Written by Alison Moran
Photo by Jeff Vorva
After missing time with a knee injury and a suspension, the Fire’s David Accam played his first game in Toyota Park since the season opener March 6 and scored a goal Saturday against Portland.
Three months ago, the Chicago Fire shut out the reigning Major League Soccer champion Portland Timbers at Providence Park in preseason play. Since then, both teams have struggled to find momentum, on and off the pitch.
As they met again Saturday night at Toyota Park, both were coming off wins -- the Fire's ego-boosting 1-0 shutout over the Western Conference cellar-dwelling Houston Dynamo (3-7-2) and Portland's 4-2 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps (6-6-2.)
Both teams came away satisfied, if not overjoyed, with a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park.
Portland (4-6-4) came into the game minus the offense of midfielder Darrington Nagbe and defender Jermaine Taylor, who were called up to serve their respective men's national teams.
The Fire (2-5-5) took advantage of the absences. "We started with three midfielders to close the passage to the middle," said Fire Coach Veljko Paunovic.
But in the 18th minute, the Timbers' Diego Valeri found the passage to the goal by miscuing the Fire's defense, converting on a right-footed shot into the far left side of the net.
That could have spelled trouble because one of the problems of the Fire's campaign has been its lack of offense. The Fire's underwhelming, nine-goal effort in its first 11 matches has in part been the absence of forward David Accam, who missed several games to a knee injury and another game with a suspension after an incident with another player against the New York Red Bulls.
Accam made his presence felt by Saturday evening by evening as he scored in the 20th minute, assisted by Kennedy Igboananike. Accam and Igboananike combined for nine shots in the game.
The Fire's solid defense kept the Timbers scoreless in the second half.
Matt Polster, who was chosen Man of the Match by fans voting through an app, had three shot attempts and two blocked shots.
"It's the closest we've come to putting together a full 90 minutes (this season)," he said.
"I thought Chicago was the better team tonight," admitted Portland Coach Caleb Porter. “We could've done a better job, but we'll take the point."
- Fire defenseman Rodrigo Ramos was taken off the field with a possible concussion in the 82nd minute.
- Yellow cards were issued to Ramos, along with teammate Johan Kappelhoff. Timbers yellow cards were issued to Chris Klute and Liam Ridgewell.
-In Chattanooga, Tennessee, the Fire’s Premier Development League team dethroned the reigning champion Chattanooga CFC 2-1 in double overtime Saturday to clinch the Steinbrecher Cup at the US Soccer Amateur National Championship. Mark Segbers had two goals for the Fire.
PORTLAND THORNS AT CHICAGO RED STARS
WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday
WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview
RED STARS RECORD: 4-1-2
PORTLAND RECORD: 3-0-4
LAST TIME: Portland beat the Red Stars, 2-1, Aug. 9 in front of an announced crowd of 15,858 in Portland. Alyssa Mautz had the lone goal for the Red Stars.
Red Stars turn in ‘worst performance of the year’ in tie with Sky Blue
How did the first-place Chicago Red Stars fare Sunday against the struggling Sky Blue FC, without Alyssa Naeher in goal, Coppertone spokeswoman Christen Press at forward, and Julie Johnston defending?
Their coach called it their “worst performance of the year.”
On paper, the Red Stars appeared to have every advantage. Sky Blue FC came into Toyota Park having won only two games this season. It had a new head coach in Christy Holly, who replaced New Zealand-born goalkeeper Erin Nayler with Caroline Stanley, formerly of the Seattle Reign FC. Veteran defender Christie Rampone, 40, was having fitness issues. And on top of all of that, defender Kelley O'Hara was called up to the USA National Team.
In 'Ode on a Grecian Urn,' the poet John Keats wrote, "If beauty is truth, and truth, beauty, that is all ye need to know."
If so, the Red Stars (4-1-2) have a beautiful-minded coach in Rory Dames.
As the stars were away, preparing for a pair of friendlies against Japan with the USA Women's National Team, Dames summarized the 1-1 draw at Toyota Park taking away one positive: "In our worst performance of the year, we still took a point out of it," he said.
But he wasn’t a happy man.
"We were poor in the game," said Dames. "We couldn't build momentum. We were way too slow. The biggest difference, without our stars, was in our quality of play."
Despite the draw, the Chicago Red Stars remain at the top of the NWSL and host the second-place Portland Thorns Saturday.
The game started promisingly enough. In the 34th minute, Red Stars forward Sofia Huerta took a pass from a New Jersey native, midfielder Danielle Colaprico, sending the ball past Stanley to the far side of the net.
For nearly 30 minutes, the Red Stars defended well, but Stanley deflected several scoring attempts by the Red Stars from going past her.
More frustrating for Huerta were two scoring attempts that got away. Just four minutes after scoring the goal, Huerta's curling shot tipped over the bar. Midway through the second half, defender Arin Gilliland set up a long shot to Huerta, which flicked by Hoy before going narrowly right.
In the second half, Holly substituted British-born rookie Leah Galton, a rookie so new, her name only appears on a supplemental Sky Blue roster and veteran defender Natasha 'Tasha' Kai. In the 69th minute, midfielder Taylor Lytle got the ball on the right flank and passed it to Galton, whose foot was positioned perfectly to shoot the equalizer past Red Stars goalkeeper Michelle Dalton, landing at the back of the net to help deny the Red Stars three points.