Not really worth the wait

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

PAGE 1 KUTT 7 28


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Brother Rice first baseman Ryan Kutt hustled but could not catch a foul popup in Monday’s loss to Plainfield South.

Brother Rice had one of the best baseball teams in the state and nation this spring and came up short in the Illinois High School Association state tournament by falling in the sectionals.

The Crusaders were hoping for some kind of state championship hardware to show for it. While the Lawler Summer Classic State Tournament technically is more of a Chicago-area event rather than an all-out state event, they were gunning for the title but fell short in a heartbreaking 3-2 loss to Plainfield South in a game that started on Thursday and ended on Monday night at Boomers Stadium in Schaumburg. The game was postponed in the bottom of the third after lighting was spotted and storms hit the area.

Brother Rice’s Ryan Kutt, who drove in a run in the first and another in the fifth, threw a wild pitch with the bases loaded in the bottom of the seventh and Plainfield celebrated.

“As a pitcher, you have to bear down,” the Illinois-bound Kutt said. “Sometimes it’s not going to go your way and this was one of those days. It took a wrong bounce. That’s just baseball.’’

Kutt and teammates Jake Ridgway, Jack Guzek and Ryan Palmblad were named to the All-Tournament team.

Despite the disappointing finish, the game produced an unusual and dramatic moment for Zach Litke.

In the bottom of the third, the Cougars scored a run and had the bases loaded with one out and the Crusaders made a pitching change when lightning was spotted northwest of the park. Litke was introduced as the pitcher so he said he came into Monday’s game figuring he was going to throw a pitchout for his required pitch before the Crusaders brought in the more experienced Kutt in.

But Crusaders coach John McCarthy informed Oak Lawn’s Litke he would pitch to the first batter – Marco Escobar – and Litke responded by coaxing Escobar to hit into a double play.

“He showed us he’s got the guts to get the job done,” Kutt said.

“I was definitely excited to get that chance – but I knew it was going to be tough,” Litke said. “The bases were loaded. I had to do something. I knew I had to keep it low.’’

The climb to the championship game was not easy.

The Crusaders lost their quarterfinal game on July 18, 4-0, to St. Charles North at Naperville Central in a game that was postponed four hours and changed venues after North Central College was deemed unplayable because of a previous night’s storm. But that portion of the tournament was double-elimination so they stayed alive.

The next day, they needed to win two games to stay alive and the Crusaders had their aces on the mound. Kutt threw a shutout in an 8-0 victory over Lyons Township and Guzek also recorded a shutout in a 4-0 revenge victory over St. Charles North at Benedictine University.

That set up a semifinal battle with Huntley at Boomers Stadium and it was pitcher Palmblad’s turn to put zeros on the board as he shut the Red Raiders out in a 3-0 victory.

To get to the final eight, the Crusaders won the Richards Regional with an 8-0 victory over Chicago Christian, a 12-3 win over St. Laurence and an 8-5 championship win over Marist.


Soccer report -- Olympics, Fire and Red Stars

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



Photo by Jeff Vorva

The Red Stars’ Danielle Colaprico jumps into the arms of a teammate after scoring a goal in the opening minutes of a 1-1 tie with Houston.


'The best team in the world' ready to make history

There doesn’t seem to be any time penciled in for the United States Olympic women’s soccer team to take in any of the historic sites in Brazil next week.

The players plan on making a little history of their own, however.

The team, which features Chicago Red Stars players Christen Press, Julie Johnston and Alyssa Naeher – will attempt to be the first U.S. team to win a World Cup title one year and follow up with a gold medal the next. Red Stars coach Rory Dames calls the US team “the best team in the world.”

The U.S. team will open Group G play on Wednesday - two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremony - against New Zealand at Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte.

The USA will stay in Belo Horizonte - which is 270 miles north of Rio de Janeiro - to face France at Mineirão Stadium Aug. 6 and finish group play against Colombia on Aug. 9 at the Amazônia Stadium in Manaus, the same arena in which the U.S. Men’s National Team tied Portugal 2-2 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the furthest soccer venue from Rio (more than 1,700 miles).

Then the real action starts – the medal rounds.

So, forget sightseeing.

“I would love to explore Brazil and to get to know it,” Press said. “I would love that, but this isn’t the trip for that. We probably won’t do anything. This is about trying to win a gold medal. Maybe down the line I can make a return trip and explore all of that and enjoy all of that.’’

