stops.

Though the goal the Fire gave up was a hiccup, Busch was superb in the net. And Blanco’s free kick and assist were first-rate efforts.

The Revs’ 30th-minute shortfall was key in the Fire’s eyes so they would not fall behind. Sainey Nyassi beat Fire defender Daniel Woolard to his right and had a tough angle at the goal. Though not for certain, the replays appeared that Busch ever-so-slightly got a glove on Nyassi’s strike, which ricocheted off the left post.

The Fire defense was one mishap away from earning a third clean sheet in SuperLiga. As long as they can avoid the embarrassing defensive effort they had against Tigres in a 2-1 loss to end group play, Chicago has a good shot at the SuperLiga title.

BOSTON BREAKERS 1, RED STARS 0

Boston ends Chicago’s two-game winning streak

The Chicago Red Stars suffered a setback in their quest to reach the playoffs, falling to the Boston Breakers, 1-0, in Women’s Professional Soccer play Wednesday at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.

Chicago (4-7-5) had a huge 21-11 shots advantage, but the Breakers (6-6-3) held the edge on goal, with the game’s lone tally coming from Angela Hucles in the 35th minute. Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson (pictured) made five saves, while Breakers goalkeeper Alison Lipsher made four for the clean sheet.

Only four regular-season games remain, and the Red Stars are tied for fifth in WPS with the Washington Freedom with 17 points apiece. The team currently holding the fourth and final playoff spot, Sky Blue FC, is next on the docket for the Red Stars this Sunday.

Chicago will be dramatically shorthanded this weekend with four Red Stars on National Team duty: Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley for the U.S. WNT, and Karen Carney for England.

* * *


Next up: The Red Stars conclude their mini road trip with a 3:30 p.m. (CST) match on Sunday, July 19, against Sky Blue FC at Yurcak Stadium in Piscataway, N.J. The game is televised on Fox Soccer Channel.

SUPERLIGA SEMIS: FIRE VS. REVOLUTION

Blanco named to MLS All-Star First XI, replacing De Rosario

The Chicago Fire take on the defending SuperLiga champion New England Revolution for a 6 p.m. (CST) match Wednesday at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass.

Despite New England's ongoing injury setbacks, the team somehow manages to defy the odds. The Revs posted a 2-0-1 record in group stage, the best record among the eight teams. Chicago posted a 2-1 record, dropping its third game to Tigres UANL but still securing a semifinal spot.

Tigres and Santos Laguna square off against one another in the 8 p.m. (CST) semifinal on Wednesday.

Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch has risen to the occasion in SuperLiga, saving 11 of 13 shots in three games, posting two shutouts to start off the tournament. New England's Kheli Dube and Kenny Mansally each have two goals and two assists so far in the tournament. New England's six goals in three games was tops in group play.

• Blanco replaces De Rosario in All-Star First XI: With Toronto FC's Dwayne De Rosario unavailable for Major League Soccer's All-Star Game on July 29, the league announced Tuesday that Chicago Fire midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco will take his place on the MLS All-Star First XI. De Rosario's Reds face the Puerto Rico Islanders in the CONCACAF Champions League on July 29. Blanco finished just under De Rosario in the midfield voting for this year's All-Star Game. He had a goal and an assist in last year's festivities, leading MLS past West Ham United, 3-2.

PREVIEW: RED STARS AT BOSTON

Chicago vying for third straight victory

With Brazilian Cristiane heating up, so are the Chicago Red Stars. They hope to ride the momentum of her recent hat trick when they take on the host Boston Breakers for a 6 p.m. (CST) Women's Professional Soccer match Wednesday at Harvard Stadium in Cambridge, Mass.

The Red Stars (4-6-5) are without Karen Carney, who is competing for the England Women's National Team on Thursday against Iceland and on July 22 against Denmark.

