Wednesday, August 3, 2011
Pardo, revamped Fire tie Union
By Charlie Corr
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire dominated on the attack and had one of their best stretches of passing and movement of the season.
But the Philadelphia Union capitalized on its one half-chance and the two sides played to a 1-1 draw in front of 10,557 at Toyota Park on Wednesday.
Fire defensive midfielder Pavel Pardo tallied a game-tying goal in his Chicago debut to salvage the draw. But it was Veljko Paunovic's 34th-minute tally for the Union that was a bitter pill to swallow from the Fire's standpoint.
Chicago (2-6-13, 19 points) showcased strong control at the start of the match, only to see the Union (8-5-8, 32 points) gain the upper hand.
"It's disappointing because time is running out, for sure," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said of the team's current last-place stance in the Eastern Conference. "That's why with the break, I think we felt good coming into this game. The urgency was there, the desire, so I'm happy about that."
Pardo netted a goal in the 54th minute to tie the score at 1-1. Patrick Nyarko crossed the ball into the box, trying to find Dominic Oduro. It was partially cleared by the Union defense, but Pardo was right there to clean up for the unassisted goal. Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon was not in position to stop the shot toward the left post.
Because of a leg injury to defender Cory Gibbs in the opening minutes, Pardo had to play the full 90 minutes in his first Fire match.
"The last game was two months ago. It was hard," Pardo said. "I didn't do a bad job. It was a surprise for me because I was on the field [for 90 minutes]."
Midfielder Sebastian Grazzini made his MLS debut for the Fire, and he was an energetic presence on the pitch.
"We knew the qualities that he has," Klopas said. "He has the ability to create and beat players and make the final pass. The whole idea today, we wanted to make sure we got the ball forward so he didn't come back much, where he can get the ball and have his energy in the final third."
But Grazzini's night was cut short. Klopas brought in forward Cristian Nazarit in the 66th minute to replace him.
"He got tired," Klopas said. "He even looked at me on the sideline that he wanted to come out."
The Fire held the upper hand on just about every front. They out-shot the Union, 14-7. They had a lopsided 8-1 shots on goal advantage.
But Philadelphia capitalized on its one chance to thwart what was a promising start to the match for Chicago.
Analysis: The Fire played one of their better matches of the season, but for a league-leading 13th time, Chicago only came away with a point.
Chicago's first 30 minutes showcased a sense of confidence that the team had been lacking. As usual, the final touch wasn't there.
Oduro did have two great scoring chances in the 61st and 66th minutes, but Union goalkeeper Faryd Mondragon came up with two clutch saves on both occasions at the near right post.
The one chance that Oduro needed to finish was in the 31st minute, when Pardo dished the ball forward and Oduro timed his run perfectly to free up space behind Philadelphia's defense. Unfortunately for the Fire, Oduro had a poor touch on the ball and Mondragon collected it out of harm's way.