Press scored a goal in a 4-0 friendly victory over Costa Rica Friday in Kansas City to send the team to Brazil in style. Johnston also played in the match and Naeher, the backup to Hope Solo as goalie, played the second half and kept Costa Rica off the scoreboard.

The U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team has advanced to the gold medal game of every Olympic women’s soccer tournament that has been contested. The USA won the inaugural gold medal in 1996 in Athens, Ga., won silver in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and will be going for its fourth straight gold medal after standing atop the podium in Athens, Greece in 2004, in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012.

Naeher joins Solo as the team’s two goalies. Johnston joins Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelly O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn as defenders. Press joins Crystal Dunn, Lexi Morgan and 18-year-old Mallory Pugh at the forward spots. The team is rounded out by midfielders Morgan Brian, Tobin Heath, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Allie Long and Megan Rapinoe.

Dames says he is worried about the Red Stars and hasn’t been playing too much attention to the U.S. team. But he knows his women’s soccer and what he has seen, he has been impressed with.

“They move the ball – they are super fluid and (coach Jill Ellis) has a ton of options,” Dames said. “They have the best team in the world. I don’t think anybody can debate that. But in fairness to Jill, the best team in the world doesn’t always win. She’s done a really good job of piecing all of that together.

“I hope they win. I would love to be Alylssa, Julie and Kristen come back with gold medals.’’




WHEN: 6 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: The Fire lost to the Red Bulls, 1-0, May 18 at Red Bull Arena. Mike Grella scored the lone goal for New York in the 58th minute and the Fire offense had 14 shots but only two were on goal.

Fire strong in Hunt Cup but still struggling on the road in MLS

When Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic kept some of his most effective players home in what turned out to be a 3-1 loss at Dallas in a Major League Soccer match July 16 and proclaimed the July 20 Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal game against Ft. Lauderdale a “must-win” game, it left some fans scratching their heads.

David Accam, Jonathan Campbell and goalie Sean Johnson stayed home against the MLS’s top team but Accam and Campbell played in a 3-0 victory over Ft. Lauderdale at Toyota Park in front of an announced crowd of 3,666.

But on Saturday, they couldn’t keep up the momentum from three days prior and remained winless for an MLS-record 35th road match in a 1-0 setback to New England. The team did not have a single shot on target in the setback and is a league-worst 4-10-5.

Conventional wisdom says to put your eggs in the MLS basket and treat the U.S. Open as a way to get some of the seldom-used roster guys a chance to run around and get some experience.

Unless something really strange happens in the last couple of months, the Fire’s MLS playoff chances are razor thin as the team hasn’t been very sharp in the league all season.

But that’s not what Paunovic is doing. Without publicly saying it, he likely realizes this season is a lost cause in the MLS and is trying to give his team something – anything – to feel good about.  

So perhaps by putting importance on the Cup, it’s some kind of reward for a team with a new general manager, a new coach, a new system and not a lot of results to show for it.

Even though the Hunt Cup crowds have been sparse at Toyota Park, they have been entertained. In the quarterfinals, Accam scored his fourth Cup goal in three matches with a penalty kick in the fifth minute. He also found Michael de Leeuw for a goal in the 35th minute. Dubbed by some as the Lion King offense (Accam is known as King David and de Leeuw’s surname is Dutch for lion), they clicked well on that play. It looked like a tough angle to score.

"I don't think we have scored a more difficult goal all season,’’ Accam said. “For me that is a good striker, he was in a good place, most people would not be there and for him it payed off because he was in a good position."

De Leeuw, who has only been playing with the team since early July, is enjoying having the speedy Accam as a teammate.

“He is like Usain Bolt,” de Leeuw said. “You have to keep up with him.’’

Khaly Thiam scored the third goal in the second half, which allowed the Fire a berth into the semifinals at 7 p.m. Aug. 9 at New England again. The Fire is 0-2 on the road against the Revolution this season. The LA Galaxy and FC Dallas are in the other semifinal match on Aug. 10.

Since 1998, the Fire has compiled a 41-13-5 record in Open Cup play, including a 28-1-2 record in matches played in the state of Illinois, reaching the semifinal round a record 12 times and the final six times. 

In the second semifinal, the LA Galaxy will host FC Dallas on Wednesday, Aug. 10. Fire was given hosting priority should they advance to their seventh final. Information on the final match will be announced once the field is set. 



WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview


KC RECORD: 4-6-4

LAST TIME: The two teams battled to a 0-0 draw May 13 in KC. It was the lone scoreless tie for the Red Stars this season.

