Carolina Challenge Cup: Fire tie Whitecaps 1-1, claim title

Joel Lindpere and Daigo Kobayashi

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CHARLESTON, S.C. – The Chicago Fire claimed the 2013 Carolina Challenge Cup after tying the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-1 on Saturday night at rainy Blackbaud Stadium.

Brazilian Maicon Santos put the Fire up with a precise 57th-minute shot into the top left corner. The Whitecaps replied from the penalty spot 11 minutes later thanks to Darren Mattocks after Vancouver captain Kenny Miller was taken down in the box.

With a total from seven points in three matches, the Fire finished ahead of the Whitecaps (4 pts.) and out of reach of both the Houston Dynamo (3 pts.) and Charleston Battery (0 pts.), who kick off at 6:45 pm ET.

The Whitecaps were the better possession team in the first half and they looked dangerous when their speedy attackers broke into the attack. Darren Mattocks and rookie Kekuta Manneh were at the heart of several of the Whitecaps’ most noteworthy chances. But arguably the closest scoring chance came on an 11th minute Y.P. Lee cross from the right to the far post where Daigo Kobayashi deflected just over the bar.

Chicago struggled to get behind the Whitecaps backline in the opening half and depended on long-distance efforts from Joel Lindpere (12th and 30th minute) and Logan Pause (23rd minute). They did get in behind on a brilliant through ball from right back Jalil Anibaba for Sherjill MacDonald in the 31st minute, but Whitecaps ‘keeper Joe Cannon came up with the stop, including on the follow-through by Chicago’s Chris Rolfe.

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Fire manager Frank Klopas gave a different look to his attack to start the second half when he subbed in Santos for MacDonald. The Brazilian gave the Fire the lead just 12 minutes after the restart with a pinpoint left-footed shot from the edge of the area which found the top left corner.

Chicago could have doubled their lead in the 61st minute minute when a Lindpere header on a corner kick play was cleared off the line by Lee.

The Whitecaps responded with a penalty kick to equalize 1-1 in the 68th minute. The referee ruled that Fire central defender Steven Kinney shoulder-charged Miller from behind as the Scotsman chased down a pass in the box.

The match was the last preseason tune-up for the Fire, who get set to face the LA Galaxy on Sunday, March 3 (5 pm ET, Univision) in their MLS 2013 season opener. Meanwhile the Whitecaps will play in Sunday’s Community Shield against the NASL’s Carolina RailHawks at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, N.C. (1:30 pm ET) before opening their MLS campaign at home against Toronto FC on Saturday, March 2 (6:30 pm ET, TSN and RDS2).

Goals: 57’ Maicon Santos (CHI), 68’ Mattocks – PK (VAN)

Cautions: 44’ Koffie (VAN), 55’ Larentowicz (CHI), 83’ Thompson (CHI)

Chicago (4-4-2, left to right): Johnson – Pause, Kinney, Berry (69’ Chimbonda), Anibaba – Duka (82’ Bone), Lindpere (63’ Palladini), Larentowicz (76’ Thompson), Nyarko (69’ Atouba) – Rolfe (63’ Alex), MacDonald (46’ Maicon Santos)

Vancouver (4-2-3-1, left to right): Cannon – Harvey (64’ Marques-Davidson), Rusin, O’Brien, Y.P. Lee – Rochat, Koffie – Manneh (85’ Adekubi), Miller (77’ Camilo), Kobayashi -- Mattocks