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Thursday, February 22

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Fire Tue Apr 03 2012

Fire Still Looking for Early Footing

The Chicago Fire opened up the 2012 MLS season two weeks ago, aiming to pick up where they left off at the end of the 2011 season with seven wins in their final ten games.

Unfortunately, they've started closer to how they played for most of 2011, with one win, one loss and one draw over the first three games. In the coming weeks we'll go into some of the changes on the squad and the strengths and weaknesses of this 2012 team (hope you like midfielders!), but to get warmed up here's a recap of the start of their season.

The Fire started 2012 on the road against MLS' newest squad, crossing the border to take on the Montreal Impact on St. Patrick's Day, drawing 1-1 in front of almost 59,000. The Impact are the second Canadian team to join MLS, joining the league after seeing similar great fan support in Toronto and Vancouver. Chicago forward Dominic Oduro notched the first goal of the 2012 campaign in the 71st minute, allowing the Fire to even up at 1-1 and escape a difficult road game with a point.

Chicago returned home a week later to host the Philadelphia Union, another relatively recent addition to the league entering their third season. The young squad was missing three players picked up by their national teams for CONCACAF Olympic qualifying, including starting midfielder Freddy Adu (yes, he's still around, and yes, he's one of the better play makers on the team). Oduro got his second goal of the season in as many games, heading in a cross from Marco Pappa that stood up to get a 1-0 victory.

The story of these first two games was one of experience vs youth, as the Fire started almost the same lineups that started the final games of 2011 (goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi the most notable difference with Sean Johnson in Olympic qualifying). That familiarity and poise was instrumental in controlling both matches, but Sunday afternoon Chicago discovered they'd need more than experience when they lost 2-0 on the road against a similarly veteran Colorado Rapids team.

Colorado dominated the proceedings, striking 18 shots with nine on frame. Rapids' goalkeeper Matt Pickens stood tall as well, stopping a couple hard blasts from Oduro. The opponent was a clear step up from the expansion Impact and young Union teams, and the result proved that Chicago has work to do if they want to be considered amongst the league's best.

But at three games in, the Fire sit on middle ground, and have more than a week before they return to league play against Houston at Toyota Park on April 15th. There's improvements to be made, but time to make them.

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John / April 3, 2012 9:25 AM

i thought the fire hit the altitude wall in the second half. it was clearly noticeable, especially on the first goal. it will be interesting to see if klopas makes changes to the squad. i've thought that pardo has been a pedestrian the first three games. and not having gargan in also was detremintal to the team, especially because pause had to move to defense with the ineffective robayo in his place.

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