Red Stars tie dancing Dash a day after trading for offensive threat


How do some soccer teams pass the time away during a weather delay?

The Houston Dash players used an hour-long lightning delay of the start of Saturday night’s game with the Chicago Red Stars to do a variety of things including dancing, according to Houston star Rachel Daly.

Once the game was playable, the Red Stars were dancing after a Danielle Colaprico goal in the second minute. But that was as good at it got for Chicago and Daly scored in the 82nd minute and the two teams tied, 1-1, in a National Women’s Soccer League game in front of an announced crowd of 3,621 at Toyota Park.

The Red Stars (6-4-4) had nine shots and two on target but mustered one goal against the Dash (3-7-2 with a win and a tie over the Red Stars this season).

“We were in some really good spots and made some really bad choices,” Red Stars coach Rory Dames said.

The Red Stars have scored just two goals in their last five games and on Friday the team acquired forward Stephanie McCaffrey from the Boston Breakers for their two highest second-round picks, a third-round and a fourth-round pick in the 2017 NWSL College Draft, as well as an international roster slot for 2017.

McCaffrey, a 23-year old Winchester, Massachusetts, native was selected fifth overall in the 2015 NWSL College Draft by the Red Stars before being traded to Boston in the second round. She made 19 league appearances for the Breakers in 2015, including 17 starts, scoring in her first professional match and ending the season with three goals plus three assists. She played 12 matches for the Breakers this season, starting in 10 of them and logging 921 total minutes but did not score a goal.

McCaffrey played at Boston College, earning team captain duties in her senior year along with being an All-Atlantic Coast Conference First-Team honoree on two occasions. She was also just the fourth player in program history to score 90 or more points.  

“When Christen (Press, who is one of three Red Stars playing in the Olympics) isn’t here, we don’t have a forward on the team with the personality to run at defenders,” Dames said. “Steph’s mentality is just to go at you. She gives us a little bit of personality and a little bit of bite that we don’t have on the front line. I am super excited to have her whether she scores goals or not. She helps create chances and pushes lines farther back.’’

Dames wasn’t planning on using her, but after the Dash knotted the game, McCaffrey entered the game in the 85th minute and beat a defender on a play that did not result in a score.

“It’s been a hectic 48 hours,” McCaffrey said. “I was hoping to come in those last five or six minutes and try to change the game. I love this team and how upset we are to tie the game and not win. The philosophy is that nothing but winning is acceptable.’’



Fire and Red Stars focus

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Arturo Alvarez, shown in a game earlier this year, scored the Fire’s lone goal Saturday night against Dallas.



WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Gillette Stadium, Foxborough, Mass.



LAST TIME: New England beat the Fire, 2-0 on May 14 in Foxborough. Lee Nguyen and Femi Hollinger-Janzen scored goals for the Revolution.

 Fire’s road winless streak hits 34

It was just their luck.

The Chicago Fire was hoping to break its 33-match winless streak on the road Saturday with a tall task of facing Dallas, one of the top teams in Major League Soccer.

The task got taller when Dallas laid an egg in Seattle with a 5-0 loss on July 13. Dallas was in no mood for another setback – especially to a struggling Fire squad and beat the Fire, 3-1, at Toyota Stadium in Frisco, Texas.

The Fire trailed 2-0 heading into extra time in the game and Arturo Alvarez scored an unassisted goal in the 91st minute and a minute later, Dallas’s Mauro Rosales returned the favor. The Fire, 4-9-5, is in the midst of a five-match-in-15-day span and usual starters David Accam, Jonathan Campbell and Sean Johnson did not play.

 Fire wins on disputed goal

The Fire beat Sporting Kansas City, 1-0, July 13 at Toyota Park in a game delayed by storms and while the Chicago team felt good about the victory, KC coach Peter Vermes was stormy about new Fire player Michael de Leeuw’s goal in the 19th minute. The visiting coach thought the goal should be disallowed.

"It's a terrible mistake," Vermes said after the game.

His dispute stemmed from a pair of blown whistles and Fire rookie Brandon Vincent had a free kick which set up the goal.

"So the referee blows the whistle, and blows the whistle again and our guys stop,’’ Vermes said. “They hesitate because he blows the second whistle and what he’s trying to do, he’s trying to get guys to move back,” Vermes said. “But when you do that then you have to restart the play and unfortunately the hesitation happens from guys on our team.

