Fire and Red Stars notes and news

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 2 Thiam

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Khaly Thiam, shown in a match earlier this year, scored his first goal for the Fire June 22, but his team lost a wild 4-3 battle to Philadelphia.


WHEN: 7 p.m., Friday

WHERE: Toyota Park in Bridgeview



LAST TIME: San Jose came up with a 2-1 victory March, 22, 2015 in the third game of the season in California when Fatai Alashe and Ty Hardin scored in the first 21 minutes. Harry Shipp scored in the 29th minute for the Fire and both defenses locked down on the scoring the rest of the way.


WHEN: 6 p.m. Friday

WHERE: Rhino’s Stadium, Rochester, New York



LAST TIME: Casey Short’s goal in the first half gave the Red Stars a 1-0 victory over the Flash on April 23 at Toyota Park in the Red Stars’ home opener.


A lousy night suffered by Fire and Red Stars

The Fire played out east on the same night the Red Stars played out west and neither Chicago team came home with a point.

The Fire finally got its offense in gear but suffered a 4-3 setback at Philadelphia on June 22, the same night the Red Stars lost their footing for first place with a 2-0 setback to new National Women’s Soccer League-leader Portland.

The Fire had an 11-match streak in Major League Soccer in which it had one or zero goals heading into Philadelphia and when it fell behind 4-1 to the Eastern Conference-leading Union, it was in danger of suffering its worst loss of the year.

Razvan Cocis and Khaly Thiam prevented that with goals in the 69th and 80th minutes respectively, but the Fire couldn’t knot things up the rest of the way.

First-year Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, who was getting aggravated with his team’s losing ways even before this match, was disappointed after his team fell to 2-7-5 on the season and has endured a 32-match road streak without a victory. But he was glad his team put itself in a position to tie or take the lead in the closing minutes.

“We said that when I came to Chicago that we will fight every single game until the end and that's what we proved,’’ Paunovic said. “Of course that's not enough, we've got to get better, we've got to win games, overall we have to improve." 

David Accam, who spent an unhealthy chunk of the season on the shelf with a knee injury, scored his sixth goal in seven games to open the scoring. He has 27 goals in 31 games played on the MLS level and if he can stay healthy and when new player Michael de Leeuw is eligible July 9, maybe the Fire can make multiple goal games a habit.

The defense has usually been solid or stellar most of the season but it allowed four goals against Philadelphia (7-4-5) including a hat trick from Roland Alberg. His first goal banged off the goal, off defender Jonathan Campbell and into the net in the 11th minute. Toward the end of the first half, Alberg struck again after goalie Sean Johnson and teammate Johan Kappelhof deflected shots to open the sequence.

"I don't believe in being unlucky, I just believe in performance and I think that in those situations we could react better for sure,’’ the coach said.

Meanwhile in Portland, the Red Stars (5-2-3) managed just three shots on goal and none found the net and will part ways with star players Christen Press, Alyssa Naeher and Julie Johnston for five games as they train for and play in Olympic competition.

The loss snapped an eight-match unbeaten streak for the Red Stars, who gave up both goals in the first 25 minutes of the match. Christine Sinclair popped a shot in early at the 6-minute mark and Nadia Nadim added one at the 25-minute mark.


 Gilberto gone

The Fire and Gilberto parted ways as both sides mutually agreed to terminate his contract, the team announced.

The Brazilian striker was reported to have been paid a team-high $1.14 million this season. He had no goals and two assists in nine matches.

"Despite his best efforts, Gilberto was not able to reach his top form in Major League Soccer," said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez. "He is a good person, with a big heart and a passion for the game, and we hope he finds success at his next stop."

Gilberto was signed by the Fire as a Designated Player on July 27 after the club claimed him on waivers. In his first season with the Fire, he scored five goals and added two assists in ten games but this year struggled.

Still Hunting

The Fire knocked off Columbus, 2-1 June 28 in the round of 16 of the 103rd Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup at Toyota Park. Accam had both goals and had four goals in two Hunt Cup games. The Fire hosts either Orlando City of the Ft. Lauderdale Strikers in the quarterfinals on July 20.

Even though the team has been struggling in MLS play, winning Cup games has not been taken lightly.

"The Cup is important for this club,’’ Accam said. “As a player, every game is important, we want to win every game. We take every game with seriousness, and for us every time we play a game, we try to win it." 

Goalie Matt Lampson, who had not played in the Fire’s previous five MLS games, picked up his second Cup start and victory.

Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: A lot of great non-conference action coming up in HS football

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

As of today, Thursday, there are 57 more days until the first night of Illinois High School Association football action.

