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INVESCO FIELD at MILE HIGH
7:30 pm MT (Comcast/CHI)
Two teams desperate for a win have one final chance to head into the All-Star break on a good note. The Colorado Rapids have scored just one goal in their last 7 3/4 hours of competition, and have gone their last five games in all competitions without a victory. For the Chicago Fire, they saw their league winless streak extended to eight games at the weekend, though they at least have an Open Cup victory to their credit over the past eight weeks.
REFEREE: Richard Heron. SAR (bench): Paul Scott; JAR (opposite): Jose Corro; 4th: Craig Burns
MLS Career: 32 games; FC/gm: 34.9; Y/gm: 3.0; R: 9; pens: 10
Games involving Rapids: P9 W7 L2 T0; FC/gm: 37.2; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 3; pens: 6
Games involving Fire: P8 W6 L2 T0; FC/gm: 37.1; Y/gm: 3.4; R: 3; pens: 3
INJURY REPORT: COLORADO RAPIDS - OUT: DF Pablo Mastroeni (L quadriceps strain); MD Darryl Powell (L hamstring strain); DF Jeff Stewart (R knee); FW Zizi Roberts (R knee swelling); DF Gary Sullivan (L leg stress fracture); PROBABLE: FW Rey Angel Martinez (broken toe); DF Ritchie Kotschau (L knee) ... CHICAGO FIRE - OUT: MD Jesse Marsch (R ankle cartilage damage); FW Ante Razov (R ankle bone spur); DOUBTFUL: DF Evan Whitfield (lower abdominal strain); PROBABLE: DF Orlando Perez (L quad contusion); MD Andy Williams (neck strain)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: none
YELLOW PERIL: COL: Darryl Powell (18 CP); Nat Borchers (20 CP) ... CHI: Jim Curtin (18 CP); Andy Williams (18 CP)
This is the second of three meetings between the two clubs this season, the only one in the Mile High City. They'll conclude their season series over the next two weeks, finishing back at Soldier Field on Aug. 14.
In the first meeting on May 29, the Fire ended a three-match winless run with a 1-0 victory against the Rapids. It was a controversial goal from Nate Jaqua that gave the Fire the victory.
Jaqua's 66th-minute drive hit the underside of the crossbar and bounced straight down before coming back over the line into the six-yard box. Referee Ricardo Valenzuela, however, was unmoved by the protests of Rapids goalkeeper Joe Cannon and the goal was allowed to stand.
Here's Dave Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Henry Ring - Evan Whitfield, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray, Orlando Perez - Nate Jaqua, Chris Armas, Andy Williams, DaMarcus Beasley - Damani Ralph (Logan Pause 89), Ante Razov.
Here's the team Tin Hankinson ran out (4-4-2): Joe Cannon - Antonio de la Torre, Nat Borchers, Pablo Mastroeni, Matt Crawford - Chris Henderson, Kyle Beckerman, Darryl Powell (Gary Sullivan 88), Mark Chung (Seth Trembly 69) - Jean-Philippe Peguero (John Spencer 46), Zizi Roberts.
A year ago, the Fire won two of three league meetings - with the third a draw - winning both matches at home. On May 25, the Fire won 4-0 at Cardinal Stadium (Razov 8 pen, 75 pen; Beasley 32; Mapp 38).
The teams then met twice in three weeks, playing to a 1-1 draw in Denver on Oct. 1 (Chung 83 - Marsch 48), the Fire then winning again at home, this time at Soldier Field, in a wild 4-3 contest on Oct. 18 (Razov 11; Armas 42, 90; Beasley 66 - Henderson 20; Roberts 72, 87).
The Fire also eliminated the Rapids from the U.S. Open Cup at the quarterfinal stage last year, winning 2-1 at Cardinal Stadium in a fractious affair.
Ante Razov leads the Fire all-time scoring charts against the Rapids with 8 goals, 2 assists. Chris Armas is next among current Fire players with 4 goals, 3 assists for his career (3 goals, 2 assists while with Chicago). Jesse Marsch has 3 goals, 4 assists against the Rapids (2 goals, 3 assists while with the Fire), while DaMarcus Beasley has 2 goals, 3 assists. Andy Williams has 4 assists for his career (with 1 goal, but just 1 assist in Chicago).
Chris Henderson has 4 goals, 5 assists for his career v Chicago - but just 2 goals, 2 assists while with Colorado. Mark Chung leads current Rapids players with 1 goal, 4 assists v Chicago - for his career, he has 3 goals, 6 assists. Zizi Roberts has 2 goals - Henderson, Chung and Zizi are the only three current Rapids to have scored against the Fire.
