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THE HOME DEPOT CENTER
7 pm PT (FSN-W; CSN-Chi)
Two teams that have gone in nearly opposite directions over the last few months come together at The Home Depot Center. Chivas USA haven't won since May 7, a stretch of 10 games where they've managed just a pair of draws and are anchored firmly at the foot of the Western Conference. The Chicago Fire have moved to within striking distance of the top of the Eastern Conference, with just two losses since May 14, winning six of their last nine games, including two in a row.
REFEREE: Mark Geiger. SAR (bench): Steven Davidson; JAR (opposite): Corey Rockwell; 4th: Ramon Hernandez
MLS Career: 6 games; FC/gm: 33.2; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 0; pens: 6
Games involving Chivas USA: first game
Games involving Fire: P1 W0 L1 T0; FC/gm: 40.0; Y/gm: 1.0; R: 0; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: CHIVAS USA - OUT: FW Isaac Romo (R hamstring strain); PROBABLE: MF Jesus Ochoa (L knee MCL sprain) DF Aaron Lopez (L shoulder sprain); GK Javier Barragan (R knee MCL sprain); MF Christian Jimenez (concussion) ... CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: FW Nate Jaqua (L ankle bone bruise); MF Thiago (L knee meniscus tear); MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); MF John Thorrington (L hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: MF Tony Sanneh, MF Chris Armas (USA; CONCACAF Gold Cup)
WARNINGS: CHV: Ramon Ramirez (19 CP) ... CHI: Gonzalo Segares (10 CP in 2 gms)
This is the second of two meetings between the two teams, one a current expansion club and one which had that experience eight years ago, and their only one set for The Home Depot Center this year.
Coaches record: Hans Westerhof vs. CHI: P1 W0 L1 D0... Dave Sarachan v CHV: P1 W1 L0 D0
ALL-TIME (1 meetings): Chivas USA 0 wins (0 shootout), 2 goals ... Fire 1 wins (0 shootout), 5 goals ... 0 draws
AT THE HOME DEPOT CENTER: first meeting
In their first meeting on June 4 at Soldier Field, the Hans Westerhof era didn't get off to the best possible start, the club holding a halftime lead before seeing their winless streak extended in a 5-2 loss to the Fire.
Nate Jaqua hit for a hat trick as the Fire exploded in a four-goal second half blitz. He gave the Fire a dream start, hitting home after just two minutes when he turned home a Thiago pass from close range after he had rounded the defense on the right.
But Chivas answered back just three minutes later, Antonio Martinez hitting a long-range shot that took a looping deflection giving Fire 'keeper Zach Thornton no chance. Then just before the break, Chivas USA took the lead, when Ezra Hendrickson headed home a corner (42).
But the Fire struck for three goals in an eight-minute span just after the interval to take control. Jesse Marsch pulled Chicago level on 53 minutes when he headed home from close range after Chivas failed to completely clear the danger from a corner. Then four minutes later Ivan Guerrero took a long angled pass from Thiago, danced inside a defender and banged home a left-footed drive.
Then Jaqua finished off his hat trick. He hit for his second on the hour with a magnificent diving header from a Gonzalo Segares cross from the left, then completed it with the easiest of his goal, pushing a rebound into an empty net after Chivas 'keeper Martin Zuniga had turned aside Chris Rolfe's shot on the run (74).
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (4-3-1-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, Samuel Caballero, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares - Justin Mapp (Scott Buete 75), Jesse Marsch (Jim Curtin 86), Ivan Guerrero (Leonard Griffin 79) - Thiago - Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe.
Here's Westerhof's team (3-4-2-1): Martin Zuniga - Alfonso Loera, Ryan Suarez, Armando Begines - Ezra Hendrickson, Francisco Gomez (Aaron Lopez 67), Ramon Ramirez, Antonio Martinez - Hector Cuadros (Arturo Torres 61), Thiago Martins - Isaac Romo
The Wizards won for the first time in five matches - their first victory in the month of June - while extending the Chivas USA winless streak to 10 matches and sending the expansion club to a third consecutive defeat.
