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Tuesday, April 16

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Fire Mon Aug 08 2011

Pardo Comes Through Despite Fire's Struggles

Thumbnail image for Thumbnail image for fire crest.jpgShows what I know!

Days after joining the Chicago Fire as an international player, midfielder Pavel Pardo started and scored in his debut game against the Philadelphia Union on Wednesday, a 1-1 draw. The Fire changed their regular formation for the 35-year-old veteran, with interim head coach Frank Klopas choosing to take advantage of a glut of midfielders and start the team in a 4-5-1 formation, with midfielder and captain Logan Pause stepping into right back, a position he's filled several times in his nine-year Chicago career.

The numbers in midfield meant Chicago started out with most of the possession, and Pardo looked the comfortable cog in the defensive game plan of the Fire. Using his experience and touch, the Guadalajara native steadied the Fire in the center. His passing was evident early on, when the first great chance by either team came off his foot in the form of a long pass over the top to forward Dominic Oduro, who had gotten behind the Union's back line but was unable to corral the ball.

Despite their possession, Philly scored first in the 35th minute, when a defensive turnover just outside their box gave the ball to Veljko Paunovic, who boldly touched it forward and fired hard to the lower left corner from about 28 yards, beating goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

But shortly after the break, the Fire equalized, capitalizing on a Union defensive mistake of their own. Defending a cross by Nyarko, Philadelphia was only able to clear it out to the top of the box, where Pardo ran on and fired into the lower left corner. The strike was the first career MLS goal for the two-time World Cup veteran.

But the rest of the game saw a few missed opportunities for both teams, in between stretches of frustrating play in the midfield. The draw was a league-leading 13th for Chicago, who have still only won one game at home this season, their home opener against Sporting KC on March 26.

Sunday night, the Fire traveled to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Vancouver Whitecaps, one of two expansion teams in MLS this season (along with the Portland Timbers). As such, the Whitecaps are having a rough go of things in their first year, occupying the same basement position in the Western Conference that the Fire hold in the East. Yet Vancouver has had a bright star this year in French forward Eric Hassli, who came in with eight goals. He continued his exploits against Chicago, scoring twice and assisting on a third to help his team to a 4-2 win.

The big target striker scored just 32 seconds into the match, as a long ball from just inside Vancouver's half turned around Chicago defender Yamith Cuesta, and Hassli ran in from the left side behind him to collect the pass. With defenders racing to close him down, the striker teed up a perfect rip to the upper right corner, easily beating Johnson.

Chicago had a rare answer however, off the heroics of Oduro, who ran onto an inch-perfect through ball from Sebastian Grazzini (also recently acquired) and turned his defender inside out before rocketing a shot into the top of the net from close range.

But yet again, the Fire held a tie for less than a minute, as the Whitecaps took the lead on a 30-yard goal by Gershon Koffie -- assisted by Hassli, of course. The hard shot dipped on Johnson, bouncing off the turf and over the diving goalkeeper, who seemed to get down just a bit too early. Nevertheless, movement or not, it's certainly a shot that you'd expect Johnson to keep out of the net, at the very least to get some part of his body behind it.

From there on out the Eric Hassli show continued, with a quick cameo by Johnson. The striker saw a great redemptive save made by the Fire goalkeeper on a penalty kick in the 43rd minute, as Johnson guessed to his right and palmed away the curling strike. A quick strike after halftime by Camilo Sanvezzo saw Vancouver take a 3-1 lead, before Hassli put the nail in the coffin in the 72nd minute with his second goal of the night and 10th of the season.

The goal put Hassli in rarefied air, as he's now third behind Landon Donovan and Thierry Henry (household names both) for goals scored in MLS this season.

A consolation prize by young forward Orr Barouch in the 80th minute certainly bodes well for the future of the Chicago offense, but didn't do anything to change Sunday's result, as the Fire fell to 2-7-13, keeping them in last place in the Eastern Conference.

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