Things fall apart for Pickens, Fire

KANSAS CITY, Mo. - Matt Pickens made his first start Friday as the first-choice goalkeeper for the Chicago Fire. But it lasted all of 30 minutes for him, as he was forced to watch his teammates sink to a 3-0 loss to the Kansas City Wizards at Arrowhead Stadium after leaving the match with an injury.

Everything was set for Pickens, who hails from Washington, Mo., near St. Louis. His family made the trip from the opposite side of the stateto watch him play his first game after winning the job from Zach Thornton.

But Pickens suffered a high sprain on his left ankle on the play in which the Wizards scored their first goal. He left foot was caught in the turf as he went down to catch the cross from Wizards defender Jose Burciaga Jr.

The ball squirted loose and was accidentally deflected by Fire defender Jim Curtin so that Wizards forward Scott Sealy was nearest to the loose ball. Sealy tapped the ball into the net in the 26th minute to give the Wizards a 1-0 lead.

"Personally it's not good, but it's not a really bad injury so I should be back soon," Pickens said. "More importantly, we lost. That hurts more than myself getting injured."

Thornton entered the game in the 30th minute for Pickens and the half ended with the Fire down by just the one goal.

"At halftime we felt that as long as we are patient and do a good job with possession we could get the goal back," Fire coach Dave Sarachan said.

That did not happen for the Fire, who fell one place in the Eastern Conference standings while the Wizards jumped two places to second.

"What happened in the second half is we just didn't handle the ball well," Sarachan said. "We'd turn the ball over. We didn't take advantage of our turnovers (gained from Kansas City) and they did (take advantage of Fire turnovers)."

The Wizards had two opportunities to increase the lead in the 58th and 59th minutes. Chris Klein got behind the defense tried to shoot past Thornton to far post. But Thornton made a diving save and deflected the ball out of danger. Shortly thereafter, second-half substitute Jack Jewsbury's shot caromed off the right post.

That turned out only to foreshadow the two goals from the Wizards in the second half, which came in the 72nd and 73rd minutes.

Sealy added his second goal of the game, rolling a finish past Thornton just before Fire defender C.J. Brown could shut the rookie striker down. Then Jewsbury stayed onside and slipped past all Chicago players except John Thorrington, who was on the other side of the field from the action.

Both Wizards' attacks that resulted in Sealy's goals came from turnovers in the Chicago half of the field.

"I don't think we hold the ball well," Brown said. "When we lose balls, were wide open. No matter where we lose it. We could lose it up front or we could lose it in the back, we are wide open. I think that's what is hurting us right now."

No matter how the first goal happened, the team behind must push forward eventually.

"When you are down a goal and you're trying to push to get the goal there are going to be situations that will allow the game to open up and that's what happened," Sarachan said. "You still have to make the defensive plays out of those situations and tonight we didn't."

Changes to the lineup might be on the horizon for Chicago, which does not play again in league action for 16 days - until Sept. 4. But any changes will not be made with haste.

"You don't make changes for changes sake," Sarachan said. "You put guys in that are healthy and in good form. Right now we have a very thin roster. We're going to count on everybody to get back into good form."

Robert Whitman is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.


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