Photo by Jeff Vorva
Fire coach Veljko Paunovic is trying to stay positive even though his team entered this week with an MLS-worst record of 1-4-4.
HOUSTON DYNAMO AT CHICAGO FIRE
WHEN: 4 p.m., Saturday
WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview
FIRE RECORD: 1-4-4 (before Wednesday night’s game against NY Red Bulls)
HOUSTON RECORD: 3-6-2
LAST TIME: The two teams engaged in a 1-1 draw July 3 in Houston. Patrick Nyarko scored the tying goal for the Fire in the 72nd minute.
Last-place Fire coming back home to face last-place Dynamo
The Chicago Fire continued to have its offensive woes in Saturday’s 2-0 road loss at New England, but who knew that a yelling match between two Columbus Crew teammates would impact this game on defense?
Columbus’s Kei Kamara, an offensive machine who scored 22 goals in Major League Soccer games last year, screamed at teammate Frederico Higuain after a 4-4 tie with Montreal on May 7.
The Crew had enough of Kamera’s antics and traded him to New England, where he made his debut for the Revolution on Saturday against the Fire. While he didn’t score, his presence changed the dynamic of the Revolution offense and put two goals past Fire goalie Matt Lampson to keep Chicago winless since 2014 – a span of 29 games.
Even with David Accam returning from a left injury suffered March 11 and Khaly Thiam making his Fire debut, the offense continued to sputter as Chicago had no shots on goal and four shots total.
That setback came three days after a 2-1 loss to Vancouver, in which the Fire played without injured Accam, John Goossens and Gilberto and Thiam did not have a visa to Canada.
In the first half, Lampson and Vancouver’s Masato Kudo collided and Kudo left the game.
Blas Perez came into the game and scored both goals for the Whitecaps, including a bicycle kick in the 89th minute. The gives the Fire two losses in which it gave up the decisive goal late in the game. The Fire fell 2-1 against Montreal on April 16 when the winning goal came in stoppage time.
The Fire, which is in last place in the Eastern Conference played against the New York Red Bulls on the road Wednesday and will come home to play another last-place team, Houston, to finish a five-game-in-17-day span on Saturday at Toyota Park.
Through the misery of entering this week with an MLS-worst 1-4-4 mark, first-year Fire coach Veljko Paunovic is staying positive.
“We have right players and the right guys,” the coach said on Monday. “Of course we know where we are in the standings but for sure we will work hard and stay focused and will improve. Nobody likes to see where we are in the standing but everyone is still very committed and working hard to make it better.
“I absolutely believe in our guys. It’s obvious that we have to win games and improve and we will do that.’’
Accam is back
Accam came into the second half of the New England game and played 45 minutes even though Paunovic was hoping to play him less. But the Fire had no offense going in the first half and trailed 1-0 and the coach was hoping Accam (who had two goals in his first two games before the injury) could give the team a shot in the arm. He was able to get just one shot off.
"I felt good,’’ Accam said. “It showed that I haven't played in two months; I felt a little bit rusty, but I'm so happy to be on the pitch again playing."
Paunovic would not speculate how much Accam would play in Wednesday’s game against the New York Red Bulls or Saturday’s game against Houston.
Hungry de Leeuw joins Fire
After much speculation, the Fire finally acquired 26-year-old Dutch forward Michael de Leeuw Tuesday and signed him to a three-year deal with an option for a fourth.
“Michael hungers to score goals and win,” Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said.
de Leeuw scored 46 goals in 117 league matches for FC Groningen in four seasons.
CHICAGO RED STARS AT SEATTLE REIGN
WHEN: 6 p.m., Sunday
WHERE: Memorial Stadium, Seattle
RED STARS RECORD: 3-1-1
REIGN RECORD: 2-2-1
LAST TIME: The Red Stars entered the seventh game of the season leading the National Women’s Soccer League in scoring May 30 averaging two goals per game, but were held scoreless in a 0-0 draw.
Another no-no before facing Solo
On Sunday, arguably two of the top goalies in the world will be facing each other when the Red Stars visit Seattle.
Seattle has Hope Solo, who will likely be the United States’ goalie in the Olympics this year.
The Red Stars have Alyssa Naehler, who will be fighting for a shot on the team to likely be a backup to Solo.
As a prelude to the showdown with Solo, Naehler put on a show Friday night and her play in the net helped earn the Red Stars a point in the standings in a 0-0 draw against two-time defending National Women’s Soccer League champion FC Kansas City at the Swope Soccer Village in Kansas City.
While the offense continued to have its problems (four goals in five matches) the defense had a couple of breakdowns against the Blues but some key saves by Naehler allowed her to go 396 minutes without allowing a goal and now has four shutouts on the season.
A couple of stops later in the match were huge.
In the 70th minute, there was a one-on-one situation between Naehler and KC’s France Silva, Naehler deflected the ball into onto the crossbar, where it bounced out of harm’s way. A few minutes later, a Mandy Laddish shot was deflected by the goalie’s right knee and at the 84-minute mark, she kick-saved a Katie Bowen attempt.
“There is an exceptional presence, a calmness and confidence, with Alyssa that spreads into the backline and the midfield,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said. “She has played on the biggest stage and knows how to close out games, which has helped us tremendously.”
Naeher finished with six saves.
The Red Stars were active on offense with eight shots on goal, but could not score.
Hugs for Jen
Former Red Stars player Jen Buczkowski retired after the game and received hugs from Dames and Red Stars players.
She was presented a bouquet of flowers before the game and some of her accomplishments were read to the crowd.
In her NWSL career, The Elk Grove native appeared in six title games and won five championships. She started all 76 games of her career and played 6,745 out of a possible 6,840 minutes. She is the only player in the league’s history to play in every game.