The Chicago Fire opened the preseason with a 3-0 win against the University of South Florida on Saturday.
The Fire were without a number of players, but the match still represented the first game under coach Veljko Paunovic. The team did demonstrate what Paunovic has emphasized repeatedly: the importance of building from the back.
After a slow start, Arturo Alvarez scored the first goal on a feed from Gilberto in the 28th minute. Alvarez fired a shot on goal and scored on his own rebound.
Five minutes later the Fire doubled the lead following a nice series of quick passes in the final third. David Accam scored from close range for the goal and Alvarez assisted.
[SHOP FIRE: Get your Fire gear right here]
Unsurprisingly, Accam appeared to be one of the Fire's best players in the first half. Alvarez also fit in nicely in the attack, which can't hurt his chances of making the team as a trialist. One of the surprising lineup selections was having Joey Calistri play at right back. The rookie is traditionally a forward, but managed to join the attack from the wing and even registered a shot on goal.
In the second half, 10 different players took the field from the start of the half with only Vincent Keller returning after halftime. Rookie Vincent Mitchell soon added the third goal on an assist from Collin Fernandez.
The Fire were without seven players for the game so it's difficult to come away with any solid determinations from it. Brandon Vincent, Sean Johnson and Matt Polster are expected to join the team Monday after training with the national team. Joao Meira, Johan Kappelhof and Rodrigo Ramos have yet to join camp as recent foreign transfers. Eric Gehrig is still working his way back to full fitness from surgery at the end of last season.
Of the Fire players that took the field in the first half there were two rookies (Calistri and Keller), two trialists (Alvarez and goalkeeper Matt Lampson) and academy player Mauricio Pineda. In the second half there were five rookies (Keller, Mitchell, Jonathan Campbell, Alex Morrell and Drew Conner) and Saint Louis FC player Parker Maher.
The Fire's next preseason game from Tampa is against the Philadelphia Union on Thursday at 3 p.m. CT.