Tuesday, June 30, 2009


USL-2's Wilmington Hammerheads edge Chicago, 1-0

Kenny Bundy of the United Soccer Leagues Second Division's Wilmington Hammerheads once again came through for his squad in this 2009 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

Bundy (pictured, right) scored a goal in the 37th minute as the Hammerheads upset Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire, 1-0, on Tuesday night in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup in front of 5,423 spectators at Legion Stadium in Wilmington, N.C.

For Bundy, this is the second straight game he has come up big. Bundy was a 68th-minute sub during Wilmington's second-round match against the USL First Division's Carolina RailHawks. In the final minute of stoppage time, Bundy scored a goal to tie the match at 3-all. He also converted one of the Hammerheads' penalty kicks in the tiebreaker to help Wilmington advance to face the Fire.

The Fire supplied enough of an attack Tuesday, but could not put much on goal. They held a 15-6 shots advantage. The Fire's starting front line supplied nine shots alone, with Stefan Dimitrov shooting six times and Justin Mapp (pictured left) three. Chicago also held a 10-4 advantage in corner kicks.

Hammerheads goalkeeper Darryl Sattler had four saves for the clean sheet. Chicago backup goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra made three saves in a full game of work.

Chicago went with a bulk of its usual substitutes to start this match. The starting midfield alone had a different look to it with Mike Banner, Baggio Husidic, Peter Lowry and Patrick Nyarko. Lowry was placed on the disabled list earlier this year because of a left knee strain.

Maybe the Twitter updates were a bad omen for the Fire. During their "Tweet-cast" (there was no broadcast of the game) the Fire quickly updated one of their posts that said they will play the Rochester Rhinos/Columbus Crew winner with an accurate "should the Fire win tonight" correction.

It was Upset Central on Tuesday for MLS squads. Rochester topped the Columbus Crew in PKs, 5-3, after playing to a 1-all draw in regulation. The Harrisburg City Islanders defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1. The Charleston Battery topped Chivas USA, 3-1, though the Battery have a good track record having made last year's U.S. Open Cup finals.

* * *

Next up: The Fire resume MLS play after a three-week league hiatus. They hit the road to take on the Colorado Rapids for an 8 p.m. (CST) match on Saturday, July 4.


Tuesday's game can be followed through Fire's 'Twitter-cast'

The Chicago Fire open play in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup. They take on the United Soccer Leagues Second Division's Wilmington Hammerheads for a 6 p.m. (CST) match Tuesday at Legion Stadium in Wilmington, N.C. Because there is no television broadcast, the Fire are providing fans with game updates on Twitter. CLICK HERE for their updates.

If the Fire advance, they will face either Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew or the USL First Division's Rochester Rhinos in the quarterfinals. The winner of the U.S. Open Cup automatically qualifies for the CONCACAF Champions League.

Sunday, June 28, 2009


On this date in MLS history, June 28, 2003, Peter Nowak became the first inductee into the Chicago Fire's "Ring of Fire." And in 2008 on this date, the Fire paid tribute to supporters Dan Parry and Brandon Kitchens with the start of the commemorative Wall of Honor. CLICK HERE to read my post at Examiner.com.

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

Saturday, June 27, 2009


Despite loss, Chicago advances to SuperLiga semis

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Chicago Fire advanced to the semifinals in SuperLiga 2009 play under their own terms, but it wasn’t easy. And it sure wasn’t pretty.

The Fire needed a win, draw or a defeat by less than two goals. They wound up with the latter as Tigres UANL topped Chicago, 2-1, on Saturday at Toyota Park. The Tigres also advanced to the semifinals out of Group A on Saturday as San Luis and Major League Soccer’s Chivas USA played to a 1-all draw.

“Absolutely terrible. A disgrace,” Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said of the team’s defensive effort. “The first minute, we could have been down maybe 2- or 3-0. We talked about it before in terms of going out there with the right mentality. I’m disappointed to the start of the game. We backed out of tackles. We didn’t want to make a tackle. Both goals we had enough guys back to make a play and we didn’t.

