his first miss from the spot in MLS after going 6-for-6 a year ago.
The MetroStars claimed a 3-0 meeting on May 21 at Soldier Field, their successive win on the road this season after starting the season winless at home. Amado Guevara took advantage of a dreadful error to put the MetroStars ahead (23), latching onto a pass behind a Chicago defender in his own area and driving a shot past a stranded Zach Thornton that he nearly saved.
Eddie Gaven then scored twice on either side of halftime. He doubled the Metro lead just before the break, latching onto to a wonderfully-struck long ball from Youri Djorkaeff behind nutmegging Thornton from close range (45).
Then in the 62th minute, after Guevara was sprung in midfield to set off on a long run at goal, the Honduran international threaded a pass to the streaking Gaven who fired home to give MetroStars coach Bob Bradley just his second-ever win against his former club.
LAST MEETINGThe MetroStars won for the first time at home this season in dramatic fashion on May 31, a stoppage time goal giving them a come-from-behind 2-1 victory.
The MetroStars hadn't won in five matches at The Meadowlands this season, and a penalty just before the hour seemed to send the Fire on their way. Chris Rolfe was hacked down by Tim Regan as he made a mazy run through the MetroStars defense, and Jesse Marsch converted, sending Zach Wells the wrong way (55).
But the Metros pulled level with a quarter-hour left. Amado Guevara swung in a free kick from the left and second-half substitute John Wolyniec again came off the bench to score, heading home from the top of the goal area (76).
Then three minutes into stoppage time, Abbe Ibrahim tracked down Fire defender Samuel Caballero and knocked the ball away from behind, it falling to Guevara, who cut across before curling a pinpoint shot inside the far upper corner to leave Zach Thornton no chance. Normally stoic MetroStars coach Bob Bradley raced down the sideline and pumped his fists in the air as the Metros celebrated the goal at the base of the stands.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Zach Wells - Chris Leitch, Jeff Parke, Carlos Mendes, Tim Regan - Michael Bradley, Amado Guevara - Mike Magee (Mark Lisi 60), Eddie Gaven - Abbe Ibrahim, Youri Djorkaeff (John Wolyniec 46)
Here's Sarachan's team (4-3-1-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, Samuel Caballero, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares - Jesse Marsch, Chris Armas (Kelly Gray 32), Ivan Guerrero - Thiago - Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe
HISTORYA year ago, the teams split their season series, each winning one game. The Fire continued their mastery of the MetroStars with a 3-0 home victory on May 1 (Selolwane 15, Ralph 56, Razov 77), then the clubs played to back-to-back 1-1 draws on May 15 at Giants Stadium (Taylor 13 - Razov 51) and July 17 at Soldier Field (Ralph 13 - Guevara 84 pen)
The MetroStars then defeated the Fire for the first time in more than two years in league play, claiming a 2-1 victory a week later at Giants Stadium (Guevara 43 pen, Wolyniec 57 - Armas 23)
Before that victory, the last Metro win was June 22, 2002, a 1-0 win in Chicago. The Fire then reeled off a nine-match unbeaten run in the series, winning six with three draws.
The MetroStars have won just four times in the last 18 league meetings between the teams, and just four times in the last 21 meetings in all competitions, including a loss in the 2003 U.S. Open Cup Final.
Coaches record: Dave Sarachan vs. MET: P11 W5 L3 D3 ... Bob Bradley v CHI: P11 W3 L5 T3
The Chicago Fire finished their five-game road swing in fine fashion, winning for the third time in the stretch and getting ever closer to the place in the MLS Cup Playoffs with a 1-0 victory against the Kansas City Wizards on Saturday night. The Fire now have 48 points from 29 matches, in third place in the Eastern Conference, five points ahead of the Kansas City Wizards, with the knowledge a draw at midweek will secure their place in the postseason.
The Fire moved to within two points gained - or lost by the MetroStars - in claiming their own spot in the playoffs, while extending the Wizards' winless streak to seven league games.
