Fire and Red Stars report: Fire players no longer road worriors

  • Written by Jeff Vorva




WHEN: 6 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: At RFK Stadium, Washington, D.C.

FIRE RECORD:  5-11-7 (though Tuesday)


LAST TIME: The teams tied 1-1 at Toyota Park when ex-Fire plyer Patrick Nyarko knotted the game in the 65th minute.


HEADLINE – Fire players no longer road worriers

By Jeff Vorva

Sports Editor

The monkey – make that gorilla – is off the backs of Chicago Fire players.

After more than two years  -- actually 771 days – 36 MLS matches and 39 matches overall, the Fire tasted victory on the road when it blanked Montreal 3-0 Saturday night at Stade Saputo in Montreal.

 Razvan Cocis and winning goalie Sean Johnson were the only two members of the current team that played on the last Fire team that won a road game.

The Fire, which had a home game scheduled against the LA Galaxy Wednesday night, entered this week with the worst record in the MLS at 5-11-7 but that fifth win could provide a boost for a team which is hoping for a big finish and a microscopic shot at making the playoffs.

“Of course, it's very important for everyone to say that we finally broke the rock of winning on the road.” said first-year coach Veljko Paunovic. “We're very excited but now I'd like to dedicate this victory to our fans, who have been waiting passionately and patiently for this road win. From now on we have to take advantage of this win, it's a long way to go and we're very aware of where we are and what we have to do but this win feels very good and it's for sure going to help to improve our performances at the end of the season.

"If I tell you that the playoffs are more believable now, I would lie. Because you always believe. We knew it was a matter of time that it was going to break. And we worked hard, we were challenged so far and still I'm going to repeat, we haven't done anything. It's a very small step but it's very important .’’

Recently acquired Luis Solignac scored in the 15th minute, David Accam scored his team-high sixth goal in the 73rd minute and Matt Polster wrapped it up with a goal in the 89th minute.

"This was one of our best performances of the season,” Accam said. “We played according to our plan of what we were told. We started early wanting to put them on the back foot and pressure them.’’ 

Solignac was picked up in July and this was his second start.

"I'm happy because I came for that, to try and help the team and bring energy,’’ he said. “ I'm really happy I scored and helped the team to win." 

 MLS-ing around

The MLS will have two new teams – Atlanta and Minnesota -- in 2017.

The Fire doesn’t really have a close rival with the exception of Columbus and it appeared playing Minnesota a number of times would help develop a new rivalry but Minnesota has been placed in the Western Division while the fire is in the Eastern.

CAPTION – Photo by Jeff Vorva

David Accam said that Saturday’s win at Montreal was the best game the Fire played this season.


WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Yurcak Field, Piscataway, N.J.



Medal-less Olympics ready to test mettle in the NWSL


Christen Press, Julie Johnston and Alyssa Naeher were not able to bring home medals as members of the United State Olympic team.

Now they turn their attention to a National Women’s Soccer League title with the Chicago Red Stars.

The Red Stars have not played since July 30 and are in fourth place in the league with a 7-4-4 mark. The top four teams make it to the playoffs.

The Red Stars face fifth-place Sky Blue on the road on Saturday night and have four games in September – including three at Toyota Park – to close out the regular season.

Coach Rory Dames is pumped up about a big finish to the regular season. He said his team is not satisfied with just making the playoffs – it wants to win the regular season title and pick up a No. 1 seed.

“We’re coming back fresh and we’re excited about finishing it off,” Dames said. “The last five games after the Olympics are going to be important. How some of the players come back from the Olympics will be important. In my opinion, Alyssa is the best goalie in the league and Christen is the best goal scorer in the league and Julie is one of the best defensive players in the league.

“We’re still a young team but several players have found their identities before the break.‘’




Fire analysis/notes: At least the team is terrific at Toyota

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



The Fire is unbeaten at Toyota Park in the last 10 games. The breakdown:


April 30 (MLS game)      Tied D.C. United, 1-1

May 21 (MLS game)      Beat Houston, 1-0

May 28 (MLS game)      Tied Portland, 1-1

June 15 (Hunt Cup)        Beat Indy Eleven, 2-1 (PK)

June 28 (Hunt Cup)        Beat Columbus, 2-1

July 1   (MLS game)      Beat San Jose, 1-0

July 13 (MLS game)       Beat Sporting KC, 1-0

July 20 (Hunt Cup)         Beat Ft. Lauderdale, 3-0

July 31 (MLS game)       Tied NY Red Bulls, 2-2

Aug. 14 (MLS game)      Tied Orlando City, 2-2





WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Stade Saputo, Montreal



LAST TIME: Montreal beat the Fire 2-1 on April 16 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview. Ignacio Piatti scored the winner in extra time for the Impact.