“I told the guys in the locker room that if we have this type of attitude, then we’re not going to win anything. If we show what we did in the first two games, then I think we have a good chance of going far.”

The Tigres struck first when they utilized a heavy doze of passing sequences to get through the Fire’s defense in the 37th minute. Armanda Pulido was in prime position for an easy goal past Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch with Manuel Viniegra and Jonathan DeLeon assisting.

In the second half, a great offensive opportunity turned into a horrendous sequence for the Fire. In the 60th minute, Cuauhtemoc Blanco drew a yellow card from Pulido just above the box. But the Tigres’ wall blocked a shot attempt on the free kick. Pulido then jumped on the ball and literally went coast-to-coast. Logan Pause tried to slow him up and definitely could have been charged with a foul if Pulido didn’t maintain possession. With a few more dribbles, he tallied an unassisted goal in the 61st minute for a 2-0 lead.

Under the circumstances, with a two-goal deficit, the Fire would have been reliant on some help from Chivas USA against San Luis. Thankfully for Fire’s sake, they took matters into their own hands.

Patrick Nyarko, who subbed for Chris Rolfe (pictured above) in the second half, drew a Tigres penalty in the box in the 84th minute. In the 85th, Blanco hammered home the penalty kick to the left side of the goal. Tigres goalkeeper Enrique Palos guessed the correct direction, but could not stop the shot as the Fire cut their deficit to 2-1.

“We fought hard in the end and we were able to get through. But we know we can play better,” Fire forward Brian McBride said.

The early stages of the match were back-and-forth, not necessarily the type of game the Fire wanted while hoping to maintain the pace for a win or draw. The Tigres had some early chances, including within the first minute of play. But the Fire kept a clean sheet early.

Chicago could have gotten on the board first and deserved a penalty kick in the 28th minute when the Tigres committed a handball in the box during Rolfe’s offensive attack. Referee Kevin Thomas did not notice the clear handball, but pretty much all of Toyota Park did.

* * *

Next up: The Fire continue their non-MLS slate of games when they hit the road to face the Wilmington Hammerheads at 6 p.m. Tuesday in the U.S. Open Cup.

* * *

SlideTackles.net thoughts: You won’t hear any discrepancy between Hamlett’s and my views of this game. Hamlett pretty much hit it right on the nose.

Not only was the defense poor, but the ball movement was sloppy, particularly some passes to the flanks. For whatever reason the timing was off with everything. Clearances of the ball were a burden in the defensive third.

Typical right defensive back Tim Ward was given a chance to contribute in the midfield, but he made no impact and seemed content to fall back to a defensive position anyway. Hamlett made the correct move when Baggio Husidic was brought into the game for Brandon Prideaux in the second half. Husidic played in the mid and Ward dropped back in Prideaux’s spot.

It’s time to quickly forget about this disappointing effort and prepare for another busy week, with U.S. Open Cup on Tuesday and a return to MLS play next Saturday at Colorado.


Last-place Chicago should utilize three attackers the rest of the way

I have never been a fan of a one-person attacking formation at the start of a soccer game. Nursing a one-goal lead or holding out for a road draw, those are different stories.

Unless you have Marta as that one attacker, you are setting yourself up for a midfield/defensive battle, with your main weapon being some quick counterattacks.

The Chicago Red Stars have opened games with their one-man attacking option, but since Day 1, this organization has said that it has some offensive weapons. If so, why are they dropping back to the midfield? Perhaps Chicago's lack of scoring and current last-place stance in the Women's Professional Soccer standings can partly be averted with a different formation and by moving some personnel around.

On Saturday, the Red Stars had to resort to a 3-4-3 formation switch late in the first half after falling behind, 2-0, to the first-place Los Angeles Sol. Shortly after, Lindsay Tarpley (pictured) almost notched a goal, but she was offside. L.A. topped Chicago, 4-0.