The schools have finalized their schedules and the IHSA posted them in all their glory.

When I look at the schedules for the first time, I am more interested in what the non-conference portion looks like. And this year among area teams, there is plenty of intrigue. The first couple of weeks could feature some classic games and some blowouts.

And a nice wrinkle for a sports editor who wouldn’t mind taking a lot of photos of different teams the first weekend (I am planning that photo page already!) there are several games involving area teams the first Friday (Aug. 26) plus some action the next two days as well.

The big bash will be a Sunday, Aug. 28, collision between heated rivals Brother Rice and Marist at Soldier Field. That game is special on its own and usually even more special when it was hosted at one of the schools. Some of the intense, intimate atmosphere will be taken away by playing in a large NFL Stadium, but, hey, the game is being played in an NFL Stadium. Marist is coming off a stunning second-place finish in the state in Class 8A after going 5-4 in the regular season and Brother Rice has plenty of returning talent.

On Sept. 2, it doesn’t get much easier for either of these area squads as Marist hosts Chicago Public League power Simeon and Brother Rice hosts Crete-Monee, which finished second in the state to Montini in Class 6A last year.

Speaking of Crete, former C-M and Marian Catholic coach Jerry Verde opens his career at Evergreen Park visiting the Chicago Agriculture Science School at Stagg Stadium on Aug. 27 and hosting CICS/Longwood on Sept. 2.

Speaking of new coaches, the Scott Peters era starts in Sandburg and the Eagles host Naperville North (2-7 last year) on Aug. 26. The Eagles’ other non-conference game is Oct. 24 waaaaaaay down south. They visit the suburbs of St. Louis to take on Fort Zumwalt West in O’Fallon, Missouri.  That will be the eighth week of the season and it might be an important game for the Eagles’ playoff chances.

The SouthWest Suburban lost Joliet West, Joliet Central (both to the Suburban Prairie Conference) and Lincoln-Way North (which closed). The conference used to be broken up into two divisions but now it will be a sort of super conference of 13 teams where not everyone will play everyone and some teams will play six conference games, some play seven and some eight.  Confused? Get in line.

Stagg will play eight conference games in the new super conference and visits Rich Central Aug. 26 in the only non-conference battle.

On the other hand, there is St. Laurence, which plays just three conference games in the Chicago Catholic Conference League White.

The Vikings, who are eyeing a state title this season after making it to the Class 5A semifinal last year, are playing six non-conference games and will open the season at Benet on Aug. 26 and another juicy game on the schedule comes Sept. 16 when they visit St. Rita.

Richards hosts Lemont on Aug. 26 in a battle that last year saw Lemont take a 14-0 halftime lead only to have Richards roar back in the second half for a thrilling 28-24 victory.

Shepard, which qualified for the playoffs last year for the first time since 2013, opens the season hosting Thornton Fractional North on Aug. 26 and visiting Fenton on Sept. 2. Those two teams combined for a 6-12 record in 2015.

Oak Lawn will try to improve on a 1-9 mark and Nick Novak’s second year as coach of the Spartans opens at Lane Tech on Aug. 26 and they host Hillcrest on Sept. 2. Both teams finished 4-5 last year but the Spartans dropped a season opener to Lane, 28-6, in Oak Lawn and a 50-0 decision to Hillcrest in Country Club Hills in 2015.

 Chicago Christian hopes to put last year’s 1-8 record behind it and second-year coach Nick Cook and the Knights open with a home game against Chicago Noble/Bulls, which was 7-2 last year but was not in a conference that qualified for the IHSA playoffs Aug. 26 and hosts Crossroads Academy out of Big Rock on Sept. 10. Crossroads was 0-6 last year including two forfeits. In the four games the team out of Big Rock actually played, it was beaten by a combined score of 184-46.

Just 57 more days…

A look at area all-state and all-conference athletes

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


The four Players of the Year that are featured this weeks are just the four tips of the iceberg.

The area was not hurting for talent and even though the Reporter/Regional picked recognized one player in sport in which at least half of the area school participated in, there are many more who deserve recognition and received it.

There is a look of those stars:


AMERICAN VOLLEYBALL COACHES’ ASSOCIATION: Our Player of the Year, Sandburg’s Jake Hanes, was named to the All-America team.

ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL VOLLEYBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION: Hanes made the first team, Sandburg teammate Grant Burdon made the second team, Brother Rice’s Jimmy Baker and Garrett Dedrichs made the third team and Marist’s Aaron Kumer and Mike Burci were honorable mention.

