Fire end losing skid, earn hard-fought point in Houston


Fire end losing skid, earn hard-fought point in Houston

After a morale-boosting victory in their Round of 16 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup match against the Charlotte Independence on Tuesday, the Chicago Fire showed the resilience to come from behind once again. This time, it was Patrick Nyarko's 72nd-minute goal that helped the Men in Red salvage a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo Friday night.

"Great effort from our guys, really proud of the way they fought and battled against adversity with a few injuries here and there and a couple things going on, not having a full lineup," head coach Frank Yallop said following the match. "I’m proud of the way we played and getting a point here."

Frank Yallop made sweeping changes to the side that dispatched the third-division outfit three days earlier. Jeff Larentowicz, reported to be struggling with right groin tightness and subsequently left off Tuesday's team sheet, was replaced by Eric Gehrig. Half an hour before kickoff, the Fire announced Larentowicz would be out for two weeks with a herniated disc.

As a result, Matt Polster was restored to his tenured center midfield role, playing alongside Razvan Cocis, and flanked by Harry Shipp and Jason Johnson on the right and left wings, respectively. Meanwhile, Guly do Prado took the place of Mike Magee and partnered Kennedy Igboananike to lead the firing line.

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Despite a relatively uneventful first half, it was the Fire who nearly jumped out to an early lead. A Harry Shipp corner kick was met by Razvan Cocis in the fourth minute, with the Romanian's one-time effort hitting the underside of the crossbar and bouncing off the line, which multiple replays ruled to have not crossed the line. 

In the 13th minute, Houston spurned a golden opportunity to get on the front foot themselves, as Giles Barnes, blowing past Greg Cochrane down the right flank, bursted through in the box and slid a cross to the on-rushing Will Bruin, whose dismal shot from close range missed Johnson's frame completely as the Fire 'keeper breathed a sigh of relief.

The sides entered the break with not much to show for in the opening 45. Yallop elected to bring on Patrick Nyarko for Jason Johnson to start the second half, which became an open affair quite quickly.

[RELATED: Fire travel to face Dynamo in the Houston heat]

It was the Dynamo, however, who would strike first. After good interplay down the left side, Brad Davis provided a low cross across the goal mouth, with Bruin and Johnson vying for it. The ball squirted out the other side, allowing former Fire midfielder Alex to tap in unmarked at the back post in the 56th minute.

Three minutes later, Mike Magee entered the fray and found himself on the end of a delivery from Lovel Palmer immediately following his introduction, but his effort was well monitored by the Dynamo's Joe Willis. That chance was shortly followed up by a header from Nyarko in the 63rd minute, which skimmed the crossbar and left Yallop's group tantalizingly close to finding an equalizer.

In the 72nd minute, Nyarko was at last rewarded for his diligent work. The Ghanaian got on the end of a Greg Cochrane cross and collided with Willis in the process, but cleaned up the mess, notching his first goal in MLS play since May 10, 2014 to level the match at one apiece.

"Patrick had a big impact in the game on Tuesday—the cup game we had at home—and he comes and gets the tying goal here," Yallop added. "Just really pleased for him, it’s been a long road back. Him and Mike off the bench… it’s a long haul back from that type of injury so I’m very happy that they’re both on the field and contributing, doing well."

[MORE: Palmer hopes Fire can use Open Cup as "springboard" to MLS success]  

As the closing stages wound down, the West vs. East encounter produced end-to-end action, but ultimately left the cross-conference foes with even honors. With the result, the Fire still remain in last place in the Eastern Conference, with eight days' rest before returning to face the Seattle Sounders at Toyota Park. The Dynamo travel to the Bay Area to battle the San Jose Earthquakes at Avaya Stadium on July 10.
NOTE: Adaílton went down injured in the 71st minute of the game and was substituted by Chris Ritter. The Brazilian defender exited with a groin strain, according to a team official. His status for the Seattle game is TBD. 
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)

(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Adailton (Chris Ritter, 71'), Greg Cochrane; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis (C), Matt Polster, Jason Johnson (Patrick Nyarko, 46'); Guly do Prado, Kennedy Igboananike (Mike Magee, 59').

Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?


Ever wonder what a Portillo's soccer jersey would look like?

Portillo's has become a staple in the Chicagoland area due to its popular hot dogs, Italian beef sandwiches and now, its soccer jerseys.

OK, maybe one of these does not belong with the others. Regardless, Twitter user @JTHazzard created mock-up soccer jerseys mashing MLS teams and restaurants based in that team's city, and the Portillo's jersey is sweet. 

From the Portillo's logo taking center-stage to the picnic blanket pattern to the discrete Chicago Fire logo, this jersey is absolutely brilliant. The only change this writer would make is including the logo below instead.

Valspar is the current sponsor featured on the Fire's uniforms. If the team ever needs a new sponsor, though, Portillo's would be an excellent replacement.

Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon


Fire sign veteran MLS forward Alan Gordon

As far as notorious players in MLS with a history of scoring big goals, Alan Gordon is one of the first names on that list.

The Fire signed the 36-year-old forward on Friday, continuing to add depth to a roster that appeared paper thin throughout the preseason. Gordon, who had been on trial with the Fire for part of the preseason and even after the season opener, signed a one-year deal.

Gordon adds plenty of experience from being in the league since 2004 and having scored 55 goals with five different teams. For the past few years he has been used primarily as a substitute, but has still maintained his reputation for scoring goals late in games.

At 6-foot-3 he brings plenty of size and strength to the team and is one of the best players on headers in the league. Last season the Fire failed to score directly off a set piece, which was both due to consistently poor service from corner kicks and a lack of players adept at finishing them off. Gordon should give the Fire a late-game option in that area.

Elliot Collier had impressed the Fire enough to earn a contract as a third-round pick and an international player and even came off the bench in the opening loss to Sporting Kansas City, but it appears the team wanted more experience at forward with Gordon.