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Fire Tue Jul 19 2011

Fire Finds Silver Lining Despite MLS Struggles

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgAs the Major League Soccer season approaches its mid-year break, unfortunately, not much has changed for the Chicago Fire.

Still struggling to win games, the Fire last earned a league victory on June 12. Since then, they've gone 0-2-4, with vaguely impressive draws against the New York Red Bulls and Real Salt Lake, but they clumsily lost a point against the L.A. Galaxy at home with comical defending on a David Beckham corner kick.

Their most recent loss, a 1-0 defeat to the expansion Portland Timbers (who hadn't won on the road all season and currently sit second-to-last in the Western Conference) was, well, like all the other games they haven't won. Few offensive chances, and those left unfulfilled. Close calls (like two shots on the post) and a defensive mistake resulting in an easy goal, in this case a 25th-minute penalty converted by Jack Jewsbury.

To top it off, Chicago defender Yamith Cuesta, picked up his first two yellows of the season within seven minutes in the second half, leaving the Fire down a man for the final 30 minutes.

Yet despite their dismal MLS performance this year, the Fire are two games away from winning a different trophy. They have managed to march through to the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, an annual national tournament, nearly 100 years old, that is open to all clubs in the United States, including small amateur teams.

The Fire have won it four times and would reach rarefied air in claiming a fifth title -- something done only by two other clubs, and well before MLS clubs began participating in it, raising the overall level of play of the entire tournament.

Their semifinal match isn't until Aug. 30 (and first there's the small matter of an exhibition against Manchester United this weekend) but the table is set with the easiest draw possible against the USL PRO Richmond Kickers.

It's obviously way too soon to prognosticate, but with MLS playoff dreams slipping out of reach, Fire fans wouldn't mind having an Open Cup to hang their scarves on at season's end.

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BGT / July 20, 2011 12:18 PM

Coverage of the Fire in any general media, be it traditional or online, is rare. You guys obviously have someone familiar with the game and the team writing about it, which is even more rare. I'd love more frequent material, but appreciate that you're doing at all and that you're doing it well. Big ups.

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