Thiago scored the game's only goal in the 66th minute, picking up a loose ball from a battle between Nate Jaqua and K.C. defender Jimmy Conrad before lashing a low drive from outside the area that sailed past Bo Oshoniyi.
David Mahoney - pressed into service for his full MLS debut after Zach Thornton suffered an ankle injury earlier in the week - recorded a clean sheet, making a stunning save on Chris Klein in stoppage time to ensure the victory.
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made three changes to the team that lost 2-1 to the San Jose Earthquakes at Spartan Stadium 10 days earlier. In addition to David Mahoney coming in for Zach Thornton, C.J. Brown replaced Samuel Caballero in central defense and Chris Rolfe came in for Andy Herron in attack.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-3-1-2): David Mahoney - Logan Pause, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Gonzalo Segares - Ivan Guerrero, Chris Armas, Justin Mapp - Thiago (John Thorrington 89) - Nate Jaqua (Jesse Marsch 78), Chris Rolfe (Andy Herron 64).
"It was probably our best team performance of the year in terms of everyone being tuned in and our shape and our discipline," Sarachan said. "To come into Kansas City against a team that was in a position it had to win the game and us coming away with a 1-0 win is absolutely huge. I am very proud of my team."
TEAM NEWSThe victory was a massive one in helping the Fire secure their postseason future, as any combination of two points won by them and/or lost by the MetroStars will guarantee a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs for the Fire. That would be accomplished in one swipe with no more needed than a draw on Wednesday.
"We certainly didn't come in here thinking it was going to be easy, but we knew it was an important game on our end and we treated it that way," Sarachan said. "We knew every game this week could have implications - win, lose or tie. Our goal was to come away from here with a point, three is terrific."
Mahoney made the most of his MLS debut. He earned a clean sheet in place of Zach Thornton, who suffered a left calf strain during training at midweek. The Fire defense took care of Mahoney just as well as if Thornton were playing. The Fire defense limited the Wizards to just two shots on goal - both in the second half and both from more than 30 yards.
"It's good that the guys in front of me did a good job," Mahoney said. "I felt like we were all on the same page. Everybody did a good job defensively. Everybody did a good job of keeping (the Wizards out of the penalty area)."
Mahoney was the second goalkeeper in a row making his MLS debut that the Wizards faced at home. Kansas City had to rally to salvage a 2-2 draw on Sept. 17 against Los Angeles and goalkeeper Steve Cronin.
Defender Jim Curtin praised defenders Gonzalo Segares and C.J. Brown for their work marking Wizards forwards Josh Wolff and Davy Arnaud.
"They are two really dangerous forwards. They probably have not played as much together this year with (Scott) Sealy being in there," Curtin said. "(Segares and Brown) did a good job marking them tight and I just cleaned up what was ever behind them. They usually live on getting in behind defenses and they weren't able to do that tonight. Our whole team did a good job playing team defense."
The game capped a five-game stretch away from home for the Fire, which has not played at Soldier Field since Aug. 13. With three of those games ending in Chicago victories, the road trip could be called a success. "This is a game we knew we could put a lot into because it was our last one on the road (in the five-game stretch)," Curtin said. "We're all eager to get back to Soldier Field."
It has been such a long stretch of games away from home that Curtin said he did not realize the Fire had won three of those games. "Anytime you can win on the road is huge," Curtin said. "And to not give up goals is a big concern of ours and we did a good job of that tonight."
The MetroStars lost in back-to-back games for just the second time this season, but this time when they least afford to lose any points in their chase for a place in the MLS Cup Playoffs, falling 4-1 to D.C. United at Giants Stadium on Saturday night. Still, they lost no ground in the Eastern Conference, now with 40 points from 29 matches, still three behind the Kansas City Wizards with a match in hand (the Fire match on Wednesday).
Both teams were missing their playmaking engines as both Amado Guevara of the MetroStars and D.C. United's Christian Gomez were suspended.
It was the home side that drew first blood, a pinpoint cross from Youri Djorkaeff from the left flank finding Mike Magee all alone at the far post and he easily headed home to send the Metros into the lead (19).