Chicago has posted one of its best moments (4-0 win April 25) and worst moments (2-0 loss June 21) against the Breakers (5-6-3) this season. Now that the offense has found some life with five total goals in the past two victories, the Red Stars look to maintain their stronger finishing on this two-game road trip.

Aside from winning their season opener in St. Louis, the Red Stars have since posted a 0-2-4 record on the road. Boston is 3-2-2 at home this season and tied for third in the WPS standings with Sky Blue FC.

The Red Stars are close behind with 17 points and fifth in the standings. The four playoff spots are the focal point for each regular-season game the rest of the way. Having played one more game than the three teams ahead of them, the Red Stars know they need to do their best to win out in these final five matches.

• Cristiane named WPS Player of the Week: Was there any doubt as to who would take this honor? Red Stars forward Cristiane, the first player in WPS to garner a hat trick, was awarded Player of the Week honors for Week 16. Her three goals led the Red Stars to a 3-1 victory over FC Gold Pride on Sunday. The Red Stars have earned this weekly award in back-to-back weeks, with Lindsay Tarpley securing the first-ever POW in Chicago's history in Week 15.

Monday, July 13, 2009

MLS Roundup: CONDE TO ALL-STAR FIRST XI

Chicago Fire defender Wilman Conde was named to the All-Star First XI on Monday, while Cuauhtemoc Blanco just missed the list in the midfield. Read this and much more in my MLS Notebook at Examiner.com.

~ Charlie Corr
Major League Soccer Examiner at Examiner.com
SlideTackles.net creator and editor


CLICK HERE to subscribe to my Major League Soccer posts at Examiner.com.

REMEMBERING THE '99 WORLD CUP

CLICK HERE for an Examiner.com feature with goalkeeper Briana Scurry and Chicago Red Stars defender Kate Markgraf, who talked about the 1999 World Cup, Women's Professional Soccer and more in celebration of their memorable accomplishment over China 10 years ago.

~ Charlie Corr
Chicago Sports Examiner at Examiner.com
SlideTackles.net creator and editor


CLICK HERE to subscribe to my Chicago Sports posts at Examiner.com.

RED STARS 3, FC GOLD PRIDE 1

Cristiane nets first hat trick in WPS history

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - Momentum has been difficult to find for the Chicago Red Stars in their Women’s Professional Soccer debut. And with a road trip and some key absences on the horizon, a victory Sunday was of the essence.

Thankfully for the Red Stars, Brazilian sensation Cristiane is heating up with her play making abilities, and she did so in a big way with the first hat trick in WPS history as Chicago earned its second straight win, defeating FC Gold Pride, 3-1, at Toyota Park.

She needs to be the catalyst since soon the team will be without Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley, who are bound for the U.S. Women’s National Team and will miss next Sunday's game against Sky Blue FC. Karen Carney will miss the next two games because of her call-up to England's National Team.

“Cristiane showed her qualities as a world class finisher. And I will credit the assisters, as well,” Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes said. “The team showed that they were gutsy and greedy when they didn’t dominate or felt totally in control. And for me, that’s the sign of a good team.”

As solid as Cristiane’s finishing was, she also was the recipient of some strong passing and setups, with Rapinoe standing above the most. Though she only had one assist, Rapinoe created several other chances to keep Gold Pride’s defense busy in key spurts.

“I think that I positioned myself well, and I received good (setups) from my teammates” Cristiane said through Red Stars teammate and translator Lydia Vandenbergh. “You always don’t have a lot of chances to score in a game, and I look to get my chances on-frame.”

Cristiane put the Red Stars (4-6-5) on the board in the 31st minute with a penalty kick goal past Gold Pride goalkeeper Nicole Barnhart. She was tripped a minute earlier by Rachel Buehler and calmly gave Chicago the 1-0 lead after both teams were off to a pretty slow start.

