On Fire: Finally, consecutive wins for optimistic Chicago
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — It took them all season to do it, but the Chicago Fire finally put together back-to-back league wins, defeating the Colorado Rapids 2-0 at Toyota Park Saturday night.
Here are three of the biggest storylines from this weekend:
Oduro stays on point
Forward Dominic Oduro scored his second goal in as many games Saturday, putting the Fire ahead 1-0 with his 17th-minute strike.
Oduro, who struggled with his finishing on Aug. 18 against D.C. United but bounced back with a goal on Aug. 21 against Toronto, ran onto a long ball from Pável Pardo on the right wing and raced past Colorado defender Tyrone Marshall before slotting his 10-yard shot inside the far post for his team-leading ninth goal of the season.
“It was a great ball played to me by Pardo,” Oduro said after the match. “Before the game he said to look out for him and that anytime he saw me with space he was going to play the ball to me. I think it was a great goal, it made our confidence go up a little bit; we earned three more points and we’re ready for the next game.”
Reserves lose; Wynalda in attendance
The Chicago Fire Reserves lost their first match of the Reserve League season on Sunday, falling to Colorado 2-0 at the Toyota Park practice field to drop their record to 4-1-1.
Though they dropped the result, it wasn’t all bad news. Mike Banner made his return to competitive soccer 11 months after going down with a bilateral achilles injury, starting at left back and moving into the midfield in the second half.
Banner, who suffered several setbacks in his road to recovery, could conceivably see some league action soon, as he’s a viable candidate to replace the suspended Gonzalo Segares at left back on Sept. 10 at San Jose.
New Fire Home Grown signing Kellen Gulley also featured on Sunday, making his debut when he came on for forward Cristian Nazarit in the 65th minute. The 17-year-old Gulley, who isn’t eligible for any first-team action until next season, wasn’t too active in his 25 minutes of action.
One other interesting note to come out of the Reserve match: Former Fire striker Eric Wynalda, currently an analyst with Fox Soccer Channel and long-rumored to be a candidate for the Fire’s head coaching job, was in attendance. The Fire said that Wynalda, who sat next to Chicago director of player personnel Mike Jeffries throughout the match, was in town to watch guest players Paulo and Pedro Mendes — who he recommended to Chicago — play in the reserve match.
Open Cup on deck
The Fire have a quick turnaround this week, continuing their quest to claim their fifth US Open Cup title when they host the USL-Pro Richmond Kickers in the semifinals on Tuesday night at Toyota Park (8:30 pm ET, streamed LIVE at chicago-fire.com).
That match could very well be the biggest of 2011 for the Fire, who are well-aware that the third-division Kickers — who won at Sporting Kansas City in the quarterfinals — are more than capable of pulling the upset.
“It’s the kind of tournament that you see big upsets like that all over the world,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said Saturday. “We can’t underestimate any opponent. I saw Richmond when they played Kansas City and they were very organized. We have to prepare to play for a full 90 minutes.”
“It’s been one of our goals since the beginning of the season to put ourselves in the position to win the US Open Cup,” he added. “We have a great opportunity on Tuesday. We will focus and prepare over the next few days. This late in the season it’s all about recovery. This next match is not going to be easy.”
Although it’s assumed the Fire will use a strong lineup for the match, they could suit up without Pardo. The former Mexican international was subbed out of Saturday’s match with a strained right calf at halftime, and his status for Tuesday’s game us up in the air.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.