Surprisingly, this season still isn't lost for the Red Stars (2-5-6, 11 points), despite the lack of a victory since April 25. I would hand first place and a guaranteed seat in the championship to the Sol (10-4-1, 34 points) this very minute, and I'm sure many others feel the same way.

But those three other playoff spots are not out of the picture for Chicago. The Red Stars need to make a move, and fast. They don't have the defensive stability to rely on the 3-4-3 they had Saturday, but they should embrace the three-person attacking front.

I am not a coach, so take this with a grain of salt. But this would be my ideal lineup and formation:

K. Carney / L. Tarpley / Cristiane

B. Klein / M. Rapinoe / C. Lloyd

F. Ostberg / J. Oakes / M. Dalmy / Spilger or Dieke

C. Jonsson

First, Cristiane (left) needs to be a regular starting option. Why she has not started the past couple of games is a huge mystery. She is a speedster and a creator, and a vital person to have in every game. With this formation, this keeps Cristiane and Karen Carney up front, and if the team needs midfield/defensive assistance,Tarpley can fall back a bit in a temporary and conventional 4-4-2. Push up, but be cognizant of the opposing team's defensive line. The offside calls have been too repetitive.

As far as the central players in this 4-3-3, I feel more comfortable with the likes of Megan Rapinoe and Marian Dalmy in the central midfield and defense. Rapinoe naturally will move all over the place. But with this setup, this forces two of the more sure-footed players within the heavy traffic in the center of the field. Obviously Chicago needs a healthy Dalmy, who is nursing an ankle injury. I think Jill Oakes can handle central back duties against most teams, but not by herself.

Not listed in this formation, I would be open to inserting Dalmy or Frida Ostberg into the midfield while dropping back Brittany Klein, who has not contributed much on the offensive end in quite some time. And, Chioma Igwe is a midfield option, too, since she feels comfortable in that role. Carli Lloyd still has not played up to par, so Red Stars head coach Emma Hayes has a midfield group she can try to tinker with.

The only way for this 4-3-3 to work the rest of the way is if their midfield runs like crazy for 90 minutes and equally helps out on both ends of the field, without creating a huge gap from line to line. That might be asking for quite a bit now that the second half of the season is in full swing, but they need to take this approach to create some noise and move up in the standings.

Aside from Saturday's Red Stars defeat and their 4-0 victory over the Boston Breakers in April, most WPS games have been dramatically low in the scoring department. Going with a three-forward front could put a charge into the Red Stars' offense without jeopardizing some things in the back. Thankfully they have goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson as the defensive backbone.

The Red Stars believe they have the right personnel. Hayes has juggled some things around, but that one-forward setup is not reliable. It's time to place some confidence in the team's attackers and push them up, because time is running out.


Chicago continues SuperLiga play vs. Tigres; L.A. hosts Red Stars

The Chicago Fire waived backup goalkeeper and 2007 Major League Soccer Supplemental Draft pick Nick Noble, the team announced Friday.

Noble had fallen down the team's depth chart, with Andrew Dykstra maintaining the No. 2 spot behind regular starter Jon Busch. Though Dykstra has not seen any MLS action this season, he made a lasting impression with a scoreless second half and a couple clutch saves (including a penalty kick) against Club America earlier this season.

Noble was the seventh overall pick in the 2007 draft and he did not register any MLS playing time. He did appear in the third round of the 2008 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, when the Fire defeated the Cleveland City Stars.

SuperLiga continues: The Fire play their final match of SuperLiga 2009 Group A play Saturday when they host Tigres UANL of the Mexican Primera Division. The game starts at 7 p.m. at Toyota Park. With a win or draw, Chicago advances to the semifinals, which begin July 15. Defender Bakary Soumare returns, but Gonzalo Segares leaves for national team duty with Costa Rica.

