Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Fire clear past smoke, Rapids

Fire's Jalil Anibaba -- Getty Images
In soccer circles, the home fans represent the 12th man on the pitch. From the Chicago Fire's standpoint, they had a partially direct impact toward the Fire's game-winning goal.

With the smoke still clearing from some previously lit flares close to the Colorado Rapids goal, Fire right defensive back Jalil Anibaba cracked a shot from more than 40 yards out, finding the back netting during Chicago's 2-1 victory over Colorado in a Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup qualifying match on Wednesday at Bradley University's Shea Stadium in Peoria, Ill.

Anibaba's game-winning strike came in the 61st minute, giving the Fire a 2-1 advantage that held up over the final half hour. Anibaba's deep shot through the smoke appeared to cause a delayed reaction from Colorado goalkeeper Ian Joyce, who then scrambled to his left but could not get to the ball in time.

From Anibaba's view, though, the smokey environment was not taken into account on his decision to shoot from deep.

"To be honest, no, I wasn't thinking about that," Anibaba said. "I was just thinking about how much time and space I had. I got the ball played out wide, and I had a lot of time. My initial thought was to take the defender one-on-one, but I just focused on my strike and getting that on frame."

With the win, the Fire will face either the San Jose Earthquakes or Portland Timbers in the qualification finals. Gaston Puerari netted the Fire's other goal on Wednesday, and Andre Akpan scored for the defending MLS Cup champion Rapids.


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