The Wizards scored almost immediately after the second-half restart, a cleared free kick pumped back into the box where Sasha Victorine brought it down and Jimmy Conrad coolly finished (46).
Davy Arnaud doubled the Kansas City lead midway through the half, Diego Gutierrez picking up a loose ball before sending Arnaud in, where he did his best Preki imitation to cut the ball back to his left foot before perfectly placing a curling shot inside the right-hand post of Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan (70).
Victorine then completed the night five minutes from the end, rising up completely unmarked in the heart of the area to head home a Chris Klein free kick swung in from the right flank.
"First of all, I think it was fair. They play better than us. It's a team who has played five years together with a coach who has been here for five years. This is what we are missing. There is a lot of organization with them. We made a lot of mistakes. Most of the goals were mistakes. They are possible to avoid and when we succeed in that, things will go better," Chivas USA boss Hans Westerhof said.
Westerhof made one change to the team that lost 2-1 to FC Dallas the Wednesday before at the Cotton Bowl. Armando Begines came back into the team in the back three, while Francisco Mendoza returned to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Westerhof's team (3-4-2-1): Brad Guzan - Ezra Hendrickson, Ryan Suarez (Francisco Gomez 28), Armando Begines - Esteban Arias (Arturo Torres 79), Ramon Ramirez, Douglas Sequeira, Orlando Perez (Antonio Martinez 58) - Hector Cuadros, Matt Taylor -Thiago Martins
Chivas USA lost for the third match on the trot last time out, falling 3-0 to the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium last Saturday. Chivas USA are still at the foot of the Western Conference table with six points from 16 matches, six behind fellow expansion side Real Salt Lake for fifth place, eight points out of the final playoff spot and now 27 points out of first place.
Defender Ryan Suarez was taken off before a half-hour was played, and he and Westerhof had a heated exchange in front of the bench after the substitution. On Wednesday, Suarez - along with Mexican defender Alfonso Loera - was waived by the club. He was then claimed off waivers by the MetroStars.
There were more changes later in the week. Veteran Mexican goalkeeper Martin Zuniga and midfielder Aaron Lopez were let go by the team.
That will leave Chivas with a thin corps of defenders for the Fire match. With Douglas Sequeira on national team duty with Costa Rica for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, Westerhof has only four true defenders (Hendrickson, Begines, Perez, Arias) to choose from. "It comes as a bit of a shock," forward Matt Taylor said. "Everyone knew there would be some changes but they really took the heart of our defense."
Westerhof said a bigger problem could be in the team's effectiveness in attack. "The big problem is not up front. A lot times things are going wrong in the midfield," he said. "They fight for every ball but they so easily give it away."
Midfielder Francisco Gomez agreed: "We need some more production We are playing an attacking formation and we are getting no production. I don't know what happened in the first half. We contained them but we got caught with their counterattack. When we go forward, that's what we talk about - possession, possession."
Two goals also came from restarts. "We got opened up in the second half. We gave up some set-piece goals. It's been a while since we've done that, since the first couple games, but it came to hurt us again. I know we gave up two off of the set piece," Taylor said. I don't know if it's organization or what it was, but they really killed us."
Chivas USA has only one draw in eight games away from The Home Depot Center. But this was the first time Chivas USA was shut out away from The Home Depot Center since May 18. The 2-0 loss to Los Angeles on May 28 was in Carson, but technically a home game for the Galaxy. "We are not getting results at home or on the road so we can't say it is the way we play on the road," Hector Cuadros said. "We are having problems at home, too."
On Thursday, Loera was re-signed by the club after clearing waivers. A former standout for Club Deportivo Guadalajara, Loera has played nine regular-season games for Chivas USA in 2005 (all starts), logging 800 minutes. He also played two Reserve Division games for Chivas USA (both starts), logging 180 minutes.
After losing two leads and seeing D.C. United come back for a late 4-3 win at RFK Stadium two weeks before, this time the Fire held on for victory in a match that saw referee Kevin Terry whistle for three penalty kicks.
