On Fire: Chaves comes to the rescue in USOC win
Playing on just one day’s rest, the Fire ran out a patchwork side in Tuesday's US Open Cup third-round matchup at Rochester, starting only two players who began Sunday’s 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls.
The reserve-heavy group struggled at first, getting dominated by the third-division Rhinos for most of the first half. But forward Diego Chaves found net against the run of the play in the 37th minute, and the Fire — with the help of some key second-half substitutions — settled in and saw out the match to advance to the quarterfinals with a 1-0 victory.
This midweek On Fire takes a look at three of the match’s other storylines.
Chaves back on form?
The Uruguayan was one of the Fire’s better players Tuesday night, looking active and playing well on the ball — even during Chicago’s dreary first half. His goal was well-taken, a half-volley of a punched ball at the top of the 18 into the back of the net with his first touch.
The performance should give Chaves, who hadn’t scored a goal since April 23, a much-needed boost of confidence.
“I was very happy with the performance of Diego,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas told MLSsoccer.com after the match. “Not only did he play well and hold the ball underneath and make a lot of plays, but he also got a goal, which I thought was important for his confidence.”
Starters get a break
Most of the Fire’s key players got a much-needed rest Tuesday night, with only four field players who went more than 35 minutes on Sunday — Daniel Paladini, Patrick Nyarko, Jalil Anibaba and Dominic Oduro — seeing the field in Rochester.
Of those four players, only Paladini — who is suspended for Saturday’s match at Chivas USA due to yellow-card accumulation — played more than 45 minutes Tuesday night.
Nyarko played the entire second half, Anibaba came on in the 51st minute and Oduro entered in the 75th.
“I think the good thing is that Dominic had a limited amount of minutes, maybe 20 or so,” Klopas said. “Patrick [played] a little bit more so we got to make sure that it’s more of maintenance for those guys with the travel and everything.”
Defender Pari Pantazopolous made his Fire first-team debut Tuesday night, playing the full 90 minutes at left back. The Greek-born local product, who made the team after winning an open tryout this offseason, was one of Chicago’s better players, defending relatively well and getting up and down the field nicely.
“I liked it,” Klopas said of Pantazopolous’ debut. “Pari went on the field and gave us exactly what we needed. He’s a young player, I think he gave a lot, he worked hard and he got up and down the field. For sure, there are things that he needs to get better at, just like any other player, but I was happy with the effort and his performance.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.