Red Stars bring in Schelin: The Chicago Red Stars of Women's Professional Soccer named forward Lotta Schelin from Sweden as a discovery player and have been assigned her WPS playing rights. The 25-year-old has played for Sweden's national team since 2004. She was originally selected by St. Louis Athletica in the WPS international draft but declined the offer because of her contract with French club Olympique Lyon.

Red Stars face Sol: The first-place Los Angeles Sol host the Red Stars in WPS play Saturday. On June 3, Chicago nearly pulled off a victory, but in the closing minutes the Sol managed a 1-all draw.

Friday, June 26, 2009


Chicago duo named to U.S. MNT's Gold Cup roster

The Chicago Fire's Jon Busch and Logan Pause were named to the U.S. Men's National Team's 23-man roster, U.S. Soccer announced Thursday. A total of 15 current MLS players are on the squad (click here for full story at Examiner.com).

Pause is looking for his first international cap. Busch already has one, but he is playing the role of alternate for the moment. Three goalkeepers are on the roster, but only two will be with the team to start when the Americans face Grenada in Seattle on July 4. Busch will stay with the Fire unless there is a suspension or injury.

Wednesday, June 24, 2009


On this date in MLS history, June 24, 1997, Peter Wilt was named the first general manager of the Chicago Fire. CLICK HERE to read my most recent MLS history post about the Chicago Red Stars president at Examiner.com.

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

Tuesday, June 23, 2009


Chicago nears semifinal berth, holds Chivas to 1 shot on goal

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Chicago Fire have recorded more Toyota Park victories in SuperLiga 2009 than they have recorded home regular-season victories in Major League Soccer this season.

Chicago’s Justin Mapp scored the lone goal as the Fire defeated MLS rival Chivas USA, 1-0, on Tuesday at Toyota Park. With the win, the Fire are in strong position to advance to the semifinals of the SuperLiga tournament. The top two teams in Group A move forward. Chicago sits at the top with two victories, while San Luis and Tigres UANL are tied for second with a win apiece.

Mapp got the Fire on the board in the 35th minute with a left-footed strike on the upper left corner. He was the beneficiary of Patrick Nyarko’s attack. Nyarko (pictured above) crossed the ball from the right side into the middle, and the pass quickly deflected off of a couple Chivas defenders and right to Mapp at the top of the box. The goal officially was ruled unassisted.

“We tried to clear it and it bounced a couple times. You can’t give Justin that kind of time,” Chivas goalkeeper and former Fire net minder Zach Thornton said.

Chivas recorded only one shot on goal for the whole game. They made several substitutions at halftime, which gave them a bit of a burst on this hot evening. But the Fire defense stayed strong. And the play of the game came from Chicago defender Austin Washington, who came up with a huge block on a Chukwudi Chijindu shot in the 52nd minute.

“We tried to push the game in the second half, but give a lot of credit to their back line,” Thornton said of Chicago’s defensive effort.

“Their young guys played better than our young guys. That’s the story,” Chivas head coach Preki said.

Though Chivas didn’t have a first-half shot on goal, they definitely provided an early scare for the Fire. In the 4th minute, Shavar Thomas hit the right post off of a corner kick opportunity.

Veteran Fire defender C.J. Brown was replaced in the 16th minute by Brandon Prideaux. He strained his hamstring and did not want to take any chances.

“He felt his hamstring, but I don’t think it was pulled,” Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said. “It’s more positive than negative in the sense that he didn’t hear it pop or pull, and he caught it early.”

* * *

Next up: Chicago’s SuperLiga schedule continues this weekend when the Fire host Tigres UANL at 7 p.m. Saturday at Toyota Park.

* * *

SlideTackles.net thoughts: The hot conditions, mixed with a bunch of players who don’t normally get a lot of playing time, probably factored into the sluggish start to this game.

