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Wednesday, May 22

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Fire Thu Aug 18 2011

Fire Come Home After Yet Another Draw

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgIn a Saturday matchup of the two MLS clubs with the most draws this season, Chicago and New York saw fit to keep things all too familiar, drawing 2-2 in an exciting match that ultimately failed to get either team over its winless hump.

New York is one of the most talented teams in the league on paper, with league-leading goal-scorer Thierry Henry up top and several other former or current national team players like Rafa Marquez (Mexico) and Tim Ream, Dax McCarty and Juan Agudelo (United States) also in the lineup. Yet despite a hot start, they've sputtered this summer, and Saturday's tie increased their winless streak to five matches. This draw was especially frustrating, as it came despite overwhelming pressure on Chicago, pressure that failed to capitalize on 17 shots on goal.

It looked easy at the start for the Red Bulls, as Henry placed a curling shot just inside the right post in the ninth minute for New York, who then set up camp in the Fire's side of the pitch. But two quick counters by Chicago (coolly finished, which should not be overlooked considering their woes on the year) actually put the Fire in a 2-1 lead at halftime. Goals were scored by Dominic Oduro in the 16th minute, quickly answering Henry's strike, and midfielder Sebastian Garzzini in the 24th minute -- the new signing's first MLS goal.

With some athletic saves by Chicago's Sean Johnson and a couple lucky clangs off the post, New York couldn't break through until the 63rd minute when Joel Lindpere redirected a cross to draw the home side even.

The tie keeps Chicago (2-7-14) in the basement of the Eastern Conference with 20 points, though a win would bring them even with seventh-place Toronto, who they'll host Sunday at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

First up for the Fire, though, is Thursday's home match against D.C. United. The game will be broadcast nationally on ESPN2. United is currently sitting in sixth place in the Eastern Conference with a 7-6-9 record, 4-3-3 on the road. This is the first time the teams have met this season after D.C. won their preseason meeting, 1-0.

Since then, however, D.C. has made what seems like a great move in acquiring Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario from New York at the end of June. Despite the attacking talent present in New York, the assertive midfielder never seemed to find his groove after moving there from Toronto, but he's certainly found it in D.C. Since his arrival, he's contributed to nine goals in seven games, scoring six and assisting on three as United went 3-1-3 in league play.

The Fire will hopefully have back veteran defender Cory Gibbs, who's been recovering from a groin injury he sustained against the Philadelphia Union a few weeks ago. With him out, the Chicago defense has been more porous than usual, giving up six goals in the two games he's missed.

Also worth watching on United is U.S. international Charlie Davies, he of the miraculous recovery from a horrific 2009 car accident. He leads the team with eight goals, though more than a few of them have come off penalty kicks, some dubiously earned.

United should be a good test despite their mid-table record, as they're feeling confident playing so well after struggling terribly last season. But some savvy personnel moves (like Davies and De Rosario) along with a productive home-grown player program (midfielder Andy Najar and goalkeeper Bill Hamid were former United youth academy players) has turned around the one club with Chicago's MLS franchise history.

If you can't make it out to Bridgeview, though, skip a night of baseball and tune in to ESPN2 to see if interim head coach Frank Klopas can get his first home win since taking over this summer.

After Thursday, the Fire remains in Chicago, hosting Toronto on Sunday and Colorado on Saturday the 27th before capping their four-game homestand with a U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the Richmond Kickers. If they don't make a serious move now, you can officially bury their already tiny playoff chances.

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