Wizards pay visit to nemesis Fire

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SOLDIER FIELD

CHICAGO, Ill.

3 pm CT (ESPN2)

The now-Eastern Conference rivals - MLS Cup Finalists in 2000 - meet for the first time this season in a place that has been a site of futility unmatched in the MLS annals for the Kansas City Wizards. Of the current teams (except this year's expansion clubs), no team has gone winless at another's home - except the Wizards, winless in their nine previous trips to face the Chicago Fire since 1998. Both teams come into the game off losses, though both have been in good recent form: the Fire have won four of their last six and scored 16 goals in that time; the Wizards seeing a four-game unbeaten run snapped last time out.

REFEREE: Erich Simmons. SAR (bench): Chip Reed; JAR (opposite): George Vergara; 4th: Marcel Yonan

MLS Career: 13 games; FC/gm: 34.5; Y/gm: 4.5; R: 7; pens: 2

Games involving Fire: P2 W1 L0 T1; FC/gm: 37.0; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 4; pens: 0

Games involving Wizards: P3 W0 L1 T2; FC/gm: 36.7; Y/gm: 4.0; R: 4; pens: 0

INJURY REPORT: CHICAGO FIRE: OUT: D C.J. Brown (R hamstring strain); MD Craig Capano (L torn ACL); GK Matt Pickens (R groin strain); DOUBTFUL: FW Andy Herron (R hamstring strain); QUESTIONABLE: MD Chris Armas (R ankle sprain) ... KANSAS CITY WIZARDS - OUT: MF Diego Walsh (athletic pubalgia)
INTERNATIONAL ABSENCES: CHI: FW Chad Barrett, FW Will John (U.S. U-20 national team; FIFA World Youth Championship); FW Will Johnson (Canada U-20; FIFA World Youth Championship)
SUSPENDED: none
YELLOW PERIL: CHI: Jesse Marsch (8 CP in 2 gms/18 CP); Justin Mapp (9 CP in 2 gms)

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (20 meetings): Fire 14 wins (1 shootout), 50 goals ... Wizards 4 wins (0 shootout), 24 goals ... 2 draws
AT CHICAGO (9 meetings): Fire 9 wins (0 shootout), 25 goals ... Wizards 0 wins (0 shootout), 6 goals ... 0 draws

• This is the first of four meetings between the teams, now together in the Eastern Conference. It's the first of two in a row in Chicago - the Wizards house of horrors - with the second coming on Aug. 10. They'll meet nine days after that at Arrowhead Stadium in the first K.C. encounter, with the second coming on Oct. 1

• A year ago, the teams met three times, with the Wizards failing to come away with a win. They met twice at Arrowhead Stadium: the teams playing to a scoreless draw in the season opener on April 3, then about a month later (May 8), playing to a 2-2 draw there (Klein 9, Arnaud 64 - Mapp 52, Selolwane 83).

• Then on Sept. 1 at Soldier Field, the Wizards once again failed to come away with a point from a trip to the Windy City, the Fire claiming a 3-1 victory (Mapp 23, Williams 67, Capano 71 - Wolff 36).

• The Fire have never lost - and never lost a point - to the Wizards in Chicago. Since coming into the league in 1998 the Fire have won all nine meetings between the teams, the Wizards scoring just six goals. Just twice in Chicago have the Wizards lost by a single goal - Sept. 17, 1998 (0-1) and April 26, 2003 (2-3).

• Of the 'original' 10 non-expansion teams in the league, the Fire vs. Wizards matchup is the only one where one team has failed to win at the other's home. The next closest disadvantage is San Jose's record at Columbus, where the Earthquakes have won just once in 12 matches (no draws). Columbus has won just once in 11 trips to Denver (but with three draws), while New England has just one win on their 11 trips to face the Galaxy (with two draws).