Then in first-half stoppage time, Cristiane broke through the Gold Pride defense after Rapinoe’s send. She took advantage of the one-on-one opportunity against Barnhart, dribbling around the Gold Pride goalkeeper to her left. Two Gold Pride defenders managed to get back, but Cristiane’s shot trickled past both of them and she celebrated with her patented back flip.

The Gold Pride (3-8-3) battled back when Rapinoe fouled Tiffeny Milbrett in the box when going for a header. Milbrett took the PK in the 64th minute and cut the deficit to 2-1.

But unlike many games limited in the scoring department and limited in big swings, the Red Stars immediately snagged back Gold Pride’s momentum just 1 minute later as Cristiane notched her third goal of the game with a solid strike toward the upper left corner of the net.



* * *


Next up: The Red Stars head out on a short two-game road trip, starting with a 6 p.m. (CST) match Wednesday, July 15, against the Boston Breakers.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: The three points were an absolute must for Chicago, and Cristiane didn’t disappoint. A few bounces definitely went Chicago’s way, which has not been the case much this season - Cristiane’s second goal is a perfect example.

The Red Stars’ defensive play was relatively steady, coming up with some key intercepted passes or forcing Gold Pride into some difficult looks at the net. Christine Sinclair had a few scoring opportunities, but for the most part Chicago’s defense kept her in check. And Sinclair was a one-woman wrecking crew against the Red Stars in the teams’ previous matchups, scoring both Gold Pride goals en route to a win and a draw.

Hayes said Cristiane was taken out of the match in the 67th minute so she can maintain some energy for the Red Stars’ busy stretch on the road.

Anyone following WPS knows the race for the playoffs is as tight as it can be (minus the Los Angeles Sol). The back-to-back wins, a first for Chicago, now puts the Red Stars in fifth place. The top four advance to the playoffs.

The Red Stars have given teams some fits on the road, and they have quite a bit of work to do in adding to this “winning streak.” That has a pretty nice ring to it.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

FIRE 0, COLUMBUS CREW 0

With D.C. idle, Chicago briefly takes sole possession of 1st in East

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - A clean sheet from both ends is never the most appealing for the fan base. But the Chicago Fire care more about first place, and not about the lack of scoring.

Despite an 11-4 shots on goal advantage, the Fire settled for a scoreless draw against the defending champion Columbus Crew on Saturday night in Major League Soccer play at Toyota Park.

With D.C. United idle this week, Chicago (6-3-7) briefly jumped into sole possession of first place in the Eastern Conference with 25 points (one ahead of D.C.). The Crew are now 5-3-9, with 23 points. Later Saturday, Toronto FC topped the San Jose Earthquakes, 3-1, and now have 25 points, as well.

It was a difficult game to establish possession with multiple players slipping on the surface, particularly in the first half. There were some errant passes, holding on the ball too long. But the Chicago defense of Bakary Soumare, C.J. Brown, Tim Ward and Daniel Woolard, and Jon Busch’s (pictured) four saves, proved to be enough to contain Guillermo Barros Schelotto and the Crew attack.

“I think each team has spurts of when they possessed it,” Busch said. “At times we didn’t make the simple play. We’ve got to do a little better possessing it and moving around like we did in Colorado. At the end of the day, we got a clean sheet. And the guys in front of me - Baky, C.J. and Timmy and Danny - did a great job.

On the flip side, Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer had to come up big on several occasions, as his 11 saves indicate.

“Their goalkeeper made some great saves in the second half that kept them in the game,” Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said of Hesmer. “It’s sure frustrating that we could have gotten three and we didn’t.”

Chicago’s best scoring chance in the first half was on a header from Brian McBride in the 25th minute. The header came off of a Cuauhtemoc Blanco corner kick and was placed solidly toward the left of the Columbus goal. But Crew goalkeeper William Hesmer stretched to his right and got a glove on the ball to bat it away.

The Fire also had a strong offensive chance in the 39th minute when McBride had open space on the left side. He crossed the ball for Chris Rolfe, who slipped on the playing surface. But the ball did get to Marco Pappa, who had a high-percentage opportunity but struck the ball right to Hesmer.