The defensive effort was obviously a positive. To hold Chivas without a shot on goal in the first half and only one for the entire game, that was impressive. In the early stages, the defense was a bit shaky when Brown gambled on a couple of opportunities and Chivas had that one deflect off the post. Other than that, the Fire gave goalkeeper Jon Busch an easy night to work with.

There wasn’t a whole lot to be excited about offensively. But Nyarko continues to move well on the pitch. In Saturday’s Fire lineup, he easily set the tone with the majority of potential scoring threats, both for his teammates and himself. The only downfall has been the lack of goals. But Hamlett gives every assurance that the goals will come eventually for the youngster.

“All good goal scorers go through that,” Hamlett said. “That’s the hardest thing in soccer. You tell him that the good thing is you’re getting yourself in good spots. You’re getting good looks. … He does so much for our team aside from scoring goals. Those things will come.”

Monday, June 22, 2009


MLS rival Chivas USA stands in their path Tuesday

The Chicago Fire face a more-than-familiar Major League Soccer opponent Tuesday as Chicago hosts Chivas USA in SuperLiga 2009 at Toyota Park. The game starts at 7 p.m.

Chicago opened SuperLiga with a 1-0 victory over the Primera Division's San Luis on Saturday, and a win over Chivas would clinch a semifinal spot. Chivas, on the other hand, opened SuperLiga with a 2-1 loss to Tigres UANL.

The Fire-Chivas match is the first part of a doubleheader, with San Luis and Tigres squaring off at 9 p.m.

For the latest on SuperLiga 2009, visit SuperLiga2009.com. SlideTackles.net will be on hand with in-game updates and commentary at Twitter.com/CorrSports.

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Chicago drops 2nd straight and 4th straight at home

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - The Chicago Red Stars are in last place in Women’s Professional Soccer. And coach Emma Hayes was pretty dramatic with her starting lineup choices.

On the bench: Brazilian forward Cristiane, midfielder Megan Rapinoe and midfielder Carli Lloyd.

Despite the significant shakeup, the bounces (and perhaps an offside or non-hand ball call) didn’t go Chicago’s way as the Boston Breakers defeated the Red Stars, 2-0, on Sunday at Toyota Park. Chicago dropped its second straight and fourth straight at home. The team’s last win - a 4-0 rout of the Breakers on April 25.

“I’m delighted that we went out with the right mentality, which I wasn’t surprised because the last time we were here we were totally embarrassed,” Breakers head coach Tony DiCicco said. “Chicago probably deserved more, but we’ve been on that side of the games, as well.”

Boston’s Amy Rodriguez tallied the game’s first goal - and her first goal of the season - in the 22nd minute for a 1-0 lead. And Kristine Lilly, who assisted Rodriguez’s goal, punched in a penalty kick goal in second-half stoppage time for the 2-0 final.

Meanwhile, the Red Stars (2-5-5) had some chances that didn’t pan out, and were hit with an early injury. Marian Dalmy, who was playing at midfield, took a hit along the sidelines and had to leave the game with a sprained ankle. Rapinoe subbed in for Dalmy in the 17th minute.

Immediately after Rodriguez’s score, Lindsay Tarpley sent a shot over the outstretched arms of Boston goalkeeper Allison Lipsher. The ball deflected off the crossbar and straight down into the ground.

In the 40th minute, the Toyota Park staff and many of its fans thought the Red Stars netted a goal when Karen Carney’s strike hit the back of the net. But Carney (pictured above) was called offside. Hayes confidently said after the match to Carney, “You were level (with the defensive back line).”

In the second half, Breakers defender Alex Scott came up with two big blocks. One of them, a blast by Tarpley in the 68th minute, hit off her arm, but play moved forward without a whistle. Tarpley continued her attacking in the 77th when second-half sub Lloyd provided a good send to the right side. But Lipsher deflected Tarpley’s shot away.

Lipsher, making just her second start, made five saves for the clean sheet to lead Boston (4-4-3). Red Stars goalkeeper Caroline Jonsson did not record a save as Boston put both shots on goal in the back of the net.