• Overall, the Wizards haven't won in the last four meetings between the teams, and just twice in the last 11 dating back to June 4, 2000 (with two draws in that stretch). Over that time, the Wizards have been shutout in four of those games (one a scoreless draw).

• Coaches record: Dave Sarachan vs. KC: P6 W3 L1 D2... Bob Gansler v CHI: P15 W3 L10 D2

CHICAGO FIRE

The Chicago Fire lost for just the second time in six matches, losing a chance to pull into a tie for first place in the Eastern Conference after a 4-3 loss to D.C. United at RFK Stadium. The Fire have 22 points from 14 matches, three behind the conference-leading New England Revolution, but still five ahead of joint-third place Kansas City Wizards and MetroStars.

• After seeing their goalless streak pass the five-hour mark, D.C. United twice came back from deficits before claiming a wild victory against the Fire.

• The Fire took the lead with two goals in eight minutes late in the first half. Chris Rolfe gave the Fire the lead when he snuck in as defender Brandon Prideaux casually dealt with a long ball played into the United box, the rookie striker deflecting past a stunned Nick Rimando (30). Then Nate Jaqua doubled the lead, Justin Mapp putting in a precise far post cross where Jaqua rose up to head past a stranded Rimando.

• But United pulled a goal two minutes before the break after Santino Quaranta was hauled down in the area and Jaime Moreno clinically converted from the spot for United's first goal in 323 minutes. Then two minutes after the restart, Christian Gomez tapped home a rolling Quaranta cross from the right corner that was helped on by a clever dummy from substitute Alecko Eskandarian.

• Yet Gonzalo Segares again nosed the Fire in front with his first professional goal, Rolfe chasing down the ball in the corner before laying it back for a first-time strike by the Costa Rican fullback (62).

• Gomez though responded with his second of the night, a near carbon-copy of his first, Kovalenko freed on the right before driving a low cross to the back post where the United midfielder had the simplest of touches (73).

• Rookie center back Bobby Boswell was then the unlikeliest of heroes from another unlikely source, defender David Stokes, who skipped down the right flank before floating a cross that fell at Boswell's feet at the far post and he made no mistake in putting the chance over Zach Thornton.

• Fire coach Dave Sarachan made no changes to the team that knocked off FC Dallas three days before at home. Here's Sarachan's team (4-3-1-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, Samuel Caballero, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares -Justin Mapp (Scott Buete 70), Jesse Marsch, Ivan Guerrero - Thiago - Nate Jaqua (Jim Curtin 83), Chris Rolfe (Lubos Reiter 66).

• "When a team gets behind, they make a push," Sarachan said. "They made a push and as a group we have to make adjustments. We had two leads in the game tonight, but I give D.C. a lot of credit. They put a lot into it, they played very hard and tried to push the game, and they did."

TEAM NEWS

• While bitterly disappointed not to have come away with something from the game, the Fire continued their excellent attacking form of late. Chicago has scored 16 goals in their last six games, hitting for multiple goals in five.

• "Going ahead 2-0 on the road was a great start for us. It was a questionable penalty, but it happens, and we still went into the locker room up 2-1," Sarachan said. "We knew they'd make a push coming into the second half. But I thought our attacking play in the first half was pretty good and pretty dangerous - we had a lot of the ball and a lot of chances."

• The Fire now return home to face the Wizards in the heat of a summer afternoon for their third game in seven days. "There was only so much gas in the tank with everybody tonight, with the heat and with last week [playing only three days ago]," Sarachan said. "Everybody hit the wall physically a little bit."

• Both parts of the Fire strike partnership found the back of the net - for Jaqua, it was his fifth goal in his last three games. "(T)hey once again put a lot into the game ... their combination play has been good," Sarachan said.

• Segares, who made his MLS debut less than a month ago and has played every minute since cracking the starting 11 for Sarachan, was in the mix throughout and hit a confident first-time strike for his first professional goal. "When I was inside the 18, he played the ball to me and I just hit it into the other corner. We got the goal but it wasn't worth anything. We didn't get (any) points so it doesn't matter."