CHICAGO CATHOLIC LEAGUE: Brother Rice’s Jack Burke, Steve Lona, Dedrichs, Zach Rothstein and Joe Kenzinger were named to the Blue Division team while St. Laurence freshman Mike Sack made it to the White team.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE: Marist’s Kummer was named Player of the Year. Jack Berglind, Burci and Colin Meyer were named to the all-conference team.

SOUTH SUBURBAN CONFERENE: Senior outside hitter David Allen of Richards was named the league’s Player of the Year while Jake Fleming, Carlos Draper, Frank Hesik and Eyad Omar were named to the all-conference team.



Oak Lawn’s Jack Linder and Cody Figus also made the team along with Shepard’s Candelario Delfin, David Prince and Dylan Dodge.

SOUTHWEST SUBURBAN CONFERENCE: Sandburg’s Colin Ensalaco, Burden and Hanes made the Blue team and Stagg’s Pat Roach was named to the Red squad.


Individuals who qualified for state were Chris and Sean Torpy, Ayo Abiona, Jibreel Brown and Dylan Jacobs of Sandburg, Neiko Carter Caleb Washington and Corey Williams of Shepard, Jelani Edmond and Tajh Salas of Brother Rice, Doug Kosch and Lonnie Chambers of St. Laurence, Joey Ryan of Evergreen Park and Elijah Butler and Ben Friesen of Chicago Christian.

Relay team members who ran at state were Sandburg’s Tom Brennan Brandon Lukas, David Gleisner, Jordon Woods, Jibreel Brown, Leo Epsino, Josh Scheldberg, Jacobs and the Torpy twins, and Chicago Christian’s Friesen, Nathan Krygsheld, Toddy Kruzich, Alex Kruzich, Daniel Bailey, Luke Rattler, Butler, Connor Pearson and Joe Hoefler.


Individuals who qualified for state were Raquel Funches and Ashley Bryja of Mother McAuley, Kyla Jimmar of Richards, Maryclare Leonard of Marist, Jada Jackson of Shepard, freshman Chibueze Obia of Sandburg, Deanna Stewart, Kaitlyn Murphy, Grace O’Toole, Shaketta Bracey, Lily Sadler and Meleah Tines of Evergreen Park, Arianna Jones and Elizabeth Graczyk of Queen of Peace and Jill VanDyk, Rylei Jackson and April VanRyn of Chicago Christian.

Relay team members who ran at state were Marist’s Coleen Murphy, Carlin McNulty, Nora Doyle and Jill Broza, McAuley’s Osayi Osaremwinda, Alexandria Bryant, Evelyn Gorman, Funches, Cassandra Grosskopf, Kelly Gallagher and Ashley Bryja and Chicago Christian’s Allie Boss. Alexis VanRyn, April VanRyn and VanDyk.


Singles state qualifiers were Michal Wolan and Kevin Wancik, Sandburg’s Jonluke Passett, Shepard’s Paul Milkus,

Doubles qualifiers were Brother Rice’s Ryan Cunnea-Brenden Leibforth and TJ Saas-Joe Mendala, Stagg’s Patrick Harper-Luke Schendl, Sandburg’s Adam Cardidi-Anthony Coffel, Oak Lawn’s Michael Rodriguez-Patrick Skupien and Chicago Christian’s Charlie Blim-Li Zhang. 


Chicago Fire and Red Stars analysis and notes

  • Written by Jeff Vorva and Alison Moran




 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Chicago Fire star David Accam had an overtime goal and the winning penalty kick in a 2-1 victory over Indy Eleven on June 15.






WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Tuesday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

LAST TIME: Columbus and the Fire engaged in a 0-0 tie in a Major League Soccer game on a cold day at Toyota Park on March 19.

Late becomes never for struggling Fire

By Jeff Vorva

The Chicago Fire continues to get bitten late in games.

In the 89th minute, Colorado’s Marco Pappa’s shot from distance got by goalie Sean Johnson and the Rapids won a 2-1 battle Saturday night in Commerce City Colorado.

Dejected rookie coach Veljko Paunovic has seen this before:

(bullet) On April 16, Montreal’s Ignacio Piatti scored in extra time of a 2-1 victory over the Fire.

(bullet) On May 11, Vancouver’s Blaz Perez score in the 88th minute of a 2-1 victory over Chicago.

(bullet) On May 14, New England’s Femi Hollinger-Janzen scored in the 84th minute to all but dash the Fire’s hope for a point in a 2-0 Revolution victory.

And it happened again Saturday night not long after midfielder Joey Calistri became the first homegrown player in team history to score a goal as he scored in the 81st minute.

Then Pappa scored a day before Father’s Day to make for a miserable weekend for the Fire (2-6-5).

