Chicago Fire: Omar Cummings
Neither goal was produced during the run of play, but the Chicago Fire will certainly take a 2-2 draw against the host Colorado Rapids on Saturday in Major League Soccer action at Dick's Sporting Goods Park in Commerce City, Colo.
The game's front line starters each had a goal -- Collins John and Brian McBride for the Fire, and Omar Cummings and Conor Casey for the Rapids. John's first goal in a Fire uniform came in the 25th minute off of Marco Pappa's corner kick, and McBride's second-half penalty kick tied the score at 2-2 in the 51st minute.
The Fire improved to 1-1-0 and now prepare for their home opener April 10 against the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. Three of the Fire's next four games are at home.
On Saturday, Chicago played without defender Wilman Conde at center back, who was questionable for the game already because of a foot contusion. That meant another Fire youngster stepping into the fold early in rookie defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe.
"It's a very hard place to play," Watson-Siriboe said of the high altitude at Dick's Sporting Goods Park. "Plus they have two fantastic players in Conor Casey and Omar Cummings. Cummings is very quick and very fast, and I had to adapt to it. The first 20 minutes in the first half, it wasn't good. But the second half we did a lot better."
The Rapids had the upper hand early on when Cummings found plenty of space to hammer home a 13th-minute goal from long range past Fire goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra. Though Cummings' strike was top-notch, the Fire midfield and defense gave Cummings too much room to work with.
"I would say it was more of still learning how to play with each other, learning how to close the space and learn to push up as one," Watson-Siriboe said. "As time goes on, we will be more cohesive."
But in the 25th, the Fire responded. Pappa's corner kick was a perfect placement, with John notching the header to tie the score at 1-1. Pappa pinpointed the best part of the Fire attack because McBride was also lurking in the area, and only one Rapids defender was in the vicinity.
Colorado regained the lead when Pappa made a poor defensive decision and was called for a foul on the Rapids' Colin Clark in the box. Casey easily converted the PK when he placed the ball in the opposite direction of Dykstra's dive, giving the Rapids a 2-1 lead in the 41st minute.
The tables turned in the second half when Rapids defender Marvell Wynne fouled the Fire's Patrick Nyarko in the box. McBride netted the game-tying goal and Chicago held on the rest of the way.
Proper spacing on the field and strong run of play go hand-in-hand. The Fire looked like they fell shorter in both areas during this match compared to their 1-0 season-opening loss to the Red Bulls. The final score just didn't mirror this fact.
Chicago capitalized on its two scoring moments off of the corner and PK. But the Fire's attack was lackluster at best.
At times this looked like the Fire team of last season in that several stretches included playing some unncessary long ball, back and forth with the Rapids. Neither team appeared to be a tenacious offensive threat, and toward the end it was apparent that the Fire were willing to hold on tight for the road draw.
The Fire missed Conde in this match, both on the defensive end and in transition to muster some offense.
Next weekend's home environment will be a welcome boost to this team when it hosts San Jose. Hopefully for the Fire's sake, 2010's home slate will turn around from last year's 5-4-6 showing.