In their Chicago Southland debut, the Chicago Fire used a pair of first half goals from forward Ante Razov to hold on and defeat the Premier Development League's Chicago Fire Reserves 2-1 in an exhibition match at St. Laurence High School in Burbank, Ill.
A Cameron Knowles strike in the 69th minute brought the Reserves within a goal, but the senior Fire squad was able to hold off a pressing Reserves attack to bring their record against the PDL squad to 1-0-1. The match was the nightcap of a doubleheader, with the newly-formed Chicago Fire Juniors Under-23 side defeating the visiting Monarcas Morelia Under-20 squad 2-1 in the opening contest.
"It was a good exercise for our group. I thought everybody put in a good effort today," said Fire head coach Dave Sarachan. "The Fire Reserves are a very good, organized team and this was a very good midweek game for us. Now we've got everybody back and starting tomorrow we'll get back into full training for our game Sunday against Los Angeles."
The Fire saw the return of all five of its international representatives for Wednesday night's exhibition match, but it was the red-hot Razov that would get the evening's scoring off to a quick start in the match's third minute. After forward Damani Ralph suffered a foul just outside the penalty area, Razov -- the Fire's all-time leading scorer -- stood over a free kick from 19 yards out, which he buried past Fire Reserves goalkeeper Brad Guzan in the upper right corner to give the "Men in Red" an early 1-0 advantage.
Razov would double the lead in the 26th minute with an incredible shot from distance. From the right side of the field, midfielder Sumed Ibrahim switched the attack by finding Razov 40 yards from goal towards the middle of the field. Razov took a touch and then measured a strike from 35 yards, catching Guzan cheating off his goal line. The accurate shot sailed over Guzan and into the back of the net to put the Fire up 2-0, which is how the game would enter the halftime break.
The Fire Reserves, who tied the Fire in their lone meeting in 2001, came out the aggressors in the second half, but their work would not pay off until the 69th minute, when Knowles finished off a set piece to cut the margin in half. Fire Reserves midfielder Jed Zayner drove a corner kick into the penalty area, which was deflected by a Fire defender. The ball remained in danger and Knowles would finish the chance from 10 yards out past Fire goalkeeper D.J. Countess to bring the match to 2-1. Despite holding much of the possession, the Reserves would have few quality chances for the remainder of the match, and it was Guzan making the save of the night in the 80th minute when he extended fully to his left to push a Dipsy Selolwane shot away from goal.
The Fire return to MLS action on Sunday when they welcomes the Los Angeles Galaxy, co-leaders of the MLS' Western Conference, to Soldier Field for a 6 p.m. CT kick-off.
Fire Man of the Match: Ante Razov (Chicago Fire)
CHI - Ante Razov (UA) 3
CHI - Ante Razov (Sumed Ibrahim) 26
CFR - Cameron Knowles (UA) 69
Chicago Fire Reserves (4-4-2): GK-Brad Guzan; D-Dasar Robinson (Luke Kreamalmeyer 60), D-Brandon Moss, D-Drew Moor, D-Cameron Knowles, M-Jed Zayner; M-Nick Pollard (Jason Acres 65), M-Alex Odwell (Nowaf Jaman 53), M-Boyzzz Khumalo, F-Chris Rolfe (Jimmy Klatter 60), F-Julian Nash (Brenden Camp 65).
TOTAL SHOTS: 12 (Nash 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Nash 2); FOULS: 10 (Pollard, Zayner 2); OFFSIDES: 2 (Jaman, Nash 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Zayner 4); SAVES: 3 (Guzan 3) BLOCKS 1 (Moss 1); CAUTIONS: Knowles 39; EJECTIONS: None.
Chicago Fire (3-4-3): GK-D.J. Countess; D-Denny Clanton, D-Jim Curtin (Kelly Gray 45), D-Orlando Perez (DaMarcus Beasley 45), M-Chris Armas (Andy Williams 45), M-Craig Capano, M-Leonard Griffin, M-Scott Buete, F-Damani Ralph (Nate Jaqua 45), F-Sumed Ibrahim, F-Ante Razov (Dipsy Selolwane 45).
TOTAL SHOTS: 14 (Selolwane 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Razov 2); FOULS: 10 (Buete, Capano 2); OFFSIDES: 2 (Beasley, Sumed 1); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Beasley, Razov 2); SAVES: Countess 4; BLOCKS: None; CAUTIONS: Jaqua 68, Griffin 78; EJECTIONS: None.
Referee: Marcel Yonan
Referee's Assistants: Anthony Vasoli, Pawel Wydra
4th Official: Victor Herrera
Weather: Showers and 76 degrees