The Fire took an early lead, Gonzalo Segares freeing Justin Mapp down the left flank, and he whipped in a low cross that Nate Jaqua tapped home at the far post for his team-leading seventh goal of the season (11). But United pulled level just three minutes later, a neat through ball from John Wilson sending Christian Gomez alone behind the Fire defense, and he buried a left-footed strike past Zach Thornton.
But the Fire scored twice in two minutes just before the break to grab hold of the match. First Chris Rolfe was clipped and taken down in the United area, Jesse Marsch stepping up to knock the penalty home (40). Then after intercepting a lazy pass, Thiago showed some real flair, looping the ball over the head of a defender before ripping a volley over Nick Rimando into the upper corner.
Yet just after the break United closed the gap. Wilson sent in a cross from the right touchline that Nana Kuffour slipped in to head home past Thornton for his first MLS goal (47).
The Fire restored their two-goal margin just after the hour when Jaqua was hauled down in the box by Bobby Boswell while trying to complete a one-two, and this time Ivan Guerrero took the honors, making no mistake (61). United then received a penalty of their own four minutes later, Freddy Adu taken down in the box by Thornton and Moreno coolly dispatching the spot kick, but the visitors could get no closer.
"A good night for us. We put a lot into it. D.C. had a break and they had some fresher legs, but it was important that we got the first goal tonight," Sarachan said. "Going in at halftime 3-1, the message was 'The game's not over. There's more goals left.'"
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made two changes to the team that knocked off Real Salt Lake 3-1 at home the previous Sunday. Chris Armas and Tony Sanneh both left to join the U.S. national team in preparation for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, so Jesse Marsch and Scott Buete came into central midfield in a rebuilt engine room.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, Gonzalo Segares, Jim Curtin, Ivan Guerrero - Thiago (C.J. Brown 46), Scott Buete, Jesse Marsch, Justin Mapp - Nate Jaqua (Andy Herron 72), Chris Rolfe (Lubos Reiter 78)
"Logan [Pause] going back to his familiar spot was an easy one. We felt Scott [Buete] has had some very good weeks in training and in the reserve games and was sharp," Sarachan said. "We felt the area of most concern against D.C., aside from Jaime [Moreno] up top, was their central midfield, so the idea was to put Scott in the middle next to Jesse [Marsch] and buzz around and break up plays."
The Chicago Fire reversed their result against D.C. United from two weeks previous, winning for the fourth time in six games in another wild 4-3 match on Wednesday night at Soldier Field. The Fire moved to within two points of the New England Revolution and the Eastern Conference lead, with 29 points from 17 games (though New England has three games in hand. They have the third-best record in MLS, and lead third-place Kansas City by seven points in the East.
After Marsch took the first penalty, Sarachan called from the bench for Guerrero to take the second. "I wanted [D.C. United goalkeeper Nick] Rimando to see a fresh foot, a fresh face," Sarachan said. "Jesse doesn't have a lot of variety, so I felt we needed a different look."
It was Guerrero's second goal in MLS, and 13 different players have scored for the Fire this season. "It's always a surprise every game," said Justin Mapp. "Players from the back, the front. We'll take it from anybody. (Last year), you expected some of the bigger names to carry more of the load. This year, I like it spread out and anybody can score at any time."
More national team absences are ahead for the Fire, as Honduras internationals Guerrero and Samuel Caballero leave to join their country for the CONCACAF Gold Cup after the Chivas match.
"I think we're deep. I'm pretty happy with the level [of play] at every position on this team. In years past, it was hard [to lose players to national teams], said Jesse Marsch. "But this team is pretty well-rounded. In some ways, there might be a little better chemistry with some guys than others. We've had guys step up all year, and I'm sure we'll have it again."
But after the United match there are concerns. Nate Jaqua will be out with a bone bruise on his ankle, and Thiago has suffered a torn meniscus in his left knee that could require surgery.
Rookie forward Will Johnson is also part of Frank Yallop's Canada squad, but will join the Maple Leafs only if needed.
Forward Nate Jaqua was named Honda MLS Player of the Month for June in balloting by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association. Jaqua scored six goals and added an assist as the Fire won four games and drew one in their six in the month, including becoming the third Fire player to hit for a hat trick in Chicago's 5-2 win against Chivas USA on June 4.