Preview: Fire host home opener against East rival Philly

CHICAGO FIRE vs PHILADELPHIA UNION
TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
March 24, 2012 (WEEK 3, MLS Game #22)
7:30 p.m. CT (CSN-Chi; TCN-Phi)

The Chicago Fire make their home debut for 2012, when they welcome Philadelphia Union to Toyota Park for an Eastern Conference clash Saturday evening. The Fire opened the new season last weekend with a 1-1 draw in the first MLS game in Montreal. Union have lost both of their starts thus far on the campaign, dropping their home opener, 2-1 to Colorado last weekend.

REFEREE: Ricardo Salazar. SAR (bench): Craig Lowry; JAR (opposite): Claudio Badea; 4th: Armando Villarreal
MLS Career: 145 games; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 42; pens: 54

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INJURY REPORT:

  • CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MF Steven Kinney (R posterior tib tendinitis)
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION - QUESTIONABLE: DF Chris Albright (R groin strain); MF Michael Farfan (R quad strain); DF Gabriel Farfan (R quad strain)

INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: Sean Johnson (USA U-23) ... PHI: Amobi Okugo, Freddy Adu, Sheanon Williams (USA U-23)

SUSPENDED: none

HEAD-TO-HEAD

  • ALL-TIME (4 meetings): Fire 1 win, 4 goals ... Union 2 wins, 5 goals ... Ties 1
  • AT CHICAGO (2 meetings): Fire 1 win, 3 goals ... Union 0 wins, 2 goals ... Ties 1
  • RETURN MATCHES: 8/12: Philadelphia Union vs. Chicago Fire, 7 p.m. ET (Galavision); 10/3: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union, 7:30 p.m. CT

LAST YEAR (MLS)
5/21: PHI 2, CHI 1 (M. Farfan 64; Ruiz 75 - Oduro 67)
8/3: CHI 1, PHI 1 (Pardo 54 - Paunovic 34)

  • Since a 2-1 win against Union in the first meeting ever between the clubs, the Fire have not come away with a victory. Philadelphia has won two of three encounters since, with one draw (that coming last Aug. 3 at Toyota Park, a 1-1 result).
  • Coaches record: Peter Nowak vs. CHI: P16 W6 L7 T3 ... Frank Klopas vs. PHI: P1 W0 L0 T1

Chicago Fire In-Stadium Preview

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire kicked off their 2012 season with a result on the road, reaching a 1-1 draw with the Montreal Impact in the first game played in that city, Saturday afternoon at Olympic Stadium.

LAST MATCH

  • Before a record crowd in the first MLS game in Montreal, Impact captain Davy Arnaud wrote his name in the history books in the 56th minute, heading home a Sanna Nyassi cross into the upper right corner of Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi's net.
  • But 15 minutes later the Fire pulled level. Sebastian Grazzini slipped the ball into the Impact penalty area and Dominic Oduro came sliding in to tap into the goal at full stretch just ahead of goalkeeper Donovan Ricketts.
  • The Impact nearly had a dream finish deep into stoppage time, but Josh Gardner saw his thunderous blast from all of 35 yards out crash off the right post and away to safety.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas called upon just one newcomer to the team to open the season - goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi stepped in between the posts for Sean Johnson, away on national team duty.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-3-1-2): Paolo Tornaghi - Dan Gargan, Cory Gibbs, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares (Hunter Jumper 68) - Logan Pause, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa (Federico Puppo 62) - Sebastian Grazzini (Daniel Paladini 79) - Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro.

TEAM NEWS

  • After closing the 2011 season with seven wins and a draw in 10 games to fall just short of a playoff spot, the Fire opened the new season with a good result on the road. The Fire were 3-6-8 away from Toyota Park in 2011.
  • "It will work, it worked last year," striker Dominic Oduro said. "We still had defenders sitting back. We believe on our team, we believe in our system. No matter what adjustment teams make, we're still going to stick to our plan."
  • Oduro, who led the Fire with 12 goals in 33 appearances for the club a year ago, picked up where he left off with the club's lone goal in the season opener.
  • "It was great for him to start off the season with a goal for his confidence. He worked hard for it," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "But we all worked hard. Even the guys who came off the bench played hard.
  • Sebastian Grazzini set up the Chicago goal, and now has five goals and five assists in 12 league appearances since coming to the club last July.
  • The Fire's newest signing, German international Arne Friedrich, arrived in Chicago at the start of the week and took part in full training.
  • With Sean Johnson away with the U.S. U-23 national team for Olympic qualifying, Paolo Tornaghi was given the gloves to make his MLS debut in goal.
  • Gonzalo Segares was forced off at the three-quarter mark of the season opener after suffering an ankle injury, and rookie Hunter Jumper made his professional debut.
  • "I'm feeling all right, my ankle is a little bit sore, but I think it's better than what I expected," Segares said. "I've been working with the anti-inflammatory medication and stuff to settle it down but practice has felt good so far this week."

