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Tuesday, June 29, 2010
Fire's Cup woes continue, fall in shootout

By Charlie Corr

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup third-round match on Tuesday was a mess in more ways than one.

The few passing moments in the offensive third, the petty extracurriculars between the Fire and United Soccer League Second Division opponent Charleston Battery, the two scoreless 15-minute overtimes, the questionable officiating decisions -- these elements dragged out an uneventful feeling within the match.

Chicago's lackluster effort resulted in a 3-0 loss in penalty kicks as Charleston advanced to the Cup quarterfinals in front of 2,526 at Toyota Park. Charleston next plays Major League Soccer's Columbus Crew. The Crew defeated the D2 Pro's Rochester Rhinos, 2-1, on Tuesday night.

"I don't have anything to complain [about] to our players. They tried the whole match to win," Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said. "But we missed some options. We weren't effective."

Coming off an MLS match on Sunday, the Fire approached the match with a secondary outlook. Six non-starters took the pitch to open the game. But the changes definitely showed, from regulation through a surprising shutout in the penalty kicks.

In the head-to-head shootout, Brian McBride's attempt went over the crossbar, Krzysztof Krol's attempt was saved by Charleston goalkeeper Tim Melia, and Wilman Conde's shot hit the crossbar and deflected almost all the way to midfield.

Charleston had a bit more success, with Lamar Neagle, Mike Zaher and Ian Fuller all netting their kicks past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.

In regulation, Melia made eight saves for the Battery while Johnson had two for Chicago.

ANALYSIS:

Just how difficult was attempting to watch Tuesday's match? How about the Battery's Tom Heinemann getting injured in the 100th minute and the fans in the stands cheering for the training staff's run onto the pitch? It was that bad, that uneventful.

It is understandable to have a letdown coming off a league match over the weekend and a short recovery time. It also makes sense that a bunch of your non-starters will not play up to the level of your usual starting squad.

But Chicago's performance was choppy to say the least. The runs and the passes were all over the place, especially during the first half. There were situations such as a 58th-minute give-and-go between Stefan Dimitrov and Marco Pappa that minimally deserved a shot on goal.

Charleston came to play, though. The Battery put the Fire on the defensive at the start, highlighted by Stephen Armstrong's left-footed strike in the fifth minute hitting the right post.

Still, the Fire personnel should have generated a far better performance.