Fire prepare for Saprissa showdown

CHICAGO, IL - After a three-week break, the Chicago Fire will return to play in the 2004 CONCACAF Champions Cup Wednesday against Costa Rican powerhouse Deportivo Saprissa in the first of their two leg semifinal series. Tonight's match will take place at Estadio Nacional in San José, Costa Rica, with kickoff set for 9:00 p.m. CT. Comcast Cable will air the match live with Spanish-language commentary in over 70% of the homes in the Chicagoland area.

Chicago Fire @ Deportivo Saprissa (CRC)
Wednesday, April 13 @ 9:00 p.m. CT
Estadio Nacional - San José, Costa Rica

TV: Comcast Cable - Check local listings on

Chicago Fire ACE/Tru-Fit Injury Report
Marsch, Jesse - R ankle cartilage damage - out
Perez, Orlando - lower back pain - out

Series History vs. Deportivo Saprissa

Wednesday will mark the first-ever contest between the Fire and Deportivo Saprissa. The Fire has played only one contest against Costa Rican competition, and that match also came in the Champions Cup semifinals when the Fire earned a 1-1 draw with Saprissa's main rival, LD Alajuelense, on Oct. 1, 1999 in Las Vegas, NV. Despite the even result, the "Men in Red" were unable to advance to the tournament final after falling 5-4 in penalty kicks.

Know Thy Enemy... About Deportivo Saprissa

Deportivo Saprissa has established itself as one of the most dominant clubs in Costa Rica since its inception in 1935. In its nearly 70 years of competition, Saprissa has captured 22 domestic titles (including six consecutive titles from 1972-1977), second only to rival Alajuelense's 23 crowns, and have finished second 15 times, including during the 2002/2003 season. Saprissa has also tasted success in the Champions Cup after winning the regional crown in 1993 and 1995. With a 3-2 victory Monday evening over Guanacasteca, Saprissa moved its record in the current Clausura season to an impressive 11-2-4 (37 pts.), placing them just two points behind leader Club Sport Herediano in the Costa Rican Primera Division standings with just five games remaining. Saprissa is currently riding a 10-game unbeaten streak in domestic play, with its last defeat coming all the way back on Feb. 25 to Municipal Pérez Zeledón.

Off the field, Saprissa is led by a pair of figures familiar to those who have followed soccer in the CONCACAF region. The club is owned by Jorge Vergara, the controversial Mexican businessman who also owns Chivas of Guadalajara of the Mexican First Division and has made waves in American soccer circles with his plans for an MLS expansion franchise. Former Costa Rican National Team and Saprissa forward Hernán Medford has lead the "Morados" from the sidelines since being named the club's Technical Director in 2003. Medford represented the "Ticos" in the 1990 and 2002 FIFA World Cup Finals.

"Free Kicks" vs. Deportivo Saprissa

Goalkeeper Henry Ring (above) has solidified his status as the Fire's #1 goalkeeper after registering his third consecutive shutout spanning all competitions in Saturday's 0-0 draw at San Jose. Ring has not allowed a goal in his last 287 minutes, dating back to Chicago's 5-2 defeat at San Juan Jabloteh in Leg One of the Champions Cup quarterfinals on Mar. 17.

Wednesday is match night in Costa Rica, as the other semifinal match-up in the 2004 CONCACAF Champions Cup features 2003 Torneo Clausura Mexican Champion Monterrey traveling to the Central American country to face defending Costa Rican Primera Division Champion LD Alajuelense. Tomorrow's first leg in that series will take place as the same time as the Fire-Saprissa match - 9:00 p.m. CT - at Estadio Alejandro Morera Soto in Alajuela, Costa Rica.

Should the Fire advance out of the semifinal series with Saprissa, the "Men in Red" would play host to the victor of the Alajuelense-Monterrey series in the first leg of the CONCACAF Champions Cup Final, to be held on Wednesday, May 5. The return leg would be contested on the road one week later on May 12.
The Fire is 5-2-2 all-time in Champions Cup play, which includes its appearances in the 1999 and 2002 competitions as well as the current 2004 tournament. The Fire's best result came in 1999 when it finished tied for third alongside fellow MLS side D.C. United.

Chicago is attempting to become just the third MLS side to bring the CONCACAF Champions Cup to the United States. D.C. United became the first team to capture the regional crown in 1998, while the Los Angeles Galaxy brought home the title in 2000.

Wednesday's match marks the Fire's second trip to Central America for a Champions Cup match. The Fire captured a 1-0 victory against Guatemalan side CSD Municipal at Mateo Flores Stadium in Guatemala City in the first leg of their Round of 16 series on Mar. 16, 2002. A 2-0 win four days later at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville allowed the Fire to advance to that year's quarterfinals.

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