”We have to be less innocent in these kind of games,’’ the coach said.Of course nobody is happy with that, but the only thing we can do is move forward -- move forward and keep on working and believing. I think that's what we also have to improve our faith in that we can be a winning team on the road, so that's also something that we have to improve on." 

The Fire has not won an MLS match on the road since 2014 – a span of 31 matches.

Chicago continues to battle injuries and other issues with players the organization is counting on.

Gilberto missed the match as he is going through personal issues. Midfielder Arturo Alvarez came out of Saturday’s match with a knee injury. John Goossens and his sore legs haven’t played since April 16. The only good news on the injury front is that Michael Harrington returned on Saturday. The defenseman had a right adductor strain and had not played since May 14.

The Fire was scheduled to play Wednesday at Philadelphia its next MSL action isn’t until July 1, when it hosts the San Jose Earthquakes.

Offensive help will be on the way after that as Dutch star Michael de Leeuw will be eligible to make his Fire debut on July 9 at Toronto. General manager Nelson Rodriguez called de Leeuw “a predator in the box.

’’He is one who hunts down goals at every turn.’’ The GM boasted.

Given that the Fire is one of just four teams in the 20-team MLS, it needs all the help it can get.

 Still in the Hunt

The Fire enjoyed some success outside the MLS when it beat the Indy Eleven out of the North American Soccer League, 2-1 in a match decided by penalty kicks June 15 at Toyota Park in the fourth round of the Lamar Hunt Cup. The Fire faces fellow MLS squad Columbus Tuesday in the Round of 16.

The Fire’s offense continued to sputter in a 0-0 draw against Indy in regulation. Both teams traded goals in the overtime periods and David Accam scored the OT goal and the PK winner.

"It was a very important win,” Paunovic said. “Of course it was a hard start for us because, we expected, we are playing against the champions of the first half of the NASL season that is going to be very hard to beat. We knew from the very first touch it was going to be the most important skill we have today: mental toughness. And I think in the end we did well, especially when we were down with that lead of 1-0. We reacted very well with that goal by David but also we created a lot of chances because we wanted to win.

“Reaction was positive and on the other side I think on the penalties we were very tough. Mentality was very good with the pressure so I'm very, very happy about it.’’

Matt Lampson, who opened the season as the Fire’s goalie but was replaced by Sean Johnson in May after six matches, picked up the victory.

Huerta puts a hurtin' on Boston

By Alison Moran


A sendoff of Olympian proportions was in the works for the Chicago Red Stars at Toyota Park Saturday night.

And Sophia Huerta helped send things off in style with two goals in a 3-0 victory over Boston.

At stake was sole possession of first place in the National Women's Soccer League as the Red Stars (5-1-3) blanked the Breakers (1-7-1).  Plus, it was the last home game for the Red Stars' Rio Olympians; forward Christen Press, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher, and defender Julie Johnston until late August.

The three were scheduled to play in Wednesday’s road game against Portland and will miss five games as they head to camp in July and Rio in August.

Since losing 1-0 in its previous meeting with the Red Stars, Boston came into the game buoyed by a 1-0 win over defending champion FC Kansas City in May and a 1-1 draw with Washington June 10.

But Saturday, it was all Chicago.

"Our goal is to create more chances than any opponent," said Rio-bound Johnston, who also denied a chance for the Breakers to score with a 34th-minute block on midfielder Kyah Simon.

Create chances they did.

In what was arguably their most complete game of the season, the Red Stars pounced on their opportunities early and often, correcting recent slow starts and sluggish first-half offense.

In the third minute, Naperville native and midfielder Vanessa DiBernardo contributed the first of two quality passes during the match, a low drive from the left side to Huerta, who tapped it into the net, past goalkeeper Libby Stout.

Huerta would strike again in the 45th minute, just past the half. On a pass from midfielder Alyssa Mautz, she leveled a shot past Stout's fully extended form and fingertips to the top corner of the net.

Another Naperville native, defender Casey Short, avenged a goal flagged offside in the first half by scoring the third goal of the game, teaming with DiBernardo to push a shot past Stout in the 62nd minute. It was the first NWSL goal for the 25 year old, a Breakers draft pick in 2013.

"I think Vanessa's been our most consistent player throughout the season so far," said Red Stars coach Rory Dames.

Yellow cards were issued to three Breakers...Kyah Simon, Louise Schoolyard and Eunice Beckman for defensive handling and Huerta, for a reckless foul.

Press earns another honor

Press earned NWSL Goal of the Week honors for neutralizing the Portland Thorns June 12 in the 61st minute. This is the third time she's received the honor.