The Fire’s best second-half chance came in the 63rd minute. Rolfe was darting for the ball against a defender and Hesmer, and the ball popped out to Blanco for a rebound opportunity. With Hesmer will away from the net and a couple Crew defenders trying to move into Blanco’s path, the Fire midfielder still had a good angle. Instead, he shanked the ball and did not even put it on net.

Notes: Libertyville native and Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic got his second straight start. … Chicago was without midfielder Logan Pause and defender Gonzalo Segares, who were not available because of CONCACAF Gold Cup duty for the U.S. and Costa Rica, respectively. … The Fire are now 1-2-4 at Toyota Park.

* * *


Next up: The Fire head to New England to take on the Revolution in SuperLiga at 6 p.m. Wednesday, July 15. The game is on TeleFutura.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: Forgive my brashness, but this was a pretty sloppy game to watch. The slips on the surface certainly are legitimate since the field was slick in spots for both teams. But there were quite a few errant passes, several Fire players hanging onto the ball way too long - McBride flailing his hands in the air for Pappa to get him the ball in the second half stood out.

This might be a bit harsh to say all of this, especially since this is a first place team. But it deserves mention because despite those mishaps, they contained the Crew on the defensive side and possessed the ball longer than Columbus to attain a necessary edge. They once again missed an opportunity for three points at home. Instead, the Fire are 1-2-4 at Toyota Park.

The players and coaching staff are correct on one thing: They are in first place. And if it means a continuation of draws at home and maintaining a strong record on the road, that will eventually get them to where they want to be - a chance for a postseason run.

PREVIEW: FC GOLD PRIDE AT RED STARS

Chicago tries to continue climb in WPS standings

Just getting a victory was the hardest part, putting an end to a month-long drought for the Chicago Red Stars. Now that they have a well-played game to latch onto, they head into Sunday’s match against FC Gold Pride with some confidence.

Chicago’s Women’s Professional Soccer game starts at 7 p.m. at Toyota Park (televised on Comcast SportsNet, Web cast on ChicagoRedStars.com).

The Red Stars (3-6-5) are ahead of last-place FC Gold Pride (3-7-3), but the Bay Area squad has performed well against Chicago this season. FC Gold Pride had a 1-0 victory on May 16 at Toyota Park. And they held a 1-0 lead until Cristiane salvaged a draw in the second half of a 1-all affair on June 7 at Buck Shaw Stadium. Christine Sinclair posted both FC Gold Pride goals.

Only six regular-season games remain for the Red Stars, and this game is vital since the team will be without four of its best players for the two games afterward. Lindsay Tarpley, Megan Rapinoe and Carli Lloyd will be playing for the U.S. Women’s National Team in two exhibitions, and Karen Carney will be joining England’s club.

This game will be a special event off the field in remembrance of the U.S.’s World Cup victory in 1999. The Red Stars are also holding a special deal for 99-cent tickets. Visit ChicagoRedStars.com for more information.

PREVIEW: COLUMBUS CREW AT FIRE

Can Chicago turn its 1-2-3 home record around?

• Preview: Rather than repeat all of my thoughts, CLICK HERE for the Chicago Fire-Columbus Crew section of my Week 17 MLS preview at Examiner.com.

• Game time: 7 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park (televised on ESPN2)

• Fire injuries/absences: Defender Brandon Prideaux (out with hamstring strain); defender Gonzalo Segares (Costa Rica, Gold Cup); defender Logan Pause (U.S., Gold Cup)

• Key stat/fact: Former Columbus Crew forward Brian McBride's last MLS goal was May 16 against Toronto FC. He led MLS with his sixth tally but has been stuck there ever since.

Friday, July 10, 2009

ISSA TO INDUCT FIRE'S KLOPAS

Chicago Fire technical director Frank Klopas is going to be inducted into the Illinois State Soccer Association Hall of Fame.