In what has turned out to be a long, frustrating season for the Chicago Fire, there is a sliver of a silver lining.


Fire fans who have shown up for games at Toyota Park in Bridgeview in recent months have not been subject to watching the team lose.


The Fire has gone two years without a win on the road but at home, the team has not lost in 10 matches in either seven Major League Soccer games or in three rounds of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.


The streak reached double digits with a 2-2 tie with Orlando City Sunday afternoon. That shouldn’t come as much of a surprise as Orlando leads the MLS with 12 ties to go with five victories and six setbacks.


The Fire is 6-0-4 at home since losing to Montreal on April 16.


Razvan Cocis’s 78th-minute goal tied the game up. Although ties are not considered glamorous, his goal energized the announced crowd of 18,178, the biggest crowd of the season.


It energized the team, too.

As you saw, after we scored the second goal, we could've scored the third one,’’ Cocis said. “We kept the pressure and kept believing in turning back this game. It didn't happen, but hopefully, we don't have to deal with this anymore. I want to see a team that can play without conceding a goal, because we can score. We showed that we can score every game, and it's very important not to concede." 

John Goossens opened the scoring in the sixth minute for the Fire (4-11-7).

Fire sale?: Although Fire officials are not publicly saying the team is for sale, a speculative piece on the Fire Confidential website says three groups are interested in buying the team.

A group headed by Richard Levy, who is the CEO of a group that owns Giordano’s Pizza, another by real estate developer Majeed Ekbal and a Bridgeview group have expressed interest.

The article also said that this year that even though the Bridgeview facility is still known as Toyota Park, Toyota no longer owns the naming rights to the stadium.

Out of the Hunt


The Fire dropped a 3-1 road decision to New England Aug. 9 in the semfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup tournament.


David Accam scored his fifth goal in the tournament in the 40th minute but that was all the scoring the Fire would muster. Kei Kamara, Je-Waughn Watson and Teal Bunbury scored for the Revolution. Accam was also ejected late in the game for rough play.


With the miseries suffered by the Fire in the MLS, the team was hoping to win the Hunt Cup. Had it won, it would have hosted the championship game at Toyota Park in September.


“The whole locker room feels very, very bad at this point,’’ Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said after the game. "I would like to add that we did our best. This is the best we can do at this point, but we will work hard and we will come back next year.

“After the second goal and the third goal, we pushed hard, we tried to do some adjustments, but the team, I'm really proud of our guys. I think our team did a huge effort and, as I said, this is the best we can do at this point and we learn from everything. It was a great experience for us and we just expect and we work on improving and not making the same mistakes in the future."

The Fire had five shots on target in the game.

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: After this summer, I can't wait for spring baseball

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


St. Laurence baseball coach Pete Lotus was picking up his daughter, Easton, at Midway International Airport on Saturday afternoon as she returned from California from a 14U softball tournament with the Beverly Bandits.

While waiting for her, Lotus kept checking his phone for the ESPN feed of the Little League Senior World Series. Seven of the 16 players on the Clear Ridge roster are from St. Laurence.

Saturday was the championship game and Clear Ridge beat Australia, 7-2, at Mansfield Park in Bangor, Maine and Lotus was one of the happiest guys at the airport.

“It was great to see those guys play well,” Lotus said. “What a great experience for those kids. To play on national television is a pretty cool experience.’’

High school football is a couple of Fridays away and it’s easy to get excited for that. I know I am.

But I am also anxious for April and May to start rolling around. When you have a plethora of players from a World Series champion – including pitchers Gage Olszak and Zach Verta, who racked up wins in and picked up hits in the semifinals and finals respectively – it’s easy to get giddy about the season.

Not too far away from the Burbank school is Brother Rice. It used a bunch of young players mixed with established players to make it to the Phil Lawler Summer Classic championship game, where it lost by a run to Plainfield South in July.

These two teams are loaded again this season and St. Rita (which had three players on Clear Ridge), Mt. Carmel and three-time defending Class 4A state champion Providence are also in the Chicago Catholic League Blue.

“It’s pretty crazy – even though it’s so far away, you can’t wait for it to come,” Lotus said. “I guess it will get here before you know it.’’

