six days shy of his 42nd birthday -- raced onto the end of a fine ball from Chris Klein as the Wizards broke on the counter, and after setting up both defender and goalkeeper in the area coolly slotted home inside the left-hand post for his first goal since the 2003 season.
Wizards coach Bob Gansler made one change to the team that lost 2-0 to the New England Revolution at home the previous weekend. Kerry Zavagnin returned to the starting lineup after coming as a substitute the previous weekend, replacing Alex Zotinca in the first team.
Here's Gansler's team (4-4-2): Bo Oshoniyi - Nick Garcia, Jimmy Conrad, Shavar Thomas (Preki 76), Jose Burciaga Jr. - Chris Klein, Diego Gutierrez, Kerry Zavagnin, Sasha Victorine - Josh Wolff (Jack Jewsbury 88), Davy Arnaud (Scott Sealy 71)
"I thought we started out well and then we neglected the attacking part of the game a bit. With the exception of the goal they got on their restart, I thought we defended their restarts pretty well. [The Fire] are big boys. They've got quite a few good guys," Gansler said. "Again, I thought we could have done a little more on the attacking side in the first half. We talked about it at halftime and I think we went out and did ourselves proud on that side of it."
TEAM NEWSOf course, the big talking point after the match was the role of Preki, who turns 42 the day before the Chivas match. He's made just four appearances this season (one start), and made just two appearances (one start) a year ago after suffering a devastating broken leg and dislocated ankle in preseason. In 2003 he won MLS MVP honors for the second time, also winning the Budweiser Scoring Championship.
"Preki works so hard every day. His flame is more than flickering," Gansler said. "He wants to not only play but to excel. We have to find ways from game to game to use him. It's a matter of when to use him to serve the team best."
Preki has been seeing a fair bit of action with the Wizards reserve team. "Finally in the last month I'm starting to feel my old self," Preki said. "When you're such a long time outside the game you need to play minutes to get your game fitness. And that's a tough thing."
Gansler refused to make a big deal out of the Wizards finally getting a point in Chicago. "(T)hat's of no consequence," he said. "This is our team today and their team today. Had we swept them the last five years before, I don't think that would have impacted today. What we have done in the past five years didn't impact today. We just went in and played today."
The Wizards boss was more pleased with the performance after the break. "Whether it was our good play, or lack of sterling play on their side, it really doesn't matter to me; we revved it up and gave them more than they could handle,'' Gansler said. ... "It's just ... about taking better care of the ball and moving better off the ball. We did that in the second half, especially our attacking right side. Chris Klein was superb. But it was 11 guys attacking."
The Wizards 2-0 loss at Arrowhead Stadium to the New England Revolution on June 18 ended what was a 15-home game undefeated streak in all competitions for the Wizards. "We want to win at home anytime, but especially with the position we're in now. We're in fifth place, but then again we're only seven points out of first. If we can get two wins, in two weeks we might be talking about something different. If we have a lot of fan support, that will help us win for sure," Arnaud said.
Chivas USA saw their winless streak hit nine games in somewhat cruel fashion, battling back to pull level with FC Dallas before seeing the Western Conference leader score a late winner for a 2-1 victory Wednesday night at the Cotton Bowl. Chivas are in sixth place in the West with six points from 15 games, six behind fifth-place Real Salt Lake and a full 24 adrift of FC Dallas.
FC Dallas dominated the first half, but had just one goal to show. Oscar Pareja - very influential in a rare start - sent Roberto Mina with a long through ball up the center of the park, and the Ecuadorian international clinically beat Chivas 'keeper Brad Guzan (18).
After the break, Chivas drew level. Hector Cuadros found Matt Taylor with a fine pass at the end of a tic-tac-toe passing movement, and the second-year striker hit a low shot past FCD 'keeper Scott Garlick for his first goal for Chivas (48).
But with nine minutes left, Arturo Alvarez combined with David Wagenfuhr on the left flank, and the defender's cross found substitute Abe Thompson in front of goal, and he headed home for the match-winner, his second professional goal.
Chivas USA boss Hans Westerhof made four changes to the team that lost 3-1 to the Colorado Rapids the previous Saturday at The Home Depot Center. Esteban Arias made his MLS debut, coming into defense for Armando Begines, and Matt Taylor replaced the injured Isaac Romo in attack. Orlando Perez and Ryan Suarez also returned to the lineup, as Jesus Ochoa and Antonio Martinez made their way back to the substitutes' bench.
Here's Westerhof's team (3-3-1-3): Brad Guzan - Ezra Hendrickson, Ryan Suarez, Esteban Arias - Orlando Perez, Douglas Sequeira, Ramon Ramirez (Armando Begines 72) - Hector Cuadros (Francisco Gomez 79) - Thiago Martins, Matt Taylor, Francisco Mendoza (Antonio Martinez 67)
"I spoke with them at halftime, and I said to them, 'The other team was better than you guys, I can't accept that.' It was my opinion that we could play a little better then we did in the first half and I don't accept that," Westerhof said. "You have to do it better in the second half or I will start looking for other guys. And in the second half, we played a little better."
TEAM NEWSDespite the loss, Chivas felt there were changes for the better in the way they played. First, they overcame a halftime deficit. "Normally, we go into halftime tied or winning and we end up losing 5-2 or 4-1. Today was the first time we were down and came back to score to tie the match 1-1 and we were putting pressure on them to score that second goal," said Matt Taylor. "We just got unlucky. We aren't creating our own luck right now."
Next, the lineup changes had the desired effects - at least on the defensive side of the ball. "It helped us cut out the counter attacks and that's what has been hurting us," Taylor said. "This is one of the first second halves where we put the pressure on them and I thought we brought it to the other team. Usually, we put pressure on in the first half, but the roles were reversed tonight."
Turning the tables is one of the things Chivas has not done this year. Only once have they led in the final 10 minutes - when they went on to defeat Real Salt Lake on May 7.
"In the end, it's the really the same mistakes, different day. That's the story of our year. We've been tied, probably five times at the 80th-minute mark and we give up that last goal within the last 10 minutes," Taylor said. "We haven't gotten one of those goals yet and we gave up a goal in the 81st minute tonight."
Westerhof said he didn't see the weight of the winless streak was overly straining his team. "I don't know what type of pressure was on the team," he said. "You have to play with pressure, and when you are not able to play with pressure, then you have to look elsewhere. In sports, there's always pressure, a negative pressure and a positive pressure. I understand it's not easy and I can understand that you can make mistakes."