The ISSA will announce the induction this Saturday during the Fire's game against the Columbus Crew at Toyota Park. An official induction ceremony and banquet will take place Oct. 3 at the park.

"It's an honor to be a part of the ISSA Hall of Fame, among so many prestigious members," Klopas said in a release. "Illinois has such a rich tradition of soccer, and it's an honor to be recognized by the ISSA and included in the Hall of Fame."

Other ISSA inductees include Bridgeview Mayor Steven Landek, and the director of coaching instruction for USASA and ISSA, Aleks Mihailovic.

Klopas has a rich soccer history in Chicago that included playing for the Sting in the mid- to late-1980s and the Fire in 1998 and 1999. Following his playing career, Klopas was an assistant coach for the Fire in 2000. In 2004, he was named the head coach of the Chicago Storm indoor team and also was inducted into the "Ring of Fire" Hall of Fame that year. In 2005, he was named to the Illinois Soccer Hall of Fame. In 2008, Klopas was named the Fire's first technical director.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

THIS DATE IN MLS HISTORY, JULY 9

Read my "This date in MLS history" post on former Chicago Fire head coach Juan Carlos Osorio at Examiner.com.

~ Charlie Corr
MLS Examiner
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

CHICAGO SOCCER ROUNDUP

A few noteworthy topics from within the confines of the Chicago Fire and Chicago Red Stars:

• Gold Cup update: Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause got his second start for the U.S. Men's National Team during Wednesday's 2-0 victory over Honduras in the CONCACAF Gold Cup at RFK Stadium. Pause stayed in the game until Benny Feilhaber replaced him in the 64th minute. Earlier in the Gold Cup, Pause had an assist as he earned his first cap during the U.S.'s dominating 4-0 victory against Grenada last week. This victory was the second in a about a month against Honduras, earning a 2-1 come-from-behind win at Soldier Field in World Cup qualifying.

• Chicago Fire Camp Day: Fire fans, head out to Toyota Park from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. on Thursday for Chicago Fire Camp Day. Mascot Sparky and Fire players Jon Busch, Chris Rolfe and Bakary Soumare will be out and about. See a live Fire practice, participate in interactive soccer activities, win prizes and more.

• Pappa's goal No. 1: Fire midfielder Marco Pappa earned his first MLS Goal of the Week, which was his fifth goal of the season in leading Chicago past the host Colorado Rapids, 2-1, last Saturday. The win ended a decade-long winless streak at Colorado. Pappas' goal also came against former Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens.

• Tarpley honored: On Wednesday, Chicago Red Stars forward Lindsay Tarpley became the first player in franchise history to earn Women's Professional Soccer Player of the Week. She had the game-winning goal in a 2-1 victory against the Washington Freedom on July 1. Watch her goal below, which takes place at approximately the 2-minute mark.

Monday, July 6, 2009

RED STARS TRIO RETURNS TO U.S. WNT

Lloyd, Rapinoe, Tarpley join U.S. for 2 friendlies; Carney joins England

The Chicago Red Stars' Carli Lloyd, Megan Rapinoe and Lindsay Tarpley were named to the U.S. Women's National Team roster on Monday for two friendlies against Canada later this month. Also, Karen Carney will join England for two games against Iceland and Denmark.

The U.S. trio faces Canada on July 19 in Rochester, N.Y., and July 22 in Charleston, S.C. The last time against Canada, the U.S. prevailed with a 4-0 victory on May 25 in Toronto, with Rapinoe and Tarpley netting goals. For Carney, she and the England squad face Iceland on July 16 and Denmark on July 22.

They will be available for this Sunday's Women's Professional Soccer match against FC Gold Pride at Toyota Park (7 p.m. start, televised on Comcast SportsNet). But they will be absent for the Red Stars' road trip against the Boston Breakers (July 15) and Sky Blue FC (July 19).