Another legend honored

Retired Red Stars captain Lori Chalupny will be honored July 30. The Red Stars host FC Kansas City at 7 p.m. at Toyota Park.




Fire and Red Stars notes, news and analysis

  • Written by Alison Moran and Jeff Vorva

Page 2 RED STARS 13 Portland 25

Photo by Melissa Tamez

Chicago’s Christen Press, left, and Portland’s Meghan Klingenberg  jockey for position on a header attempt Sunday in the two teams’ 1-1 draw.




WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: The Red Stars beat the Breakers 1-0 on May 7 on the road when Christen Press scored the lone goal of the game in the 60th minute.


Top two teams draw the line

The backstory was compelling.

So was the match.

The Chicago Red Stars came into Saturday’s game atop the National Women’s Soccer League and riding a six-game unbeaten streak.

The Big Three United States Women’s National Team members from the Red Stars -- forward Christen Press, defender Julie Johnston and goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher -- were back after missing a Chicago match because they were playing a couple of friendlies with Japan. They were pitted against the NWSL's only unbeaten team -- the Portland Thorns.

In the end, both teams got a point in a 1-1 draw.

Both teams "came out flat," according to Thorns coach Mark Parsons but then found unusual and entertaining ways to score goals.

Controlling and attacking through most of the first half, Portland (3-0-5) struck first. In the 24th minute, the Thorns' team captain, veteran forward Christine Sinclair, gave herself a 33rd birthday present on a back-pass from Red Stars defender Samantha Johnson. The pass bounced off Sinclair, past Naeher, and into the net.

It was the Red Stars' (4-1-3) turn in the second half.

"You give a team like Chicago a second chance, and they punish you," said Sinclair.

They did.

The Red Stars scored the equalizer in the 61st minute, when midfielder Alyssa Mautz, substituting for forward Jen Hoy, used her brains and her chest to down a pass to Press, who hit to the underside of the crossbar, where it bounced down and in past the fully extended fingertips and body of goalkeeper Adrianna Franch.

"The ball had a lot of spin on it," Press said. "You don't get lucky like that often, so you just take it and appreciate it.’’

Yellow cards were issued to Red Stars Sofia Huerta, Arin Gilliland, and Mautz for defensive handling. Portland's Nadia Nadim was also issued a yellow card for defensive handling.

The Red Stars' next game is the Olympic sendoff for the trio. The Boston Breakers will be in town on at 7 p.m. Saturday, which is also Day 2 of Porky's Ribfest at Toyota Park. No special accommodations have been announced for the game, according to Red Stars' officials.

Oh, baby, Lomnicki honored

The Red Stars devoted their halftime festivities to honoring the accomplishments of former defender Michelle Lomnicki, who retired after the 2015 season. The Colorado native was the longest-tenured player in Red Stars history, playing five seasons, scoring three goals and adding two assists in 48 appearances.

She also played with Germany's SC Freiburg. She was feted by the Red Stars with a video of each team player thanking her for her leadership, and was presented with a Red Stars onesie for the baby boy she and husband Brad are expecting.

"Today, I say thank you to the game that has given me so much," said Lomnicki, who thanked Red Stars management, her family, her teammates, and the fans for supporting her.

Red Stars bits

Naeher was voted the Player of the Month by the NWSL Media Association. She currently ranks third with 22 saves on the season. Her four shutouts are tied for most in the league…Press leads the NWSL this season with five goals. She scored her 20th overall goal on Sunday…The Red Stars are tied for first place with the Western New York Flash with 15 points each while Portland and the Washington Spirit each have 14 points.



WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Dick’s Sports Goods Park, Commerce City, Colorado



LAST TIME: Colorado’s Dillon Serna scored in the first minute in a 1-0 victory over the Fire on Aug. 22 in Bridgeview.


Lion hopes to roar with his new team

The Fire’s recent signee, Michael de Leeuw, was scheduled to meet the media on Tuesday but on Saturday, he met with the fans.

De Leeuw, whose surname means lion in Dutch, visited Heineken Pub 97 at the PrivateBank Fire Pitch during the team’s fifth Fire, Brews + Bites event, hopes to energize an offense that score a Major League Soccer-low 10 goals in its first 12 matches.

“I only wanted to say, I’m glad that I’m in Chicago, and I can’t wait to score goals," he said, "And play for the Fire and play for you.”

He is expected to make his debut for the Fire in July.

De Leeuw, 29, played 27 games with Eredivisie side FC Groningen in the Dutch League and scored nine goals. In 241 professional matches, he has 105 career goals.