Brother Rice, which was ranked in the top 10 in the nation during the season by USA Today before being upset by the Vikings in the sectional final at St. Rita in the spring, has Reporter/Regional Player of the Year Ryan Kutt returning and some other stars including Jack Guzek, Sam Jones, Jake Ridgway and Ryan King mixed in with promising up-and-comers who were hot in summer league play.

“We wanted to win the tournament and we’re disappointed we didn’t win it,” Kutt said after the Lawler Tournament. “But overall, lot of players got a chance to show what they can do and I can’t wait until next spring.’’

We have some more hot weather and a whole bunch of cold weather ahead before we see these stars on the baseball field again.

I’m sure that starting in a few weeks, we’ll all find a way to amuse ourselves before then.

New players but same road result for Fire

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



CATPION Photo by T.J. Vorva

Arturo Alvarez, playing in a game earlier this season, scored his third goal on Saturday night in a 3-1 loss to Real Salt Lake.


WHEN: 2:30 p.m. Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: The Fire played a man down for 58 minutes after Michael Harrington was tossed from the game and forged a 1-1 tie with Orlando City on March 11 in Florida. David Accam scored in the 15th minute for the Fire.


There are 13 games left on the Major League Soccer schedule left for the Chicago Fire, which means there are 39 points left on the board for the team to gobble up.

But if it has any chance of being a playoff team, it needs to win away from Toyota Park.

While officials are busy making changes to the roster, one thing that just doesn’t change at all is the inability to win an MLS game on the road and that’s what ultimately could cost the Fire a shot at the playoffs as it limped into this week with a league-worst 4-11-6 mark and 18 points.

The Fire dropped a 3-1 game against Real Salt Lake on Saturday night at Rio Tinto Stadium in Sandy, Utah and has not won on the road in 36 matches and more than two years.

Prior to that, the team acquired striker Luis Solignac Aug. 3 from the Colorado Rapids in exchange for General Allocation Money and on the same day acquired striker David Arshakyan from Lithuanian A Lyga side FK Trakai. The Armenian international signed a two-year deal with club options for the third and fourth years, and will be added to the Fire roster upon receipt of his ITC and P1 Visa. 

Solignac played all 90 minutes Saturday.

"It is tough to come the day before and play but I think the second half I got in touch with the guys, we got to know each other so we will improve day by day," he said. “I think that we bounced back in the second half. The attitude was totally different and we got a goal. But after we conceded one right away but I think we had a good spirit and that's a positive thing." 

Arturo Alvarez scored the Fire’s lone goal at the 58-minute mark – his third goal of the season.

Javier Moralez scored two goals for Real Salt Lake (10-7-7).

The Fire started a mixed lineup as they built toward their record 12th appearance in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup Semifinal against the New England Revolution, which, it also lost, 3-1 on Tuesday. Goalie Sean Johnson plus regular players Matt Polster and Joey Calistri did not play. Khaly Thiam was ineligible because the MSL suspended him and hit him up for an undisclosed fine for serious foul play in the 37th minute against the New York Red Bulls on July 31.

"We always want to win.” Fire coach Veljko Paunopvic said. “The issue we have on our squad we have to manage the best possible way to start with the lineup we started. I believe we had enough proof that we wanted to win this game with this starting lineup. Our mind is the next game and that's how we always play. Like I said we are looking ahead to our next game and we are very excited. We have to recover from this loss and we have to recover the spirit and the positive energy in order to prepare well." 

As for the new guys, Solignac scored three goals and racked up four assists in 33 league matches since joining the Rapids on May 1, 2015.

"Simply, Luis is a good footballer," said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez. "He has soft feet, is mobile, understands how to play in combination and is familiar with the demands of the League. We expect him to contribute right away."

Arshakyan began his professional career with Armenian side FC Mika in 2012 and made three Premier League appearances as his side captured the 2012-13 Armenian Super Cup. 

The 21-year-old made the move to FK Trakai prior to the start of the 2015 season. In 34 league appearances, Arshakyan scored 25 goals and had six multi-goal games, including three hat tricks, finishing the season just three goals shy the top scorer.

"As we tracked David, we were impressed by his winning attitude and ability to score goals in a variety of different ways," Rodriguez said. "He has a very good soccer IQ, imagination and obvious size. David also expressed a keen desire to join our club in particular and to help us build a championship program." 

This season, Arshakyan scored nine goals in 18 appearances, including a hat trick in a 4-3 win over Utenis Utena on July 28. 