But after the break, it was all United. The defending MLS Cup champion equalized through a bit of good fortune, Dema Kovalenko's attempted pass to the far post turned into his own goal by Jeff Agoos, sliding in front of his own 'keeper in an effort to cut out the pass (47).
Then just eight minutes later United took the lead, Jamil Walker collecting a pass on the right flank and flighting a perfect curling cross that Ben Olsen headed home completely unmarked at the back post.
United then blew the game open with two goals in four minutes. Jaime Moreno skipped out of pressure on the left before sliding a sublime pass to Olsen running hard on his right, and the veteran midfielder shot between Tony Meola's legs to make it 3-1. Moreno then added the fourth himself, setting off on a long run through the heart of the Metros defense - nutmegging Carlos Mendes in the process - before slotting home to round out the scoring.
MetroStars head coach Bob Bradley made one change to the team that lost 1-0 to the New England Revolution the previous weekend in Foxborough. With Amado Guevara suspended, Mark Lisi returned to his role in the center of midfield.
Here's Bradley's team (4-4-2): Tony Meola - Chris Leitch (Sergio Galvan Rey 71), Jeff Agoos, Carlos Mendes, Tim Ward -Michael Bradley, Mark Lisi - Mike Magee, Eddie Gaven - Ante Razov, Youri Djorkaeff
"We really hurt ourselves when we came out in the second half and gave up an own goal. I thought we responded well to that, and they put a nice play together for their second goal," Bradley said. "We pushed to see if we could get back into the game. I thought that we took a few chances and created a few chances and they hung in there and punished us in the end."
TEAM NEWSThe match against United was the final for Bradley in charge of the MetroStars, as he was relieved of his duties as coach on Tuesday. Assistant coach Mo Johnston was put in charge of the club on an interim basis.
"I want to thank Bob for the professional, dedicated and passionate manner with which he did his job," said MetroStars President and General Manager Alexi Lalas. "He is a quality coach and a class individual; it's unfortunate that, at times, this team has failed to live up to the loyalty and faith that he has consistently shown them. We still have an opportunity to make the playoffs and our fans expect and deserve a team that will fight to the end. I felt this change was necessary to help with that endeavor."
Bradley, who managed the club since 2003, has an overall record of 32-31-26 in the regular season and a playoff record of 0-3-1 while at the helm of the "Red and Black." Last season he became the first coach in MLS history to reach the 100 career regular season win plateau, with a victory over the Chicago Fire on July 24, 2004. Prior to coming to the MetroStars, Bradley served as head coach of the Chicago Fire from 1998-2002, winning one MLS Cup and two U.S. Open Cups with the club.
Bradley was particularly disappointed to lose his final match in front of the crowd of 27,670, the largest non-doubleheader crowd of the season. And some in the crowd voiced their frustration with the team with a "Fire Bradley" chant.
"More than anything you want to show the people the heart of the team," Bradley said. "That's what we talked about beforehand and unfortunately a few plays in the second half made it difficult."
The Metros did get a bit of good news on Saturday when Chicago defeated Kansas City 1-0. With three games left, the Metros still trail K.C. by three points. But all three games, starting Wednesday night at Chicago, are away from Giants Stadium, where the Metros rode an 11-game unbeaten streak heading into Saturday night.
"We need to do much better, obviously," Carlos Mendes said. "All over the field we need to do much, much better but I think we're capable of and I think absolutely we can make the playoffs." Added Mark Lisi: "We're still going to fight. We're not dead yet. I know these guys they're not going to quit."
It was the second time in three games that the MetroStars allowed four goals. But they came away with a victory in the first one - two weeks ago in the 5-4 victory against the New England Revolution.
"We made some big mistakes and against a team like D.C., they'll make you pay for it and that was pretty obvious," Carlos Mendes said. "We didn't play well as a team, we made some big mistakes in the second half and they made us pay for it." Added Tony Meola: "It was difficult because we were defending pretty much the whole game. They put a lot of pressure on not just me, but all of our defenders. We were in a good position up 1-0 at the half, but they just kept coming at us and creating chances."