“I think if we can extend the goal width by a little bit in either direction, then we wouldn’t be speaking about a clean sheet,” Hayes said.

* * *

Next up: The Red Stars go back on the road to take on the first-place Los Angeles Sol at noon (CST) Saturday, June 27.

* * *

SlideTackles.net thoughts: There are several schools of thought on the starting lineup switches. A, it was strictly a gut feeling on a lineup that could reverse this nearly two-month drought of a victory. B, it was necessary because of the amount of games this team has played in a 2 ½-week stretch (Hayes’ main reasoning during the post-game). C, these were hot conditions, and having Rapinoe and Cristiane enter the game at a latter stage provided some energy when other teams might have fallen apart in the second half.

Outside of the score, the Red Stars held every possible advantage: shots (10-4), shots on goal (5-2), corners (7-1). The injury to Dalmy also was a heartbreaker. Normally a defender, Dalmy was bumped up to the midfield and got involved in the attack pretty early in her brief time out there. It would have been beneficial to see how she could have performed in that role for minimally a full half of soccer.

It’s back to L.A. this next weekend, and Chicago was only a few minutes away from securing a top-notch victory on the road against the first-place Sol during its recent road trip. Eight regular-season games remain, and last place meets first. This is definitely gut check time for the Red Stars, and thankfully for them, the entire WPS (outside of L.A.) is jostling for one of those four playoff spots.

Saturday, June 20, 2009


Brian McBride scored in the 69th minute as Major League Soccer's Chicago Fire defeated the Mexican Primera Division's San Luis, 1-0, on Saturday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

McBride's goal came off a Cuauhtemoc Blanco setup from the left side. McBride found the upper left of the net and gave Chicago a 1-0 lead that held up the rest of the way.

Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch made eight saves for the clean sheet, while San Luis' Adrian Martinez Flores made six.

Next up: Chicago continues in SuperLiga play against MLS's Chivas USA at 7 p.m. Tuesday at Toyota Park.

News and notes:
• Chicago's defense will be tested through SuperLiga. Bakary Soumare was unavailable Saturday and is going to miss Tuesday's game because of World Cup qualifying with Mali. When he returns, defender Gonzalo Segares will not be here. Segares leaves to play for Costa Rica's CONCACAF Gold Cup team.
• Fire midfielder John Thorrington is on the U.S. National Team's 30-man roster for the Gold Cup, while ex-Fire standouts DaMarcus Beasley and Carlos Bocanegra are not. Bocanegra was nursing a hamstring injury, while Beasley had a disappointing half of play against Brazil. The U.S. takes on Egypt in the FIFA Confederations Cup on Sunday.
• In other SuperLiga play Saturday, Tigres UANL defeated MLS's Chivas USA, 2-1.


The Chicago Fire and three other Major League Soccer teams are taking a break from league play for SuperLiga 2009. Chicago hosts Real San Luis FC for a 7 p.m. match Saturday at Toyota Park.

Also included in SuperLiga are MLS's Chivas USA, Kansas City Wizards and New England Revolution, and from Mexico's Primera Division, San Luis, Tigres UANL, Santos Laguna and Atlas.

Visit SuperLiga2009.com or Chicago-Fire.com for the latest.

*Note: Because of multiple power outages and a small flood issue Friday in Chicago, I did not have the time and resources to publish a full preview.

Monday, June 1, 2009


Chicago's undefeated string ends at 11 games

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. - A loss was bound to happen sooner or later. Instead of it taking place against one of the higher-ranked teams in Major League Soccer, it wound up being one of the lower-ranked squads in the Western Conference.

The Chicago Fire saw their undefeated string come to a close Sunday afternoon as FC Dallas earned a 3-0 victory Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park.

Eastern Conference-leading Chicago fell to 5-1-6, while Dallas climbed right back out of the Western Conference cellar to improve to 2-6-3.