“Look, if you play this game long enough, you know how it works. If you blow the whistle, the play starts. If you blow the whistle a second time, that means the play stops. You don’t communicate by blowing the whistle three times to guys. They don’t know what that means. You blow the whistle once to restart the play. A second whistle right after the first, it means, 'Hold on a second. Something’s going to happen. The referee wants to do something.' "

Earlier in the match, a KC goal was disallowed by a close offsides call.

Rookie Vincent named to All-Star game

Fire rookie defender Brandon Vincent has been selected for the 2016 AT&T MLS All-Star Gameday Roster by MLS All-Star head coach Dominic Kinnear. The MLS All-Stars will take on English side Arsenal FC at Avaya Stadium in San Jose, Calif. at 6:30 p.m. next Thursday on ESPN and UniMas. 

"It's an unbelievable honor," said Vincent. "I'm really excited to have been selected but I think the biggest thing is to give credit to the guys, my teammates, the club as a whole, the fans who have been with us through the ups and downs, it's a huge testament to them. There are a lot of guys who deserve to be recognized and I'm just very happy, lucky and thankful to be the one representing this club and I look forward to it." 

"When we selected Brandon, we knew that he was an emerging talent," said Fire general manager Nelson Rodríguez. "We are pleased that his hard work, attitude and outstanding character have been recognized with this great honor." 

The Valencia, Calif. native earned his first senior international cap for the United States when he entered in the second half of a 1-0 win over Canada on Feb. 5.

Calistri makes it to Homegrown Game

Homegrown rookie Joey Calistri was selected by MLS Homegrown head coach Landon Donovan to the 20-man roster for the 2016 Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game. The young MLS team will take on the Mexican Under-20 National Team in the third annual Chipotle MLS Homegrown Game at 8 p.m. Wednesday at Avaya Stadium. 

Signed to a Homegrown contract on Dec. 17, 2015 after a standout collegiate career at Northwestern University, Calistri made his professional debut when he entered in the 81st minute of the Fire's season opener against New York City FC on March 6. In 10 league appearances, including two starts, Calistri has tallied one goal and one assist, scoring his first professional goal against the Colorado Rapids on June 18. 



WHEN: 7 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: The two teams opened the 2016 season in Houston and the Dash topped the Red Stars 3-1 on April 26.

Finally a goal and finally a win


Taylor Comeau celebrated her birthday a little early and gave her Chicago Red Stars teammates quite a present Saturday night.

Comeau, who turns 23 today, Thursday, scored her first professional goal in the 23rd minute and it stood up a 1-0 victory over Orlando at Camping World Stadium.

The win snapped a three-game losing streak and the score snapped a 320-minute streak without a goal. It was one of eight shots on target for Chicago Vanessa DiBernardo was credited with the assists and goalie Michele Dalton earned her first shutout of the season for the 6-4-3 Red Stars.

Late in the game, lighting was seen and the match was delayed more than an hour. Orlando fell to 6-7-0 and was not able to leapfrog over the Red Stars for fourth place in the National Women’s Soccer League Standings.

 It’s official – three Red Stars named to Olympic squad

U.S. Women’s National Team coach Jill Ellis named the 18-player roster for August’s Summer Olympic Games last week and, as expected, Red Stars players Christen Press, Julie Johnston and Alyssa Naeher made the team.

The U.S. will open Group G play on Aug. 3 - two days before the Olympic Opening Ceremony - against New Zealand at Mineirão Stadium in Belo Horizonte. The USA will stay in Belo Horizonte - which is 270 miles north of Rio de Janeiro - to face France at Mineirão Stadium on Aug. 6 and finish group play against Colombia on Aug. 9 at the Amazônia Stadium in Manaus, the same arena in which the U.S. Men’s National Team tied Portugal 2-2 during the 2014 FIFA World Cup, and the furthest soccer venue from Rio (more than 1,700 miles).

The U.S. Olympic Women’s Soccer Team has advanced to the gold medal game of every Olympic women’s soccer tournament that has been contested. The USA won the inaugural gold medal in 1996 in Athens, Ga., won silver in 2000 in Sydney, Australia, and will be going for its fourth straight gold medal after standing atop the podium in Athens, Greece in 2004, in Beijing in 2008 and in London in 2012.