Boston will have the biggest challenge of any WPS team with four Breakers joining the U.S. - defender Heather Mitts, forward Amy Rodriguez, midfielder Angela Hucles, and defender and Crystal Lake, Ill., native Amy LePeilbet.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

IRELAND EDGES RED STARS

The Chicago Red Stars out-shot the Ireland Women's National Team, 16-2, on Sunday. But it was Ireland that tallied the game's lone goal in a 1-0 exhibition victory over the Women's Professional Soccer squad at Benedictine University in Lisle.

Ireland's Aine O'Gorman scored on a breakaway in the 40th minute for a lead that held up the rest of the way. Ireland's only two shot attempts were on goal, while the Red Stars managed only two shots on goal, as well.

Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes made sure to spread around the playing time in this friendly. Caroline Jonsson and Lydia Williams split goalkeeping duties, with Williams recording the team's only save of the day in the second half.

* * *


Next up: The Red Stars host FC Gold Pride at 7 p.m. Sunday, July 12, at Toyota Park. The game includes a 10-year anniversary celebration of the U.S. Women's National Team's victory in the 1999 World Cup. The Red Stars have a special 99-cent ticket promotion. Visit ChicagoRedStars.com for more information.

Saturday, July 4, 2009

FIRE 2, COLORADO RAPIDS 1

Chicago snaps 3-game skid, jumps up to 1st in the East

Chicago Fire midfielder Marco Pappa and defender Wilman Conde provided more offense than the team had during its three-game losing streak as Chicago topped the Colorado Rapids, 2-1, on Saturday in Major League Soccer action at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.

"The guys stuck together, played as a group, and when we do that we're a good team," Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said.

The win not only snapped a three-game skid for the Fire (6-3-6), but it put Chicago back at the top of the Eastern Conference with 24 points (D.C. also has 24, but through 17 games played). The victory also erased a nearly decade-long drought in Colorado - a dismal 0-6-4 mark in their previous 10 road matches against the Rapids.

Conversely, the Rapids (5-4-6) dropped their first home game of the season.

Chicago played a pretty much flawless first half of soccer, earning the 2-0 lead with Pappa's and Conde's goals in the 30th and 37th minutes, respectively, and holding the Rapids to zero shots on goal in the first 45 minutes.

Jacob Peterson finally broke through for Colorado in the 76th minute with an unassisted goal.

Chicago's defense clamped down on Rapids forward Conor Casey, who made a long-awaited return after playing in the FIFA Confederations Cup. Casey had only one shot on goal in the 76th minute, just before Peterson's tally.

Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch made three saves and the Rapids' Matt Pickens made one.

* * *


Next up: The Fire host the defending champion Columbus Crew at 7 p.m. Saturday, July 11, at Toyota Park. The game is televised on ESPN2.

* * *


Fire notes:
• Libertyville native, University of Illinois-Chicago product and Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic earned the first assist of his MLS career with his center pass to Pappa for the team's 30th-minute goal.
• Fire defender Logan Pause is with the U.S. Men's National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup. He earned his first international cap and got the start during Saturday's 4-0 victory over Grenada in Seattle. Pause also assisted Robbie Rogers' 60th-minute goal that gave the U.S. a 3-0 lead.

RED STARS TO HOST IRELAND

The Chicago Red Stars take a quick break from Women's Professional Soccer action to host the Republic of Ireland Women's National Team for a 3 p.m. match Sunday at the Benedictine University Sports Complex, 5700 College Road, in Lisle.

Red Stars defender and Orland Park native Mary Therese McDonnell has earned six caps with the Irish National Team.

Individual tickets for Sunday's exhibition start at $20, and a discount of $15 per ticket is available for groups of 15 or more.

PREVIEW: FIRE AT COLORADO RAPIDS

Chicago returns to MLS play, hopes to end 3-game losing streak

For the past three weeks the Chicago Fire backed into the semifinals of SuperLiga and were eliminated quickly by the United Soccer Leagues Second Division’s Wilmington Hammerheads.