• Said Sarachan: "Gonzalo has been very solid for us. He's a good young player, and he got us the third goal. An unlikely source, but good for him. I thought he had a solid game."

KANSAS CITY WIZARDS

The Kansas City Wizards saw their unbeaten run ended at four matches with a 2-0 loss to the New England Revolution in the back end of the home-and-home series between the teams on Saturday night at Arrowhead Stadium. The Wizards are now tied for third place in the Eastern Conference with the MetroStars with 17 points from 12 matches, eight points behind the Revolution and five behind second-place Chicago Fire.

• The Revolution got a fair amount of good fortune in seeing their unbeaten run extended to 11 games to begin the season, one shy of equaling the league record.

• They took the lead after just eight minutes through an own goal, a quick restart finding Shalrie Joseph on the left, whose cross into the box was deflected past his own 'keeper by a back-tracking Sasha Victorine.

• Then four minutes after the interval, the Revolution struck again, Pat Noonan finishing off a lovely tic-tac-toe passing movement when he was sent alone into the area before chipping an on-rushing Bo Oshoniyi in the Wizards goal.

• Revolution 'keeper Matt Reis saw his best friend come to his defense. After making a remarkable save on Josh Wolff in the first half, he twice saw shots come back off the woodwork in the second, a neat volley on the turn from Davy Arnaud that hit the upright and a fierce long-range drive from Jose Burciaga Jr. that crashed off the face of the bar.

• Wizards coach Bob Gansler made three changes to the team that played to the 1-1 draw with the Revolution in Foxborough. Chris Klein and Alex Zotinca returned to the lineup as he changed both outside midfielders, Jack Jewsbury and Preki returning to the substitutes' bench, and Josh Wolff returned from national team duty, coming in for Ryan Pore in attack.

• Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi -Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas (Jack Jewsbury 74), Jose Burciaga Jr. - Chris Klein, Sasha Victorine (Ryan Pore 83), Diego Gutierrez, Alex Zotinca (Kerry Zavagnin 46) - Josh Wolff, Davy Arnaud

• "We weren't alert coming out in the first half and we weren't alert coming out in the second half. Looking at the goals, they came at eight and 49 (minute marks). We play 45-minute halves and they start when the referee blows the whistle," Gansler said. "That is to our discredit. We created enough chances to win this thing, but we didn't put them away. We need to execute in order to put those in. It was a winnable game, but they won it. Give them credit."

TEAM NEWS

• The Wizards doubled the Revolution with 12 shots in all on the night. However, the lack of focus - or luck - on the near-finishes was the dominant offensive theme of the night for the Wizards as only four of those shots were on frame.

• "We had enough chances on the other end, myself included," said striker Josh Wolff. "That's the difference on the night. We had enough [chances] to get it right, and we didn't."

• It was another frustrating night in attack for the Wizards, who have scored four goals in their last five games - the start of that streak coinciding with the loss of Wolff and Zavagnin to international duty. But the Revolution loss was the first shutout in that time. "At home you've just got to get one of them right and it will put you back in the game," said Wolff.

• Still, the Wizards felt they had done enough to get a goal - and were perhaps victimized by a poor fate. "Once they got that second goal, it made it tougher for us because they just kept sitting deeper and deeper. At that point you only have one option and that's pumping balls into the box," Arnaud said. "I still felt like we could have gotten back into the game if we had scored at any point in the second half."

• After posting back-to-back shutouts, the two goals allowed by the Wizards were a concern the early-season defensive frailties had started to return.

• "The first goal was a lack of recognizing danger, and turned into an own goal. At 1-0, it's a wide open game and we got a lot of chances, but ... that second one killed us," said center back Jimmy Conrad. "It was the little things. That has been the thing for us all season, we have been playing solid but when we give up the little things we are just getting punished for it."


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