Thiago scored for the Fire on Thursday against the University of Central Florida.
Dean A. Forbes/MLS/

Fire top UCF in preseason opener

CHICAGO - The Chicago Fire began its 2005 preseason schedule of games with a convincing 4-1 victory over the University of Central Florida this afternoon in an 80-minute contest held at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL. Midfielder Will John, who the Fire drafted in the second round of last month's MLS SuperDraft, paced his new club to victory by contributing to all three of the Fire's first half tallies with a goal and two assists.

The Fire created several scoring chances in the first half, and midfielder Thiago would capitalize on one of them just four minutes into the match to give Chicago the lead. John earned the secondary assist on the play by playing a through ball down the left flank for defender Leonard Griffin, who sent a cross in towards the middle of the penalty area. The Brazilian playmaker latched onto the pass and sent his shot from eight yards out into the back of the net for the Fire's first goal of 2005. The Fire would strike again in the 18th minute, with John scoring his first of the preseason to double the advantage. The chance started one minute earlier when midfielder John Thorrington was tripped in the right side of the penalty area and a penalty kick was whistled. Thorrington was given the opportunity to finish the play, but his spot kick was saved by the Golden Knights' goalkeeper. After bouncing off the right post, John would gather the loose ball, dribble around the 'keeper and send in an easy shot to push the score to 2-0.

Central Florida would counter in the 25th minute on a breakaway opportunity that saw a shot from 15 yards out sneak under the reach of Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton, cutting the Fire's lead in half. But Chicago would up the advantage back to two goals just a minute later, as a trio of rookies would connect on the offensive end. Forward Chad Barrett started the play by sending John down the left side. John then dribbled down the endline and into the area before sending a cross back for an onrushing Chris Rolfe, whose first-time blast from nine yards easily beat the Central Florida netminder.

The only other quality chances from the Fire would also come from the penalty spot. Barrett, the third overall selection in the SuperDraft, would have his attempt from the spot denied in the 32nd minute on a diving stop by the Central Florida netminder. However, forward Nate Jaqua would reverse the Fire's fortunes from 12 yards by depositing the game's final goal on a conversion in the 72nd minute on a chance that was created after midfielder Will Johnson was tripped while going towards goal inside the area.

The "Men in Red" will make it back-to-back games tomorrow afternoon, as the Fire will face off against fellow MLS side FC Dallas at 3:00 p.m. ET at the IMG Academy in Bradenton.

Fire Lineup (4-4-2): GK-Zach Thornton (Matt Pickens 27) (David Mahoney 57), D-Leonard Griffin (Gonzalo Segares 41), D-Jim Curtin (C.J. Brown 41), D-Jack Stewart (Denny Clanton 41), D-Hollis Donaldson (Kelly Gray 41), M-Will John (Justin Mapp41), M-Thiago (Scott Buete 41), M-Chris Rolfe (Boyzzz Khumalo 41), M-John Thorrington (Will Johnson 41), F-Chad Barrett (Chris Karcz 41), F-Justin Cook (Nate Jaqua 41).

2005 Chicago Fire Preseason Results
Feb. 10: Fire 4, University of Central Florida 1 at IMG Academy - Bradenton, FL (Fire record: 1-0-0)

Chicago Fire 2005 Preseason Calendar
(Dates/times subject to change)

Feb. 7 - Feb. 25: Training Camp at the IMG Academy in Bradenton, FL
• Friday, Feb. 11 - Fire vs. FC Dallas at IMG Academy (3:30 p.m. ET)
• Monday, Feb. 14 - Fire vs. U.S. Under-17 National Team at IMG Academy (Time TBD)
• Wednesday, Feb. 16 - Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes at IMG Academy (3:00 p.m. ET)
• Saturday, Feb. 19 - Fire vs. U.S. Under-20 National team at IMG Academy (Time TBD)
Mar. 1 - Mar. 11: Training Camp in Guadalajara, Mexico
Mar. 18 - Mar. 26: Training Camp in Jackson, MS
Monday, Mar. 28: Training at Lake Forest College practice facility begins (Time TBD)
Saturday, Apr. 2: MLS First Kick 2005 - Fire vs. FC Dallas