E. RUTHERFORD, N.J.
7:30 pm ET (FSN-NY; FSN-Chi)
MetroStars coach Bob Bradley returns home with another chance to claim his 100th career MLS victory - and with another chance of defeating his former club in the back half of this home-and-home series, something he has never done in eight previous meetings in all competitions. The Chicago Fire are looking at the 1-1 draw in the first match as two points lost rather than a point won, but they shook off a seven-game league winless run with a victory against MLS competition in the Open Cup at midweek - while the MetroStars were eliminated by a lower-division rival.
REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Nate Clement; JAR (opposite): Chip Reed; 4th: Ken Heller
MLS Career: 21 games; FC/gm: 31.6; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 4; pens: 8
Games involving MetroStars: P4 W1 L2 T1; FC/gm: 35.3; Y/gm: 4.3; R: 0; pens: 2
Games involving Fire: P7 W2 L2 T3; FC/gm: 34.9; Y/gm: 3.7; R: 3; pens: 3
CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MD Jesse Marsch (R ankle cartilage damage); DF Evan Whitfield (R abdominal strain); QUESTIONABLE: GK Henry Ring (R thigh contusion); FW Ante Razov (R ankle sprain); MD Andy Williams (R ankle sprain); PROBABLE: MD Chris Armas (R knee inflammation) ... METROSTARS - OUT: MD Michael Bradley (R foot stress fracture); MD Gilberto Flores (L ankle ruptured tendon); MD Mark Lisi (R ankle sprain); DF Tim Regan (L knee MCL sprain); DOUBTFUL: FW Fabian Taylor (R ankle sprain); QUESTIONABLE: FW Sergio Galvan Rey (hip flexor strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: Craig Capano (U.S. U-20 national team) ... MET: Pablo Brenes (Costa Rica Olympic team)
YELLOW PERIL: CHI: Andy Williams (20 CP) ... MET: Ricardo Clark (18 CP)
This is the fourth and final meeting of the season between the Eastern Conference rivals, as the MetroStars have one more opportunity to claim a victory as the teams have played to draws in their last two meetings.
Last weekend at Soldier Field, a late penalty kick ensured the MetroStars would get a result, but Bob Bradley was forced to wait for his 100th career league victory in MLS as the MetroStars failed to defeat Chicago for the ninth consecutive league contest and 10 games in all competitions.
Damani Ralph got on the end of a long ball played over the MetroStars back four, coolly rounding 'keeper Jonny Walker before tapping into an empty net to give the Fire a 13th-minute lead.
But six minutes from time, a John Wolyniec cross was ruled to have hit the arm of Fire defender C.J. Brown, and despite vociferous protests, referee Baldomero Toledo awarded the penalty and Amado Guevara converted from the spot.
The Fire have lost just one of the last 15 meetings between the two clubs including the last seven consecutive league matches since Bob Bradley took over the reins of the MetroStars. As well, Chicago last lost at Giants Stadium on May 27, 2000, where they are now 6-0-1 in their last seven matches in all competitions.
The teams played to a 1-1 draw in their last meeting, May 15 at Giants Stadium. Fabian Taylor's shot on the turn from the top of the area gave the MetroStars the lead after just 13 minutes, but six minutes after the break Ante Razov swept home a low DaMarcus Beasley cross from the left at the back post for the eventual leveller.
In the first meeting, three different forwards scored goals as the Fire won 3-0. Botswana international Dipsy Selolwane finished off a nice move through midfield in the 15th minute, before Damani Ralph doubled the lead after the break when he pounced on a poor clearance and sent it past Metro 'keeper Jonny Walker (56). Ante Razov then turned home a DaMarcus Beasley cross 13 minutes from time for the final Fire goal.
A year ago, the Fire had the MetroStars' number, winning three of the four league meetings with a draw in the fourth. The Fire won 3-2 on June 14 in New Jersey (LeBlanc 82, Guevara 90 pen - Razov 31, 66; Ralph 61), then won 2-1 on an Ante Razov golden goal two weeks later at home (Ralph 35, Razov 94 - Clark 60).
They played to a 1-1 draw in Naperville on Aug. 9 (Ralph 22 - Jolley 86), then the Fire won 2-1 on Aug. 24 at the Meadowlands (Wolyniec 28 - Ralph 45, Razov 86).
The teams also met in the U.S. Open Cup final as the MetroStars chased the first trophy in club history, but Damani Ralph's 68th-minute goal gave the Fire a 1-0 victory at Giants Stadium.
The only Metro victory over the last three seasons came on June 22, 2002 at Cardinal Stadium (1-0).
Ante Razov leads the Fire's all-time list against the Metros with 11 goals, 4 assists - four of those goals coming last year. Razov also had a goal v Metro while in Los Angeles. Damani Ralph is second among current Fire players with 6 goals, 1 assist. DaMarcus Beasley and Jesse Marsch have also hit for multiple goals against the MetroStars (2 each), while Andy Williams has 1 goal, 9 assists v Metro (6 assists while with the Fire).
