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Saturday, June 4, 2011
Fire's winless stretch hits record 10 games

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire looked composed and aggressive in the first half of their first match with interim head coach Frank Klopas at the helm. But the end result was reminiscent of the past couple of months as the Fire played Seattle Sounders FC to a scoreless draw on Saturday in front of 13,839 at Toyota Park.

With the draw, the Fire set a team record with a 10-game winless streak. During the stretch, the Fire are 0-4-6, and they are now 1-4-7 overall during the season.

Yamith Cuesta
Chicago's Yamith Cuesta and Seattle's Mike Fucito battle for the ball on Saturday.
"We didn't get the win, but I felt there were a lot of positives going away from this game," Klopas said.

One positive was the play of midfielder Daniel Paladini. He had a strong match and tested Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller in the 27th minute. Paladini's strike from about 25 yards out was destined for the upper left corner of the goal, but Keller stretched out to his right to make the save and maintain the scoreless affair for Seattle (5-4-6).

"[Fire captain] Logan [Pause] said he saw me celebrating. I kind of was," Paladini said. "But I saw [Keller's] hands go up. It was a great save."

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson recorded all three of his saves in the first half as the Chicago defense posted its second shutout of the season.

The bulk of both teams' scoring chances came in the first half. Chicago tested Keller early, as he was forced to make four of his game-high five saves in the opening 45 minutes.

The Fire's Diego Chaves had a crisp strike in the 12th minute that went directly to Keller, and in the 31st, Keller saved another Chaves attempt and was able to hang onto the rebound when the Fire's Cristian Nazarit rushed in.

Defensively, the Fire held Seattle in check. Other than the first 10 minutes of the match -- where Seattle's Lamar Neagle had strong scoring chances in the sixth and ninth minutes -- Chicago's defense limited the Sounders' offense.

"I thought we set the tone and we created the better chances than they did," said midfielder Patrick Nyarko, who entered the match in the second half. "We gave up nothing in the back. Everyone was scrambling. Everyone was covering for each other. I personally think it was our best game this season."

Both teams' offenses were limited in the final third throughout the second half. Chicago had one shot on goal and Seattle did not even record a shot on goal in the final 45 minutes.

"I think we had an opportunity to be a little more simple and connect passes," Klopas said. "I think we weren't as sharp doing that -- maybe the final pass, or the outlet pass out wide. I think we had moments in transition."

Analysis: The Fire still have plenty of kinks to work out, but there were enough positives out of this match to lean on moving forward.

The first half was a promising start as Paladini and Corben Bone actually compensated well for the absence of Guatemalan international Marco Pappa, who is away for the CONCACAF Gold Cup.

Paladini was aggressive and he covered a bunch of ground on both ends of the pitch. Bone had some creative moments, though he was less active in the second half and Klopas properly subbed him out.

Klopas' in-game management during his debut was valid. Bone's and Cristian Nazarit's activity lessened during the second half, and Klopas tried to maintain some attack against the Sounders' defense.

The winless cloud continues to linger, however, as Chicago did not gain any ground on Eastern Conference-leading Philadelphia.