CHICAGO — The Chicago Fire couldn’t quite pull off the upset Saturday, giving up three second-half goals to fall to Manchester United 3-1 in a Herbalife World Football Challenge match at Soldier Field.
Though they know things could’ve turned out a bit differently had they finished better, the Fire were mostly happy with their performance against the Premier League champs.
This week’s On Fire digs deeper in to some story lines from Saturday and starts to set the table for the Fire’s return to league play next week.
1. Grazzini debuts
New signing Sebastián Grazzini made his first appearance in a Fire uniform on Saturday, coming into the game in the 62nd minute for Marco Pappa.
The Argentine, who played as an attacking center mid, didn’t make much of an impact in the match, struggling to find the ball and not doing a whole lot with it when he did.
But Grazzini’s so-so performance didn’t discourage interim head coach Frank Klopas, who said he was pleased that the midfielder was able to get out there and play nearly 30 minutes.
“He’s got good qualities which you see once he’s on the ball,” Klopas said. “He can make the final pass and it was good that he was able to get 30 minutes and push; that was our goal. And now we keep pushing and getting him ready for Philly [on August 3].”
2. Fergie impressed
Manchester United manager Sir Alex Ferguson came away from Saturday’s match impressed with how the Fire played. The legendary manager was quick to point out the Fire’s skill on the counterattack, telling reporters that Chicago’s speed up front gave his defenders all they could handle.
“Chicago Fire played well,” Ferguson said. “They were very good in the counterattack, a lot of pace up front and they gave us some problems and they could’ve scored maybe two or three more.”
Ferguson said he was particularly impressed with forward Cristian Nazarit and winger Dominic Oduro.
“I thought up front they were a handful,” Ferguson said. “I thought their wide right [Oduro] did very well in the first half and their center forward [Nazarit] was a big, strong lad. The wide player could run, that’s for sure. He was quick and caused us a lot of problems at times. I think they were very pleased with the first-half performance, to be honest with you. I thought they did well.”
3. Back to league play
With all of the pomp and excitement of the Man. United friendly behind them, Chicago must now turn their focus back to league play, where they’ll take on the Philadelphia Union on Aug. 3 at Toyota Park.
The Fire, who don’t train until Thursday, will need to start making up ground in the standings very quickly, as they’re currently tied for last in the Eastern Conference, eight points behind Sporting Kansas City for the 10th and final playoff spot.
Though they’ve struggled in the league, Chicago feel like this bit of rest and the boost in confidence they got from Saturday will serve them well over their final 14 games.
“It showed we can play against a team of this level and play well,” defender Gonzalo Segares said. “I feel that they didn’t just run over us, I think that we were able to put a good show and a good game and I think it definitely will help to boost the confidence in the league, in which we need to do better.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.