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Two teams desperate for some good fortune come together at Soldier Field. Home has been a bit of a house of horrors for the Chicago Fire, having lost back-to-back matches on the lakefront by 3-0 scorelines - yet they still sit in second place in the Eastern Conference. The road hasn't been any kinder for the visiting Colorado Rapids, losing their fourth match on their travels at midweek in Dallas as they saw a halftime lead slip away.
REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Greg Barkey; JAR (opposite): Ken Kaplan; 4th: Michael Kennedy
MLS Career: 50 games; FC/gm: 31.6; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 13; pens: 14
Games involving Fire: P11 W6 L3 T2; FC/gm: 32.0; Y/gm: 4.0; R: 3; pens: 3
Games involving Rapids: P6 W3 L2 T1; FC/gm: 27.0; Y/gm: 4.0; R: 3; pens: 2
INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: DF C.J. Brown (R hamstring strain); MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); DF Leonard Griffin (R knee ligament strain); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DOUBTFUL: MF John Thorrington (lower back injury); QUESTIONABLE: MF Scott Buete (L ankle sprain); PROBABLE: MF Justin Mapp (R LCL sprain) ... COLORADO RAPIDS - QUESTIONABLE: MF Pablo Mastroeni (R quadriceps strain); PROBABLE: MF Terry Cooke (R knee strain); FW Jeff Cunningham (L knee injury); MF Matt Crawford (R quadriceps strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: FW Will Johnson (Canada U-20 national team)
SUSPENDED: COL: Hunter Freeman (through May 22)
YELLOW PERIL: none
The clubs square off in the first of two scheduled league encounters this season, the only one set for Soldier Field. They'll play in Denver on July 23.
A year ago, the Rapids won two of the three meetings between the clubs, with all three matches ending in shutouts. The Fire won their lone game in the season series at home on May 29 through the lone goal from Nate Jaqua (66).
The Rapids then won the last two meetings - once at each ground. Colorado won 2-0 at home on July 28 (Peguero 30, Chung 57), then claimed a 3-0 victory in Chicago on Aug. 14 (Chung 50, Crawford 67, Spencer 80).
Before the Rapids first victory last season, Colorado hadn't won in five meetings between the teams, their last previous victory coming on July 4, 2002. The Fire then won four of the next five with one draw.
Until the Rapids second victory last season - at Soldier Field - the Fire had won six consecutive home meetings in the series, dating back to Sept. 3, 2000 and covering two stadiums, including the entire span of time spent at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville. The Fire won all three meetings in Naperville between the teams, outscoring the Rapids 10-4.
Coaches record: Colin Clarke vs. COL: P6 W2 L1 D3 ... Fernando Clavijo v DAL: P6 W2 L2 T2
ALL-TIME (22 meetings): Fire 11 wins (0 shootout), 41 goals ... Rapids 8 wins (1 shootout), 28 goals ... 3 draws
IN CHICAGO (12 meetings): Fire 9 wins (0 shootout), 28 goals ... Rapids 3 wins (0 shootout), 12 goals ... 0 draws
The MetroStars continued to turn the formbook upside-down, winning for the second time in two matches on the road while still winless at home.
Amado Guevara took advantage of a dreadful error to put the MetroStars ahead (23), latching onto a pass behind a Chicago defender in his own area and driving a shot past a stranded Zach Thornton that he nearly saved.
Eddie Gaven then scored twice on either side of halftime. He doubled the Metro lead just before the break, latching onto to a wonderfully-struck long ball from Youri Djorkaeff behind nutmegging Thornton from close range (45).
Then in the 62th minute, after Guevara was sprung in midfield to set off on a long run at goal, the Honduran international threaded a pass to the streaking Gaven who fired home to give MetroStars coach Bob Bradley just his second-ever win against his former club.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan made two changes to the team that lost 2-0 to the New England Revolution the weekend before in Foxborough. John Thorrington made his MLS debut on the right side of midfield and Chris Rolfe came in as Sarachan returned to the three-pronged attack. Thiago and Justin Mapp returned to the substitutes bench.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-3): Zach Thornton - Tony Sanneh, Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero (Jack Stewart 46) - John Thorrington (Thiago 60), Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch (Chad Barrett 76), Ivan Guerrero - Andy Herron, Lubos Reiter, Chris Rolfe
"We have great fans, we have great support, and we expect to be aggressive and be the aggressor. And it's inexplicable to me when you're second to balls and second on tackles at home especially," Sarachan said. "If I had the answers to that, I'd be a genius. We talk about it, we have the mindset of doing it, and we didn't quite measure up tonight.
