Fire defeat UIC Flames 3-1

CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire used goals from midfielders Thiago and Will John and forward Chris Rolfe to collect a 3-1 victory against a spirited University of Illinois - Chicago Flames side in an 80-minute scrimmage at UIC's Flames Field today in Chicago. Most of the Fire's first-team players remained on the bench during the match, allowing Chicago's deep bench a chance to take to the field in advance of the squad's reserve team contest this Sunday against their counterparts from D.C. United.

The Fire would come out the aggressors from the opening whistle, as the "Men in Red" held possession for seemingly the entire first half hour of the contest. The rush towards net would almost pay dividends six minutes in, as forward Andy Herron had a pair of chances to finish go awry. In the 5th minute, Thiago was taken down 25 yards out straight in front of the net, and Herron's blast off the free kick was destined for the upper right corner until UIC's goalkeeper made a tremendous diving save to his left to tip the ball aside. On the ensuing corner, midfielder Scott Buete sent the ball towards the top of the goal box, where Herron again got a foot to the ball, but a lunging attempt with his right foot sent the ball just over the crossbar.

Herron would go crumpling to the ground in the 8th minute, as the Costa Rican was tackled roughly on a rush towards the goal on a play that resulted in a yellow card and a free kick from 23 yards out. With Herron on the sideline temporarily, it was Thiago that stepped up to take the kick in the 10th minute, and the Brazilian playmaker sent a perfectly struck ball into the left side netting to put the Fire up 1-0.

Despite holding the ball for much of the first stanza, UIC would actually create the better of the chances as the half neared its completion. Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens did well to keep the game scoreless in the 29th minute, as the second-year netminder was called into action on a point blank header off a corner kick. Pickens reacted well to the bouncing ball by swatting it off his line and out of danger to keep the Flames off the board. However, just one minute before halftime a spirited run and a defensive breakdown in the Fire defense led to a breakaway for UIC forward Pavle Dundjer, who forced Pickens to come off his line before slotting a ball into the lower left corner of the goal to even the match at 1-1 heading into the break.

The Fire would capitalize on what it did for much of the preseason - finishing on crosses - for its pair of second half tallies that came just three minutes apart. In the 55th minute, defender Leonard Griffin, who entered the match for an injured Gonzalo Segares, achieved space down the left flank and pumped a cross into the heart of the penalty area. Forward Chris Rolfe would finish the chance, as he made a slashing diagonal run and met the ball with a header from 8 yards out that gave the Fire its second lead of the contest.

Fellow rookie Will John would double the advantage in the 58th minute on a similar play, with Buete this time providing the pass from nearly the same spot on the left side of the field. John settled the cross in the right side of the penalty area and took one touch towards the middle before easily finishing from 10 yards out to push the score to its final 3-1 margin. Fire netminder David Mahoney had a shining moment in the 65th minute, as the Cornell product met the challenge on a well-struck shot from 30 yards out by extending fully towards the upper left corner of the goal and pushing aside one of UIC's best scoring chances of the match.

After one of its few training appearances in the city proper, the Fire will return to its Lake Forest College training facility in the northern suburbs for practices on Wednesday, Thursday and Friday before heading to the Nation's Capital for the weekend. In Washington D.C., the Fire will square off against defending MLS Cup Champions D.C. United at RFK Stadium Saturday evening at 6:30 p.m. CT (HDNet) before taking part in its first-ever MLS Reserve League contest against United Sunday morning at 9:00 a.m. CT at the RFK Auxiliary Field.

Fire Lineup (4-4-2): Matt Pickens (David Mahoney 41), Jared Montz (Hollis Donaldson 41), Jack Stewart, Samuel Caballero, Gonzalo Segares (Leonard Griffin 50), Logan Pause, Scott Buete, Thiago, Will John, Andy Herron (Will Johnson 41), Chad Barrett (Chris Rolfe 41).

Scoring Summary:
CHI - Thiago (unassisted) 10
UIC - Pavle Dundjer 39
CHI - Chris Rolfe (Leonard Griffin) 55
CHI - Will John (Scott Buete) 58