Naeher joins Hope Solo as the team’s two goalies. Johnston joins Whitney Engen, Meghan Klingenberg, Ali Krieger, Kelly O’Hara and Becky Sauerbrunn as defenders. Press joins Crstal Dunn, Lexi Morgan and Mallory Pugh at the forward spots. The team is rounded out by midfielders Morgan Brian, Tobin Heathk, Lindsey Horan, Carli Lloyd, Allie Long and Megan Rapinoe.
“The last few camps capped a nine-month evaluation process and the players certainly made it a real challenge to narrow the roster down to 18,” Ellis said. “We’ve got a great blend of players with experience at the Olympic Games and in major events along with the youthful energy of some players who did not play in the Women’s World Cup last summer. As a coach in the Olympic Games, you want to put together a group capable of reaching the top of the podium while also being mindful of getting players prepared for the next World Cup, and I think we’ve done that.”

 Not a flakey honor

Johnston is one of five Olympians that Kellogg’s is putting on the front of its cereal boxes this summer.

She is featured on Corn Flakes and Special K.



Fire-Red Stars-US Olympic soccer report

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



 Photo by Melissa Tamez

Christen Press has possession during the USA’s 1-0 victory over South Africa on Saturday. Press is one of three Chicago Red Stars players on the squad.


WHEN: 8 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Stadium, Frisco, Texas

FIRE RECORD: 3-8-5 (as of Sunday)


LAST TIME: The Fire won a 2-0 match Aug. 2 in Bridgeview as David Accam scored in the fourth minute and Shaun Maloney added a goal in the 85th minute on a penalty kick.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

WHY: It’s the quarterfinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup.

TOUGH IN ILLINOIS: The Fire is 27-1-2 in U.S. Open Cup games played in this state.

Road woes continue in de Leeuw’s debut


The Fire is about to endure an unhappy anniversary after it dropped a 1-0 road loss to Toronto on Saturday night.

Even if it wins its next road game Saturday, it will be more two years and 33 matches without a Fire victory on the road – a Major League Soccer record.  The last time the Fire won away from home was a 1-0 victory over New England July 12, 2014.

The Fire (3-8-5) hoped that the addition of Dutch player Michael de Leeuw would pump up the offense but his debut was tame. He didn’t start the game and made his debut in the second half but was only able get off one shot in his 45 minutes of work.

“I came here for three points and a win and we didn’t do that,” he said.

When they signed de Leeuw in May, Fire officials warned fans that it might take him awhile to get acclimated to the new league.

"I think Michael came fresh into the game, [and] he adjusted very well to the pace and demands for this league,’’ Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “I think he's building the trust now with [his] teammates, and [creating] connections. We could see he was very dynamic in the box, very dangerous. We expect him to improve our overall performance in the attack and score goals. There is no pressure on him, of course, and he knows what is expected of him."

The Fire had 11 shot but just two on target.

Toronto’s Justin Morrow scored in the ninth minute for the lone goal of the game.

Lot of games in a little time

The Toronto game opened a five-match-in-a-15-day span that will test the depth of the team.

The Fire was scheduled to host Kansas City on Wednesday night, visit the MSL’s top team Dallas on Saturday, host Ft. Lauderdale in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open quarterfinals next Wednesday and visit New England July 23.



WHEN: 6:30 p.m. Saturday

WHERE: Camping World Stadium, Orlando



LAST TIME: The Red Stars beat the Pride, 1-0, May 1 at Toyota Park as Christen Press scored the lone goal in the 65th minute.


Red Stars lose, you guessed it, 2-0


This is getting monotonous for coach Rory Dames and the Chicago Red Stars.

For the third straight game, they Red Stars took on an upper-division National Women’s Soccer League squad on the road. And for the third straight game, they came home with a 2-0 decision, this time to the Washington Spirit Saturday night at the SoccerPlex in Germantown, Maryland.

Before this skid, the Red Stars were on top of the 10-team league. Now they have plummeted to fourth place and are eight points behind league-leading Portland, which beat the Red Stars on June 22 to open Chicago’s streak.

Estefania Banini scored in the first half for the Spirit (7-2-2) and moments after subbing in the second half in the 74th minute, Katie Stengel score the second goal.

Chicago had 11 shots including seven on target, but could not score. The Red Stars have gone 298 minutes without a score since Casey Short’s goal in a 3-0 victoroy over Boston on June 18.

 USA blanks South Africa

While the Red Stars were near the nation’s capital, three members of the squad – Christen Press, Julie Johnston and Alyssa Naeher – were in Chicago as the United States Olympic team beat South Africa, 1-0, in a friendly match in front of an announced crowd of 19,272 fans at Soldier Field.

Crystal Dunn scored in the 35th minute with an assist from 18-year-old Mallory Pugh. Press and Johnston played the full match. Naeher didn’t get into the game as first-string goalie Hope Solo notched her 100th career shutout for the USA.

