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7:30 pm CT (FSN-BA)
How things have changed in a few months. Last November, Chicago and San Jose were playing in MLS Cup 2003; now, they meet for the final time this season with both teams at the bottom of their respective conferences and currently out of the MLS Cup Playoffs. But the two teams are also seemingly going in different directions. The Earthquakes won for the second time in three matches without loss in their first game after the All-Star break, while the Fire went into the break with nine games without a victory, and then on Monday lost striker Ante Razov for the remainder of the season.
REFEREE: Terry Vaughn. SAR (bench): Richard Eddy; JAR (opposite): Steven Taylor; 4th: Ricardo Salazar
MLS Career: 39 games; FC/gm: 31.5; Y/gm: 3.8; R: 12; pens: 11
Games involving Fire: P9 W5 L2 T2; FC/gm: 31.6; Y/gm: 3.9; R: 2; pens: 2
Games involving Earthquakes: P8 W5 L2 T1; FC/gm: 34.8; Y/gm: 4.4; R: 3; pens: 1
INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: FW Ante Razov (R ankle bone spur); QUESTIONABLE: MD Jesse Marsch (R ankle cartilage damage); PROBABLE: DF Evan Whitfield (lower abdominal strain) ... SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES - OUT: DF Chris Roner (R ankle surgery); DF Eddie Robinson (L hamstring rupture); FW Jamil Walker (hip sprain); GK Steve Cronin (R hamstring strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: CHI: Jim Curtin (18 CP) ... SJ: Landon Donovan (17 CP)
This is the third and final meeting between the 2003 MLS Cup Finalists this season, the teams having played to draws in their first two meetings (one at each ground).
In the second MLS Cup 2003 rematch this season, the home-standing Fire were missing five regulars to international duty in a 1-1 draw on June 19. But Nate Jaqua shook off an injury to start and then put his team ahead after just seven minutes, slotting home from close range after strike partner Ante Razov chested down a cross in the box.
The Earthquakes pulled level in the second half when Brian Ching headed goalward from a corner kick, the final touch applied by Fire defender Evan Whitfield just before it entered the net.
Then five minutes from the end referee Alex Prus whistled a penalty kick. Just as in the 2003 MLS Cup Final, Razov stepped up to take it, and just as last November, Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad made the save. The visitors held on for the draw despite seeing Jeff Agoos sent off for two yellow cards in short order after the penalty was called.
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (3-4-1-2): Henry Ring - Denny Clanton, Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown - Evan Whitfield, Kelly Gray, Logan Pause, Orlando Perez (Scott Buete 59) - Justin Mapp - Nate Jaqua, Ante Razov.
Here's Dominic Kinnear's team (4-4-2): Pat Onstad - Wes Hart, Ryan Cochrane, Jeff Agoos, Craig Waibel - Brian Mullan, Ramiro Corrales, Richard Mulrooney, Ian Russell (Arturo Alvarez 64) - Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Ching
The teams played to a scoreless draw in their first meeting, April 10 at Spartan Stadium. Pat Onstad was credited with five saves in recording the clean sheet, including a fine save on Ante Razov just five minutes from time to salvage the point. San Jose finished short-handed, Ramiro Corrales sent off after a harsh tackle on the Fire's Andy Williams at the midfield stripe.
During league play a year ago, Chicago won the only game in San Jose with a dominating 4-1 performance (Beasley 28, 90; Ralph 47; Razov 81 - Roner 59), while the teams played to a pair of scoreless draws at Cardinal Stadium.
Then in the MLS Cup Final, the 'Quakes got their revenge with a 4-2 victory at The Home Depot Center behind a pair of goals from Landon Donovan, the first player to hit for multiple goals in the nine MLS championship games (Ekelund 6; Donovan 38, 71; Mulrooney 50 - Beasley 49; own goal (Roner) 54)
Only once in the last 10 league meetings has either team hit for more than one goal (dating back to the 2000 season) - the 4-1 Fire victory in San Jose last year. Six of those meetings have ended in draws.
But Chicago has had some success at Spartan Stadium, winning twice there (last season and 1-0 on Aug. 18, 2001). Those are the only two regulation road victories in series history - the only victory by a visiting team came when San Jose won by shootout on July 23, 1999 at Soldier Field after a 2-2 draw.
No active Earthquakes players has more than one goal against the Fire - only Ching, Richard Mulrooney, Ronnie Ekelund, Chris Roner and Ian Russell have a goal against Chicago. The club's all-time leader against Chicago is Ronald Cerritos (4 goals, 2 assists) - now with D.C. United.
Ante Razov is the Fire's all-time leader in matches against San Jose with 6 goals, 5 assists. Among active Fire players, only DaMarcus Beasley has more than one goal (2 goals, 0 assists).
