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Saturday, May 22, 2010
Fire go 0-for-2 in Sister Cities

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- This was not the way the Chicago Fire wanted to draw up their first-ever Sister Cities International Cup. And now they have gone approximately a month without earning a victory.

In the tournament's finale, Red Star Belgrade prevailed,7-6, in penalty kicks for the Sister Cities crown. RSB and PSG played to a 1-1 draw in regulation, with PSG tallying a shorthanded, game-tying goal in the 90th minute to send the match to PKs.

In retrospect, the Fire's third-place match did not carry a whole lot of meaning, and Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos decided to start the game without the likes of forwards Brian McBride and Corben Bone, midfielder Marco Pappa and defender Wilman Conde. Midfielder Patrick Nyarko was not even on the available roster.

By the time most of the above players made it into the match, Legia caused enough damage.

"Obviously this worries me," De los Cobos said. "We need to improve."

Sebastian Szalachowski had two goals in the 69th and 86th minutes, and Maciej Iwanski netted Legia's first goal in the 59th. In the net, Legia goalkeeper Kostyantyn Makhonovskyi made eight saves for the clean sheet before being subbed out for the final few minutes of the match. His counterpart, Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, made two saves.

The Fire created their chances, but the Legia defense was up to the task.

"We have to keep working -- that's the only thing a coach can do," De los Cobos said. "I'm not at ease. What keeps me a little bit at ease is that we created three or four opportunities to score, but we didn't complete those opportunities. … We have to be more efficient."

The Fire started rookie midfielder Corben Bone and fellow 2010 MLS Draft selection Kwame Watson-Siriboe. Midfielder Logan Pause was dropped to right defensive back. And midfielder Justin Mapp, who had been out of the lineup for several weeks because of a hamstring injury, made a return and played on the right side of the pitch.

Mapp was arguably Chicago's strongest player, especially in the first half. But the Fire's player movement had its shortcomings. As the game progressed, Mapp had a pair of sequences where he got behind the Legia defense, but Chicago could not capitalize with a tally.

"Maybe we had some tired legs," Mapp said of the team's second half. "For myself, I haven't played in a while. Maybe we fatigued a little bit, [which led to] some breakdowns. Give them credit. They finished their chances."

Chicago officially out-shot Legia, 23-10.

"We didn't put ours away, and they did," Bone said. "That's unfortunate. I think we let down a little bit in the second half. Our energy was a little bit lower than it was [in the first half]."

Of the Fire's missed chances, forward Collins John had back-to-back close calls. In the 74th minute, John dealt a huge strike, but Makhonovskyi made a diving save to his right. Shortly after with a free kick above the box, John's shot went just wide right of the net.

Earlier in the match in the 31st minute, Bone -- according to the sideline official -- stayed onside with a run down the right side. Bone crossed the ball in to Fire forward Stefan Dimitrov, but his shot went just over the crossbar.


Analysis: For as many chances as the scoresheet clearly showed, Chicago looked disorganized simply creating its opportunities. The players' movement was out of sorts in the final third.

But in focusing on all of the Fire's missed chances, Legia had probably one of the most glaring missed chances in the 52nd minute. Bartlomiej Grzelak had the entire Fire defense and Dykstra out of position, and with a great look at the goal in front of him, his rolling shot went wide left. Grzelak was immediately taken out of the match and replaced by Maciej Gorski.

With some typical non-starters getting a rest, Bone had a respectable effort for the Fire. Marco Pappa eventually replaced him in the 57th minute, but it would have been beneficial to see Bone get some more work in. Bone expressed some disappointment afterward, and the reaction was justified.