Sunday, July 24, 2011

Fire stoked by its performance vs. mighty ManU


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All the troubles the Chicago Fire has had scoring in Major League Soccer this season, then it goes and throws a scare into mighty Manchester United.
Maybe the Fire's problem hasn't been that it was outplayed by MLS teams.
Maybe it's just been bored by them.
The players were proud of their performance despite losing 3-1 to Manchester United on Saturday afternoon in front of 61,308 at Soldier Field. The Fire led for 53 minutes, the only MLS team so far on this American tour to take an advantage on Manchester United. In fact, the Fire had a number of chances to expand its lead.
Not that the Fire wanted to think about the ones that got away.
“You have to understand who we're playing against,” Fire interim coach/technical director Frank Klopas said. “We put a very good challenge.”
“For me more than anything we made the game competitive and every time we step on the field I want to make sure we improve and get better as a team. In the final third we still need to be working on stuff, the decision-making, the final pass.”
“We had to work hard for the victory, then once we equalized we were able to do anything,” Manchester United coach Sir Alex Ferguson said of his club's 3 consecutive second-half goals. “The Chicago Fire played well. Very good in the counterattack. They gave us some problems. They could have scored 2 or 3 more.
“So it was a good workout for us. We're pleased with that.”
The truth is the Fire hasn't been as bad as its place in the MLS standings would indicate. As its dozen draws suggest, the Fire hasn't been blown out in league play, just as it wasn't blown out Saturday. And for the most part, the club has good talent by MLS standards, if not by English Premier League standards.
The Fire's 1-0 halftime lead was no fluke.
The Fire had more shots on goal in the first half (5-1) and outshot Manchester United 10-5. Young Manchester United goalkeeper David de Gea was tested a few times and earned a mixed review from Ferguson.
In was a typical Fire game: lots of shots, including Orr Barouch hitting the left post in the 63rd minute, but trouble finishing. Defensively, a mistake was costly on the second goal, again a persistent problem for the Fire.
“I think when you're playing against a team like that you need those (shots like Barouch's) to go in,” Fire captain Logan Pause said. “We created some pretty good chances. Hopefully, the fans enjoyed it because anytime you get to play against guys like that it's fantastic. We enjoyed it. Obviously, the result wasn't what we had hoped, but the result's not the most important thing in this situation.”
The Fire took the lead in the 13th minute, Cory Gibbs heading in a Marco Pappa free kick.
“It was awesome,” first-half Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “It definitely gave us a boost to start off. To be able to go up a goal early on a team like that, I think it does wonders for your team's confidence.”
Manchester United's first goal came in the 66th minute when Wayne Rooney tracked down a long ball from Rio Ferdinand and deftly chipped it over 6-foot-6 backup goalkeeper Jon Conway, who was charging Rooney with his arms upright.
Rafael da Silva gave Manchester United the lead in the 75th minute when he showed some skill dribbling in on Conway from the keeper's left and putting a shot off his leg and into the net.
Nani took advantage of miscommunication in the back between Gibbs and Conway to make it 3-1 in the 82nd.
“When you give teams like this one or two opportunities, they don't miss,” Klopas said. “But I was very happy, very pleased with first the performance of all my players, and it was great because we got an opportunity at least to get everyone on the field.”

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