Coaches record: Dave Sarachan vs. SJ: P5 W1 L0 D4 ... Dominic Kinnear v CHI: P2 W0 L0 D2
ALL-TIME (19 meetings): Fire 7 wins (0 shootout), 27 goals ... Earthquakes 5 wins (1 shootout), 19 goals ... 7 draws
AT CHICAGO (9 meetings): Fire 4 wins (0 shootout), 18 goals ... Earthquakes 1 win (1 shootout), 9 goals ... 4 draws
Jean-Philippe Peguero gave the Rapids a first-half lead then Mark Chung doubled it midway through the second half as the Fire saw their winless stretch extended to nine games. The home side took the lead on the half-hour when Peguero found himself unmarked at the penalty spot on a corner and made no mistake, powering his header off the turf past Fire 'keeper Henry Ring.
The Rapids then doubled their lead just before the hour, Alberto Delgado's centering pass from the right flank finding an unmarked Chung just inside the edge of the area, and he hammered a rising left-footed shot under the crossbar for his first goal of the campaign.
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made one change to the team that losst 2-1 to the MetroStars four days earlier. Andy Williams was dropped, Scott Buete coming into the midfield as Nate Jaqua moved forward into attack.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-1-2): Henry Ring - C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Denny Clanton (Leonard Griffin 22) - Logan Pause (Dipsy Selolwane 46), Chris Armas, Scott Buete, Orlando Perez - Justin Mapp (Andy Williams 63) - Nate Jaqua, Damani Ralph.
Last Wednesday, the Fire advanced to the semifinals of the U.S. Open Cup with a 1-0 victory against the A-League Richmond Kickers in Virginia.
Dipsy Selolwane scored the game's only goal, heading home an Orlando Perez cross in the 56th minute to advance the defending Open Cup champions to a date with another A-League side, the Charleston Battery, who knocked off the Rochester Raging Rhinos on a seventh-minute Gabe Valencia goal.
Here's Sarachan's team on the night: Henry Ring, Kelly Gray (Denny Clanton 65), C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Orlando Perez, Logan Pause, Chris Armas, Andy Williams (Sumed Ibrahim 88), Nate Jaqua (Leonard Griffin 80), Damani Ralph, Dipsy Selolwane (Craig Capano 80).
On Monday, the Fire received some devastating news when it was announced Ante Razov will undergo ankle surgery during the week, putting him out for the rest of the season. Razov has not played since July 3, the surgery to repair bone chips in the ankle.
The Fire are also set to sign Haitian international Alex Boucicout, who has trained with the team this week.
"He adds a good dimension," Sarachan said of the 21-year-old. "He has tremendous pace, plays wide, and has good experience with the national team in Haiti. For us to have that kind of dimension is a good thing, especially out on the right side of the midfield. He certainly has the experience. Where we might say we were a little thin is on the right, so I think he has a good opportunity to make an impact right away."
The Chicago Fire began their post All-Star run tied for fourth place in the Eastern Conference with the New England Revolution, both on 19 points from 19 matches. They are two points behind third-place D.C. United, now 13 points off the pace of the division-leading MetroStars. In their last game before the break, the Fire saw their league winless run stretch to nine matches, losing to the Colorado Rapids 2-0 at Invesco Field.
SAN JOSE EARTHQUAKES
The Quakes tightened up the West in a dominant victory against D.C. United. Brian Mullan provided the only goal of the first half when he finally found home, putting back a rebound of a wild pinball sequence in the United area (17).
San Jose hit the woodwork three times and had a header cleared off the line, but finally doubled their lead seven minutes before the end on a world-class strike from Dwayne De Rosario, who picked a Mullan cross out of midair and nearly ripped the net off its moorings with a full volley that United 'keeper Troy Perkins could only stand and admire.
"It was a great ball from Mullan," DeRosario said, "and at first I thought of bringing it down. But then I thought, 'Oh, I'll just go for it.' " Said Earthquakes head coach Dominic Kinnear: :"It was spectacular, one of those goals you kind of dream about."
Kinnear made two changes to the team that came back to grab a 2-2 draw with the New England Revolution the Saturday before the All-Star break, as both Troy Dayak and Landon Donovan were suspended. Ryan Cochrane came back into the back four, while Dwayne De Rosario came back into the team to partner Brian Ching in attack.
Here's Kinnear's team (4-4-2): Pat Onstad - Craig Waibel, Ryan Cochrane (Wes Hart 85), Jeff Agoos, Todd Dunivant - Brian Mullan, Ronnie Ekelund, Richard Mulrooney, Ramiro Corrales - Dwayne De Rosario; Brian Ching
"The team played with confidence tonight, moved the ball well, scored goals and put in an all-around good defensive effort," said Kinnear.
Brian Mullan was named MLS Player of the Week for his performance against United, in balloting by the Professional Soccer Reporters Association.
The San Jose Earthquakes extended their modest unbeaten run to three matches and won for the second time in that stretch on Saturday, knocking off D.C. United 2-0 at home on Saturday night. The Earthquakes are still in last place in the Western Conference with 24 points from 18 matches, just two points behind joint third place Dallas Burn and Colorado Rapids, now nine points adrift of Los Angeles Galaxy.