Union crowd sings National Anthem

PHILADELPHIA UNION

Philadelphia Union kicked off their home campaign at PPL Park but went down to a second defeat on the year, falling 2-1 to the Colorado Rapids on Sunday afternoon. Union are one of six teams in the Eastern Conference still looking for a first point.

LAST MATCH

  • The visitors took the lead in the 56th minute. Omar Cummings got to the endline and played in a cross that slipped through the hands of Philly 'keeper Zac MacMath but didn't escape Jaime Castrillon, who tapped in the loose ball at the back post.
  • The complexion of the match changed drastically just moments later, though, as Colorado's Jeff Larentowicz was sent off for his second yellow card.
  • Despite the man disadvantage, the Rapids managed to double their lead in the 62nd minute, when rookie Tony Cascio got in behind Chris Albright on the wing, moved in on goal, and fired under the leg of MacMath and into the net.
  • Union pulled a goal back five minutes later. Roger Torres gathered a cleared corner kick and whipped a curling cross into the penalty area. Lionard Pajoy met the service just outside the six-yard box and powered a diving header under the arms of Rapids netminder Matt Pickens.
  • Union boss Peter Nowak made three changes to the team that fell 3-1 to the Portland Timbers to start the season. Chris Albright, Danny Mwanga and Keon Daniel came into the side, in place of Danny Califf, Freddy Adu and Josue Martinez.
  • PHILADELPHIA UNION (3-2-3-2): Zac MacMath - Chris Albright (Roger Torres 63), Carlos Valdes, Porfirio Lopez- Sheanon Williams, Gabriel Gomez, Keon Daniel (Cristhian Hernandez 72) - Brian Carroll (Josue Martinez 79), Michael Farfan - Danny Mwanga, Lionard Pajoy.

TEAM NEWS

  • Union have lost their first two games in a season for the first time in the club's three MLS seasons.
  • "We took those two mistakes, but I feel like we never had a problem with and kind of structure or pressure or anything like that. It was just a missing touch here, a final pass, missing the execution, but I think overall we played much better than in Portland," said Union boss Peter Nowak. "I think we're going to stick to the plan, we're going to believe in what we're doing as a team."
  • Nowak kept Danny Califf on the bench for the match, saying he had a knee injury suffered during the week. In his place, Carlos Valdes filled the center of a back three, with Chris Albright on the right and Porfirio Lopez on the left.
  • The Union will once again be forced to find a replacement for Califf. The team captain did not make the trip to Chicago.
  • Sheanon Williams moved forward into a wide midfield role after playing right back in the season opener. "(It was) pretty simple, we played a 3-5-2," said Williams. "It was something we worked on and we're trying to give new looks as we always do."
  • Gabriel Gomez was tasked to drop back into central defense as needed, while Michael Farfan pushed further forward in an attacking role.
  • "It was planned that way," said Gomez. "I was the person asked to play as a fourth defensive player, and attack when they needed me to attack."
  • After Josue Martinez partnered Lionard Pajoy in attack for the season opener, Danny Mwanga took his spot for the Colorado match.
  • "Those are our best strikers," Nowak said. "I think the combination, in the first half especially, was very good. The more they play together, the more they understand each other and those things will not change."
  • Pajoy netted his first goal in MLS, heading home a cleared corner that was crossed back in. Union's first goal of the season came directly from a free kick.
  • "I think we have a lot of work to do," Mwanga said. "But where we started since the preseason to now, I have no doubts that we are moving in the right direction... We attacked more and we created a lot of chances. We definitely got some good things going. We've just got to make sure we keep doing what we're doing and move forward."
  • Porfirio Lopez was called in by Costa Rica for their friendly against Jamaica on Wednesday in Kingston. He should be available for selection at the weekend.