Chicago Fire and Red Stars analysis and notes

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Alison Moran




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Fire star David Accam had an overtime goal and the winning penalty kick in a 2-1 victory over Indy Eleven on June 15.






WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

LAST TIME: Columbus and the Fire engaged in a 0-0 tie in a Major League Soccer game on a cold day at Toyota Park on March 19.

Late becomes never for struggling Fire

By Jeff Vorva

The Chicago Fire continues to get bitten late in games.

In the 89th minute, Colorado’s Marco Pappa’s shot from distance got by goalie Sean Johnson and the Rapids won a 2-1 battle Saturday night in Commerce City Colorado.

Dejected rookie coach Veljko Paunovic has seen this before:

(bullet) On April 16, Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti scored in extra time of a 2-1 victory over the Fire.

(bullet) On May 11, Vancouver’s Blaz Perez score in the 88th minute of a 2-1 victory over Chicago.

(bullet) On May 14, New England’s Femi Hollinger-Janzen scored in the 84th minute to all but dash the Fire’s hope for a point in a 2-0 Revolution victory.

And it happened again Saturday night not long after midfielder Joey Calistri became the first homegrown player in team history to score a goal as he scored in the 81st minute.

Then Pappa scored a day before Father’s Day to make for a miserable weekend for the Fire (2-6-5).

”We have to be less innocent in these kind of games,’’ the coach said.Of course nobody is happy with that, but the only thing we can do is move forward -- move forward and keep on working and believing. I think that's what we also have to improve our faith in that we can be a winning team on the road, so that's also something that we have to improve on." 

The Fire has not won an MLS match on the road since 2014 – a span of 31 matches.

Chicago continues to battle injuries and other issues with players the organization is counting on.

Gilberto missed the match as he is going through personal issues. Midfielder Arturo Alvarez came out of Saturday’s match with a knee injury. John Goossens and his sore legs haven’t played since April 16. The only good news on the injury front is that Michael Harrington returned on Saturday. The defenseman had a right adductor strain and had not played since May 14.

The Fire was scheduled to play Wednesday at Philadelphia its next MSL action isn’t until July 1, when it hosts the San Jose Earthquakes.

Offensive help will be on the way after that as Dutch star Michael de Leeuw will be eligible to make his Fire debut on July 9 at Toronto. General manager Nelson Rodriguez called de Leeuw “a predator in the box.

’’He is one who hunts down goals at every turn.’’ The GM boasted.

Given that the Fire is one of just four teams in the 20-team MLS, it needs all the help it can get.

 Still in the Hunt

The Fire enjoyed some success outside the MLS when it beat the Indy Eleven out of the North American Soccer League, 2-1 in a match decided by penalty kicks June 15 at Toyota Park in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt Cup. The Fire faces fellow MLS squad Columbus Tuesday in the Round of 16.

The Fire’s offense continued to sputter in a 0-0 draw against Indy in regulation. Both teams traded goals in the overtime periods and David Accam scored the OT goal and the PK winner.

"It was a very important win,” Paunovic said. “Of course it was a hard start for us because, we expected, we are playing against the champions of the first half of the NASL season that is going to be very hard to beat. We knew from the very first touch it was going to be the most important skill we have today: mental toughness. And I think in the end we did well, especially when we were down with that lead of 1-0. We reacted very well with that goal by David but also we created a lot of chances because we wanted to win.

“Reaction was positive and on the other side I think on the penalties we were very tough. Mentality was very good with the pressure so I'm very, very happy about it.’’

Matt Lampson, who opened the season as the Fire’s goalie but was replaced by Sean Johnson in May after six matches, picked up the victory.

Huerta puts a hurtin' on Boston

By Alison Moran


A sendoff of Olympian proportions was in the works for the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park Saturday night.

And Sophia Huerta helped send things off in style with two goals in a 3-0 victory over Boston.

At stake was sole possession of first place in the National Women's Soccer League as the Red Stars (5-1-3) blanked the Breakers (1-7-1).  Plus, it was the last home game for the Red Stars' Rio Olympians; forward Christen Press, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, and defender Julie Johnston until late August.

The three were scheduled to play in Wednesday’s road game against Portland and will miss five games as they head to camp in July and Rio in August.

Since losing 1-0 in its previous meeting with the Red Stars, Boston came into the game buoyed by a 1-0 win over defending champion FC Kansas City in May and a 1-1 draw with Washington June 10.

But Saturday, it was all Chicago.

"Our goal is to create more chances than any opponent," said Rio-bound Johnston, who also denied a chance for the Breakers to score with a 34th-minute block on midfielder Kyah Simon.

Create chances they did.

In what was arguably their most complete game of the season, the Red Stars pounced on their opportunities early and often, correcting recent slow starts and sluggish first-half offense.

In the third minute, Naperville native and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo contributed the first of two quality passes during the match, a low drive from the left side to Huerta, who tapped it into the net, past goalkeeper Libby Stout.

Huerta would strike again in the 45th minute, just past the half. On a pass from midfielder Alyssa Mautz, she leveled a shot past Stout's fully extended form and fingertips to the top corner of the net.

Another Naperville native, defender Casey Short, avenged a goal flagged offside in the first half by scoring the third goal of the game, teaming with DiBernardo to push a shot past Stout in the 62nd minute. It was the first NWSL goal for the 25 year old, a Breakers draft pick in 2013.

"I think Vanessa's been our most consistent player throughout the season so far," said Red Stars coach Rory Dames.

Yellow cards were issued to three Breakers...Kyah Simon, Louise Schoolyard and Eunice Beckman for defensive handling and Huerta, for a reckless foul.

Press earns another honor

Press earned NWSL Goal of the Week honors for neutralizing the Portland Thorns June 12 in the 61st minute. This is the third time she's received the honor.

Another legend honored

Retired Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny will be honored July 30. The Red Stars host FC Kansas City at 7 p.m. at Toyota Park.