On the all-time Metro list, only three players have hit for multiple goals against Chicago - Amado Guevara now with 2 goals, 2 assists, the other two no longer still with the club (Eduardo Hurtado and Steve Jolley, 2 each).
Coaches record: Dave Sarachan v MET P7 W4 L0 D3 ... Bob Bradley vs. CHI: P6 W0 L4 D3
ALL-TIME (18 meetings): Fire 12 wins (0 shootout), 34 goals ... MetroStars 4 wins (0 shootout), 20 goals ... 2 draws
AT CHICAGO (9 meetings): Fire 6 wins (0 shootout), 17 goals ... MetroStars 2 wins (0 shootout), 6 goals ... 1 draw
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made four changes to the team that lost 3-1 to the New England Revolution three days before, putting out his team in an attacking set. Henry Ring came back into goal after missing the New England match through injury, while Denny Clanton came into the back line as Orlando Perez and Kelly Gray were dropped.
Logan Pause came into the midfield as Justin Mapp was added in a free attacking role, as Scott Buete and Andy Williams came out of the first XI.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-3): Henry Ring - C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Denny Clanton - Nate Jaqua, Chris Armas, Logan Pause, DaMarcus Beasley, (Orlando Perez 73) - Justin Mapp, Damani Ralph, Dipsy Selolwane (Andy Williams 76).
"It was a very good performance by the Chicago Fire from start to finish,'' Sarachan said, "but the referee stole two points from us. It was a disgraceful call. It's frustrating when New York gets out of here with a point ... When you have players on the field yelling in your ear, you call it as you see it. To make a call like that from 40 yards away, that's very dubious.''
Then on Tuesday, a Damani Ralph golden goal gave the Fire a much-needed victory, a 2-1 win in the fourth round of the U.S. Open Cup that sent the 2002 champion Columbus Crew out of the competition at the first hurdle for the second season running.
Frankie Hejduk headed home a Chris Wingert cross to give the home side a 27th-minute lead, but Ralph pulled the Fire level from the penalty spot in the 66th minute after Duncan Oughton hacked down Andy Williams in the box.
Then in extra-time of the fractious encounter, Edson Buddle was sent off in the 97th minute for a foul on Logan Pause, and nine minutes later Ralph sent the Fire through to the quarterfinals, nodding home a lofted Chris Armas free kick.
"I thought we were pushing the game a little more," Armas said. "Obviously, when they got the red card, we sensed a greater urgency to get the goal."
Here's Sarachan's team: Henry Ring, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Denny Clanton, Logan Pause, Chris Armas, Nate Jaqua, Orlando Perez (Leonard Griffin 45), Andy Williams (Dipsy Selolwane 65), Damani Ralph, Justin Mapp (Kelly Gray 93+)
"Winning does a lot to the morale," Sarachan said. "The last four games I sensed we were beginning to turn the corner, and I knew things were going to get better."
Despite the draw against the MetroStars last Saturday, the Fire saw their struggles continue as they failed to win for the seventh consecutive match dating back to June 5. Still, the Fire remained two points ahead of the Revolution in fourth place in the Eastern Conference, with 19 points from 17 games.
Metro coach Bob Bradley made three changes to the team that defeated the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0 the previous weekend at Giants Stadium.
Eddie Pope and Eddie Gaven returned from national team duty as Joselito Vaca and Mike Magee returned to the substitutes' bench, Kenny Arena moving forward into the holding midfield role. Cornell Glen started in attack for Sergio Galvan Rey as part of Bradley's forward rotation.
Here's Bradley's team (4-3-1-2): Jonny Walker - Craig Ziadie, Jeff Parke, Eddie Pope, Chris Leitch - Ricardo Clark, Kenny Arena (Joselito Vaca 61), Amado Guevara - Eddie Gaven - John Wolyniec, Cornell Glen (Mike Magee 61).
"To get the point back in the fashion that we did is big," said MetroStars' goalkeeper Jonny Walker. "It keeps us two points ahead of everyone and it's also a different game coming back to Giants Stadium."
Then on Tuesday, the MetroStars were shockingly dumped out of the U.S. Open Cup for the second time in four years by the A-League Charleston Battery.
Steve Klein banged home the rebound of a free kick that came off the wall in the 48th minute to send the defending A-League champion into the quarterfinals, eliminating the Metros at the first hurdle again. In 2001, Charleston defeated the MetroStars 4-1 in the second round.
Here's Bradley's team on the night: Zach Wells, Chris Leitch, Eddie Pope, Jeff Parke, Seth Stammler (Sergio Galvan Rey 77), Kenny Arena (Tenywa Bonseu 57), Joselito Vaca, Mike Magee, Eddie Gaven, John Wolyniec, Cornell Glen (Fabian Taylor 62)
The MetroStars were happy to come away with a point in Chicago but still failed to build on their victory a week earlier, now with just one league victory in their last five games. Still, the MetroStars held onto top spot in the Eastern Conference with 23 points from 16 matches, still two ahead of D.C. United.