Coaches record: Tim Hankinson vs. CHI: P14 W2 L8 D4 ... Dave Sarachan v COL: P4 W3 L0 D1
ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Rapids 6 wins (1 shootout), 23 goals ... Fire 11 wins (0 shootout), 41 goals ... 3 draws
IN DENVER (9 meetings): Rapids 4 wins (1 shootout), 14 goals ... Fire 2 wins, 13 goals (0 shootout) ... 3 draws
An injury-hit Rapids backline still held firm in earning the scoreless draw. Neither 'keeper was terribly tested over the 90 minutes, but Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon was forced into a quality save when Crew striker Jeff Cunningham rounded a defender for a close-range shot in the first half.
Rapids striker Jean-Philippe Peguero slashed in for a powerful diving header in the second half, but in a real example of the entire day, it went right at Crew 'keeper Jon Busch.
"If it wasn't for Joe Cannon in the last few games, we'd have lost a lot more goals," Rapids captain John Spencer said. "He's probably the best keeper I've seen one-on-one with a striker since Peter Schmeichel of Manchester-United. "That's a very, very high compliment to give someone. And, by far for me, the best goalkeeper in major league soccer."
Rapids coach Tim Hankinson made three changes to the team that lost 3-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes, the injury crisis in the back also forcing a real tactical shift. With Ritchie Kotschau suffering an injury, that left just one regular central defender, Joey DiGiamarino coming into the team in a makeshift back three.
Rey Angel Martinez and Alberto Delgado formed all-Cuban strike pair with Spencer in a deep-lying attacking role, the two preferred to Jordan Cila and Jean-Philippe Peguero.
Here's Hankinson's team (3-4-3): Joe Cannon - Matt Crawford, Nat Borchers, Joey DiGiamarino (Ritchie Kotschau 62) - Antonio de la Torre, Kyle Beckerman, Mark Chung, Chris Henderson - Rey Angel Martinez (Jordan Cila 46), John Spencer, Alberto Delgado (Jean Philippe Peguero 46).
In all competitions, the Rapids have now scored just one goal in their last 465 minutes. "Clearly, our possession has got to sharpen," Hankinson said. "I think we're passing balls too often directly to the opposing jersey, not even near a man. Our presence in the box during crosses has got to improve, and our ability to just make a final pass and set up a shooting opportunity."
Spencer went for the 11th consecutive match without a goal - after not going more than six games in a row without a goal in his stint in MLS. "If you would have told me at the beginning of spring training that 14, 15, 16 games into the season I'd have one goal, I'd have laughed at you," Spencer said.
The Colorado Rapids saw their winless streak extend to four matches, playing to a drab scoreless draw with the Columbus Crew on Saturday afternoon in Denver. The Rapids have now scored one goal in their last 375 minutes, now tied for third place in the Western Conference with the Dallas Burn with 23 points from 18 matches, 10 points behind the West leader Los Angeles Galaxy.
The Fire looked as if they would continue their hex over the MetroStars when Chris Armas took advantage of a missed clearance by Eddie Gaven and poked the bouncing ball past Jonny Walker from close range to take the lead against the run of play (23).
But Gaven made amends when he was clipped on the edge of the area just before halftime, Amado Guevara converting a penalty for the third consecutive league match and for the fifth time in five attempts this season.
Then after the break, Mike Magee's wonderful pass out of midfield sent John Wolyniec free behind the Fire back three, and he made no mistake in looping a shot over Henry Ring for the 57th-minute match winner, the first time in 10 league contests (since June 2002) the Metros had defeated Chicago.
''I don't think we caught a break tonight,'' Sarachan said. ''You have to make your own breaks for sure, but I thought a point apiece would have been a fair result.''
As well, it was the first time Bob Bradley had ever defeated the club that he took to one MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cup triumphs from 1998-2002, as the Fire saw their poor run of form extended.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan made two changes to the team that played to a 1-1 draw at home against the MetroStars a week earlier. Orlando Perez came in on the right flank while Nate Jaqua moved to the other side with the transfer of DaMarcus Beasley. Andy Williams returned to the lineup, moving into a striker role (where he plays for the Jamaica national team), replacing Dipsy Selolwane.
Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-1-2): Henry Ring -C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Denny Clanton - Orlando Perez, Chris Armas, Logan Pause (Dipsy Selolwane 78), Nate Jaqua (Evan Whitfield 89) - Justin Mapp - Damani Ralph, Andy Williams (Kelly Gray 73).
The Chicago Fire lost to the MetroStars for the first time in more than two years, seeing their current winless run stretched to eight games in a 2-1 loss at Giants Stadium on Saturday evening. The Fire are still stuck in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 19 points from 18 matches, now just a point ahead of the New England Revolution and now seven adrift of the Metros.