Fire and Red Stars analysis

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Kennedy Igboananike, shown in a game earlier this season, was dealt from the Fire to D.C. United on Friday. He had nearly 25 percent of the Fire’s goals this season at the tie of the trade.


Chicago Fire at Real Salt Lake

WHEN: 9 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Rio Tinto Stadium, Sandy, Utah


REAL SALT LAKE RECORD: 9-6-7 (as of Sunday)

LAST TIME: Salt Lake won 2-1 in Bridgeview May 9, 2015 as Alvaro Saborio and Luke Mulholland scored while the Fire’s Jeff Larentowicz was able to find that back of the net in the 88th minute on a penalty kick.

Another late goal robs Fire of victory


Chicago Fire officials continue to perform surgery on their roster while Sunday night another late goal let up by the defense cut the heart right out of the team.

Bradley Wright-Phillips of the New York Red Bulls scored his 12th goal of the season in the 90th minute to tie the Fire 2-2 Sunday in a Major League Soccer game in front of an announced crowd of 17,221 at Toyota Park in Bridgeview.

The Fire (4-10-6) suffered either losses or ties five times this year when opponents scored in the 85th minute or later.

This one really got to rookie coach Veljko Paunovic.

"Losing these two points for me is tougher than any other defeat we have had this year,’’ Paunovic said. “I think that maturity and mentality comes in play and I think that we did most of the things very well but we have to learn how to win games. Positive side is that we came back from the early goal against New York. That is the positive side but we have to learn how to manage the game and keep that result or even increase the lead so we move forward.

“We played tough which is a part of our identity. After having to react to a negative result in the first half we have to learn to either score the third goal which is something that we were looking for in the second half. Starting the second half that was our goal but then you don't concede, you have to go and keep the score especially in the last five or ten minutes."

David Accam scored his team-high fifth goal of the year and Matt Polster added one for the Fire, but was also the victim of knocking the ball into his own net to allow New York (10-9-4) the first score of the night in the 16th minute.

"(Goalie) Sean (Johnson) and I talked at halftime --  it looked like Sean was going to have it, but then I looked and it kind of hung up there, so then last second I went for it and just a little miscommunication,” Polster said. “I didn't hear anything, but I also should have just cleared it myself. I think sometimes you just have to take it into your own hands and just do it. I second-guessed myself and that's on me." 

The loss came two days after the team traded Kennedy Igboananike to D.C. United for Target Allocation Money and the natural third-round selection in the 2019 SuperDraft.

The Designated Player had four goals which, at the time of the trade tied Accam for first on the team, and one assist. The team had an MLS-low 17 goals at the time of the deal so he accounted for nearly 25 percent of the scoring. He will continue to be classified as a Designated Player on the roster and will remain on the Fire’s payroll. Some may view this move that the Fire has given up on its chances for the playoffs but officials said they had planned on making some moves to acquire players this week.

"Moves like this are needed in order to execute our plan for roster development," said general manager Nelson Rodriguez. "Kennedy puts his heart into his work and has served this club well. We wish him the best in D.C. and wherever his career leads him."


 Long rest comes at a good time for Red Stars


And now, some rest.

A lot of rest.

The Chicago Red Stars knocked off the 2015 National Women’s Soccer League champion, FC Kansas City, 1-0, Saturday night in front of an announced crowd of 2,550. Newcomer Stephanie McCaffrey scored the lone goal in the 53rd minute and goalie Michele Dalton notched the shutout.

The league takes an extended break because so many of its stars are competing in the Olympics and the Red Stars’ next game will be Aug. 27 at Sky Blue FC and their next home game will be Sept. 4 against the Seattle Reign.

Red Stars coach Rory Dames, whose team is 7-4-4, is happy for the break as some of his players are banged up. They were given a full week off this week and practice begins again next week.  

“This group has worked very hard the last four and-a-half weeks,” Dames said. “Some of the players are being held together by tape. They need to get away and take a break and get ready for the home stretch – where is always seems to come down to.’’

McCaffrey, who was traded from Boston to the Red Stars July 22, made her first start and provided the lone offense as the team is 4-0-3 at home.

“I should have walked away with more than one,” McCaffrey said. “This team puts the forwards in a lot of good positions.’’

KC fell to 4-7-4.

After the game, the team retired the number – 17 -- of Lori Chalupny, a 2008 Olympic Gold Medalist and 2015 FIFA World Cup champion who played with the Red Stars for four years.