It’s back to the main job at hand as the Fire (5-3-6) travel to Colorado to take on the Rapids (5-3-6) at 8 p.m. Saturday in Major League Soccer play.

The usefulness of this stretch has been the opportunity to rest a few bodies. Forward Brian McBride had logged a ton of minutes. John Thorrington had some back issues. C.J. Brown felt a little something in his hamstring during SuperLiga and decided to take caution.

But like the bulk of this season, with frequent tournaments popping up in the middle of the MLS schedule, we now have the CONCACAF Gold Cup drawing a few good men away. In the Fire’s case, that means no Logan Pause (pictured) and no Gonzalo Segares. Potentially no Jon Busch in goal either, if one of the U.S. Men’s National Team’s other two goalkeepers gets injured or suspended.

The Fire defense will have to be on top of its game with the Rapids returning target man Conor Casey, who was with the U.S. MNT at the FIFA Confederations Cup. He was a lethal force for Colorado before he left for the national team. Colorado stayed strong during Casey’s absence with the play of Omar Cummings, who was just called up to the U.S. MNT for the Gold Cup.

SlideTackles.net prediction: The difficult part of this upcoming match for Chicago is that throughout the three-week, non-MLS stretch, the Fire haven’t been bringing out their complete A-team lineup. The bottom line is that Fire head coach Denis Hamlett didn’t want to tire out a McBride or Cuauhtemoc Blanco, and for the sake of maintaining their high impact and availability, it was a smart decision.

Their defense and midfield will need to pick up some slack with the Gold Cup absences of Segares and Pause. Those two cover quite a bit of ground on the pitch. The early projection is that Tim Ward will be in Pause’s spot on the field, and he did get some work there in SuperLiga. However, he had little impact and was eventually dropped back to right back.

The Fire definitely need to improve their performance from the past two non-MLS matches. Falling to the USL-2’s Wilmington Hammerheads was definitely an unexpected scenario, and the late subs of Marco Pappa and Chris Rolfe did not remedy the team’s lack of a goal. Defensively, during Chicago’s match against Tigres in SuperLiga, Hamlett was more than displeased about the team’s effort.

The Rapids’ three losses have all come against the top three teams in the Western Conference standings. And Colorado is one of four MLS teams still undefeated at home. The big focus for Chicago is limiting Casey, because if he can cause any sort of disruption, whether he muscles his way for some goal chances on his own or draws extra coverage to create for others, the Rapids will erase their rare setback last week at Seattle. Colorado Rapids 2, Fire 1

Friday, July 3, 2009

IT'S OFFICIAL: XSL GOES ON HIATUS

As reported Wednesday morning on Examiner.com, the Chicago-based Xtreme Soccer League announced Friday that it is going on a one-year hiatus. This announcement jeopardizes the long-term future of the Chicago Storm organization, which played its professional indoor soccer games at the Sears Centre Arena. The Storm launched in 2004, and the 2008-09 campaign was the one and only in the XSL after four seasons in the former Major Indoor Soccer League.

CLICK HERE for the XSL's release on Friday.

Other links:
Fox 6 Milwaukee report on Tuesday, June 30
Examiner.com report on Wednesday, July 1
Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel report on Thursday, July 2

Thursday, July 2, 2009

RED STARS 2, FREEDOM 1

Chicago wins for 1st time since April, ends 451-minute scoreless skid

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Women’s Professional Soccer season has been on the short end scoring wise, though it was a bit surprising that no team to this point ever erased a deficit and won the game.

The Chicago Red Stars became the first, and in the process ended an assortment of droughts.

Lindsay Tarpley (pictured) and Cristiane scored second-half goals as the Red Stars rallied past the Washington Freedom, 2-1, on Wednesday at Toyota Park. Cristiane’s goal in the 48th minute ended a 451-minute scoreless drought. And with the help of Tarpley’s game-winner in the 61st minute, Chicago recorded its first victory since April 25 against the Boston Breakers.