The Chicago Fire lost at home by a rare 3-0 scoreline for the second time this season last Saturday, falling to the MetroStars at Soldier Field. Despite the reversal, the Fire remain in second place in the Eastern Conference with 10 points from eight matches, one ahead of third-place Kansas City Wizards but now nine points behind the pace-setting New England Revolution.
Samuel Caballero was victimized on the first two MetroStars goals before he was taken off at halftime. Caballero was hampered by a strain of the left quadriceps and was not expected to play, but C.J. Brown suffered a left hamstring strain in training on Thursday.
"He passed his fitness test on Wednesday and training Thursday and Friday, but obviously he wasn't right,'' Sarachan said. "We're not going to point the finger at one or two people, but we gifted New York. It was not a good night.''
The Fire have now lost three 3-0 games at Soldier Field over the last two season - including now back-to-back 3-0 losses. From 1998-2003 the Fire never lost a home game (at Soldier Field or Cardinal Stadium) by more than two goals - and they lost by a two-goal margin just twice.
"Three games at home, and the last two are an aggregate 6-0 loss,'' Fire captain Chris Armas said "There's absolutely no excuse for it. It's probably a lack of concentration. Our mentality has got to get right. In soccer, (playing at home) should be a big advantage, especially for this team. At the end of the day, the soccer's just not good enough. The passing isn't good enough, the defense isn't good enough and the finishing isn't good enough."
Will Johnson scored Canada's only goal in their 2-1 loss to the USA in a battle of under-20 national teams on Wednesday in Blaine, Minn. Johnson's 27th-minute strike was canceled out by goals from Eddie Gaven (MetroStars) and a penalty from Freddy Adu (D.C. United) as the teams prepare for this summer's FIFA World Youth Championship in the Netherlands.
The Rapids jumped out to an early lead when Jean-Philippe Peguero powered through the heart of the box to meet a Chris Henderson and head Colorado into the lead (12).
But just after Ramon Nuñez came on for Oscar Pareja - given the starting job in central midfield with the season-ending injury to Richard Mulrooney - FC Dallas struck back. Nuñez hooked in a fine cross that found O'Brien, and he sent a sneaky left-footed shot from the top of the area just after the hour.
Then Carlos Ruiz finished off the comeback in the 77th minute, Clarence Goodson corralling a loose ball and finding the Guatemalan international unmarked at the back post for an easy tap-in.
Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo made two changes to the team that defeated Chivas USA 2-1 the weekend before: Hunter Freeman, sent off five minutes before the winning goal, was suspended and his place taken by Alain Nkong, while Pablo Mastroeni returned from a two-match suspension, coming in for Kyle Beckerman. But it required a tactical re-fit by Clavijo: Eric Denton returning to fullback and Luchi Gonzalez moving to a wide midfield role as Nkong played up top.
Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Ricky Lewis (Matt Crawford 59), Nat Borchers, Ritchie Kotschau, Eric Denton - Luchi Gonzalez, Guy Melamed, Pablo Mastroeni (Kyle Beckerman 15), Chris Henderson - Alain Nkong (Jeff Cunningham 70), Jean Philippe Peguero
"The guys really worked hard in the first half, and at halftime, we just talked about doing some of the same stuff," goalkeeper Joe Cannon said. "But FC Dallas turned it up a bit. We didn't do a good job of matching up."
The Colorado Rapids failed to build on their dramatic victory against Chivas USA at the weekend, seeing a halftime lead wasted as FC Dallas scored a pair of second-half goals to claim a 2-1 come-from-behind victory at the Cotton Bowl on Wednesday. The Rapids are now in fifth place in the Western Conference with seven points from eight matches, three behind fourth place San Jose Earthquakes but three ahead of Chivas USA.
But Mastroeni was forced off after just 15 minutes of action with a quadriceps strain that had Clavijo concerned heading into the second part of the road trip in Chicago.
"Until Pablo Mastroeni came out with an injury we had control of the game and we were doing well," said Clavijo. "When he came out we lost our composure, we lost possession."
It was a fourth consecutive loss in four matches for the Rapids, who now have to turn around and play a wounded Chicago Fire at Soldier Field. "It's almost a good thing when you have a game quickly," Cannon said to the Rocky Mountain News. "Obviously, on the road, it's going to be tough. But there really is nothing to say anymore. There's been enough talking among the team about mental lapses. We've got to come to the fact that we'll either do the job or the coaches and higher management will have to find guys that do."