The Fire were shorthanded with Cuauhtemoc Blanco out for Mexican National Team duty. They were playing their third game in the span of about a week. So perhaps Chicago was allowed a mulligan, but the team is not about to jump on board with that mind-set.

“You can’t really use that as an excuse,” midfielder Justin Mapp said of the team’s busy stretch. “We’ve definitely logged in a lot of minutes. It just didn’t really happen today. It was frustrating.”

Dallas played an open game, especially in the first half, and dictated many elements, whether it was a set piece opportunity or strong runs in the middle of the field. After all, Chicago had a bunch of new starters in both the midfield and defense. Fire defender Wilman Conde was out because of a shoulder injury. Blanco was not with the team. And some players simply needed the rest.

“We tried to take advantage of that by moving the ball. And the heat helped us,” said Dallas head coach Schellas Hyndman, who was sent off in the 80th minute for dissent. “Overall I was very pleased with our players. The ball hasn’t bounced right for us this year, and today it did bounce right.”

The prime example of that was in the 35th minute, when Dallas was the beneficiary of an own goal. Dallas already had a 1-0 lead on a Jeff Cunningham header in the 15th minute. But later in the half, Dax McCarty took a free kick that sailed to the center of the Fire defense. The ball sailed just over Fire forward Brian McBride’s head and bounced off defender C.J. Brown’s head and into the net past Chicago goalkeeper Jon Busch.

“It was a good ball for me,” Brown said. “Brian went up, and Brian was right in front of me. For some reason I felt like he was going to get it. And then I ended up pulling out, and it hit the top of my head.”

Dallas capped off its scoring in the 80th minute. Kenny Cooper scored off of a free kick that was a looping strike that nicked the crossbar and plopped inches past the goal line for a 3-0 cushion. Once again, Dallas benefited from a Fire mishap. Before that free kick, Fire defender Bakary Soumare picked up his second yellow card for bumping recent substitution Brek Shea.

“It was a breakaway, shoulder-to-shoulder. I think it’s a little harsh,” Soumare said of his subsequent ejection. “I’d have to see it again. But I can’t say too much about it. I don’t want to get in trouble.”

“I thought the referee was a little bit out of position,” Fire head coach Denis Hamlett said. “I thought it was shoulder-to-shoulder.”

The Fire did have some scoring chances but couldn’t get much on goal. Their scoring leader, McBride, was right in the mix of two corner kick chances. In the 6th minute, McBride managed a header off of a Mapp corner kick from the left side. The ball went high and wide, and McBride pounded the ground afterward in disgust. In the 68th minute, McBride’s header (again off of a Mapp corner) went wide left. Patrick Nyarko (pictured above, right) was close by the far post but appeared to slip as the ball traveled out of bounds for a Dallas goal kick.

“I’m disappointed on the last one,” McBride said. “I should have had two of them.”

* * *

Next up: The Fire stay at Toyota Park and host the Houston Dynamo for an 8 p.m. match Friday, June 5. The game is televised on My50.

* * *

SlideTackles.net thoughts: By the Fire’s standards, this game obviously was a huge disappointment. But you also can’t fault the team for making quite a few personnel changes considering how many games they have had in this recent span. There were bound to be some lapses with two new defenders (Brown and Brandon Prideaux), or midfielders such as Mapp who have not logged as many minutes as they are used to.

In the end, the personnel moves might work out for the best for the Fire, because they will be dramatically shorthanded this Friday when red-hot Houston comes to town. Along with Blanco, the Fire will not have defenders Soumare (playing for Mali) and Gonzalo Segares (playing for Costa Rica) in World Cup qualifier play.

Libertyville native and Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic has finally played in the past two matches. Midfielder/forward Mike Banner should see some more time. And with Soumare and Segares out, and Conde’s status up in the air at this point, defender Dasan Robinson will be a key figure off of the bench.

For the Fire’s sake, it is nice to have the luxury of being in first place in the East to test just how much depth this organization has in store.