The victory erased a nine-match winless streak and keeps Chicago (3-6-5) in the playoff hunt. After the Red Stars attacked the Freedom (4-5-4) with an astonishing 28 shots, the team probably deserved to finally get that win.

“The law of averages suggests that the amount of chances we have, we have to bloody put the ball in the back of the net,” Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes said.

The two Red Stars goals had to be a tremendous relief to the Red Stars, especially after having so many chances in that first half. Tarpley had two chances where Freedom goalkeeper Erin McLeod stretched to her left to make the saves. And Cristiane hit the crossbar twice in that half.

“I think we could have ended the game within the first 10 minutes. We had several opportunities, hit the bar, (Washington’s defense) hit one off the (goal) line, and I thought our attack dominated in the first half.”

Yet despite all of those attacks, it was the Freedom that got on the scoreboard first when Abby Wambach had an easy tap-in after the ball deflected off of Red Stars defender Ifeoma Dieke in the 34th minute.

But Washington’s 1-0 halftime lead didn’t last long. In the 48th, Cristiane had her back to the net. But when the ball wound up near her feet, she did a back flick with her left foot to tie the score at 1-all. Then in the 61st, Tarpley drilled a shot in the upper left corner of the net for the 2-1 advantage.

“I was really proud of the way we came together and kept fighting,” Tarpley said. “So to be able to come from behind was a big thing for us.”

* * *


Next up: The Red Stars host the Irish National Team at 3 p.m. Sunday at Benedictine University in Lisle. Their next WPS match is at 7 p.m. July 12 against FC Gold Pride at Toyota Park.

* * *


SlideTackles.net thoughts: The Red Stars can at least temporarily put a muzzle on the discussion of missed chances or missed half chances. Yes, they probably should have posted more goals with their 28-shot display, but they earned enough for a much-needed victory.

Though Wambach had an easy goal, the Red Stars did a relatively good job defending against the talented Washington forward. With most set pieces, the Freedom typically key on her as the primary source for goals. The Red Stars defense kept a close watch on her, with midfielder Carli Lloyd cutting right in front of Wambach and clearing the ball on a couple of corner kick chances.

The midfield as a whole moved well and maintained a good pace to the game. A heavy dose of talent is within that group, and they lived up to the billing. And the Red Stars’ front line made some strong runs within the gaps of Washington’s defense.

Chicago has played more games than everyone except the first-place Los Angeles Sol. So while they jumped up to fifth in the WPS standings, that simply means that the Red Stars’ six remaining regular-season games are all the more important as they need to start up a winning streak and reach the four-team playoff bubble.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

CHICAGO-BASED XSL DISBANDING

Storm's future in jeopardy

The Xtreme Soccer League, based in Chicago, is disbanding after only one season of play and less than one full year. The official announcement is coming Friday, putting the Chicago Storm's future in jeopardy. CLICK HERE to read my report at Examiner.com.

~ Charlie Corr
Chicago Sports Examiner at Examiner.com
SlideTackles.net creator and editor

RED STARS HOST FREEDOM

The Chicago Red Stars again try to put an end to their more than two-month winless drought when they host the Washington Freedom for a 7:30 p.m. match Wednesday in Women's Professional Soccer action at Toyota Park. A Web cast in both English and Spanish will be available at ChicagoRedStars.com.

Last-place Chicago (2-6-5, 11 points) has played Washington (4-4-4, 16 points) twice, the most recent game a scoreless draw on June 13 at RFK Stadium. That game also marked a string of four straight games without the Red Stars scoring a goal. They currently have a scoreless streak of 403 minutes, a WPS record.

With seven regular-season games remaining, the Red Stars know that time is running out to try to secure one of four playoff spots. Washington currently sits in fourth, and a Red Stars victory would put them only two points behind.