Naeher is battling Ashlyn Harris for a roster spot as coach Jill Ellis will have just two goalies on the roster. 

“These are three of the best keepers in the world and I have confidence in each of them,” Ellis said. “The competition is incredibly competitive. Unfortunately one will have to come to Rio as an alternate.”

The USA team will take on Costa Rica in Kansas City, Kansas on July 22 in its final tuneup before taking on New Zealand on Aug. 3, France on Aug. 6 and Colombia on Aug. 9.

 Plenty of Hope

The crowd gave Solo a huge ovation when she was announced before the game and received plenty of love after the game in which she notched her 100th career shutout against her 29th different country  in 16 years and was named the Budweiser Woman of the Match.

“I’ve shed a lot of blood, sweat and tears to be on this team,” Solo said. “I’ve had some incredible defenders I’ve played with over the years. It’s an honor to play with this team.’’


Fire/Red Stars report including the Fire's new Lion King offense

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 2 de Leeuw sign

Photo by Jeff Vorva

Michael de Leeuw will make his Toyota Park debut on Wednesday against Kansas City.



WHEN: 6:30 p.m., Saturday.

WHERE: BMO Field, Toronto



LAST TIME --- Toronto beat the fire, 3-2, Sept. 26 in Toronto. Recently released Gilberto had the two goals for the Fire.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Wednesday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

FIRE RECORD: 3-7-5 (as of Sunday)

KC RECORD: 7-8-4 (as of Sunday)

LAST TIME: KC won 1-0 at home May 3, 2015. Paulo Nagamura scored the lone goal in the 75th minute.


Fire star David Accam is sometimes known as King David.

The surname in Dutch of Michael de Leeuw means lion.

de Leeuw is scheduled to make his Fire debut in Toronto Saturday and will join Accam in what could be called the Lion King offense as they hope to snap a 33-game winless streak on the road.

Accam missed seven out of 15 games with this season with a knee injury but has four goals and two assists in the eight Major League Soccer games he has played in plus four more in two Lamar Hunt Cup contests.

de Leeuw, 29, has 94 goals in 211 games in his senior career and is expected to pump up and offense that is struggling even after Friday night’s 1-0 victory over San Jose Friday night at Toyota Park. The Fire (3-7-5) has 15 goals in 15 MLS matches.

“What excites us the most is that we think we’ve added another important piece to the championship program that we’re trying to build,’’ Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez said of de Leeuw. “I want to be clear that while we have high hopes and expectations for Michael and his play, he’s not a savior. He is an important piece in what we are trying to build through a deliberate and thoughtful process. One can easily look at his goal-scoring record as an indicator of his abilities. But as we have spoken in the past, we first look at the man and then the player. We are thrilled to add Michael’s winning character to our locker room.

“He wanted this challenge and that was very important to us. He selected us as much as we selected him. We believe he is a champion.’’

The deal was months in the making and when it was finalized in May but he was not allowed to participate in MLS action until after July 4 because of secondary transfer rules so coach Veljko Paunovic put de Leeuw on a five-week program to work on fitness. 

“I’m very happy to be here, finally,” de Leeuw said. “It’s good to be in a new environment. If helps you stay hungry. It’s a good way to develop by playing in another country.

“I’m a player who is going to make my goals,” he added. “I don’t want to say any numbers because I don’t want to put pressure on myself but I know I’m going to make goals and I would rather they come sooner than later.’’

“Soon and often is what we would like,” Paunovic said.

Rodriguez is preaching patience to Fire fans.

“Acclimation to Major League Soccer is difficult,” Rodriguez said. “This is not an easy league. There are no easy games. This is the most competitive and balanced league in the world – top to bottom. But I’m sure that in time, fans will love Michael’s personality on and off the field.’’

 Goose is loose

John Goosens scored his first Fire goal in the San Jose victory.

Sean Johnson recorded his second shutout of the season since playing in the last six matches after replacing Matt Lampson.



WHEN: 6 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Maureen Hendricks Field, Boyds, Maryland



LAST TIME: Washington beat the Fire 2-1 in Lisle on Aug. 16. Crystal Dunn scored in added time for the win.


Red Stars on a rare losing skid


The Chicago Red Stars are in an unfamiliar place.

They have a losing streak.

After Friday’s 2-0 road loss to Western New York, the team has lost two straight as they also dropped a 2-0 decision to National Women’s Soccer League lading Portland on June 22. That came on the heels of an eight-match unbeaten string.

Midfielder Vanessa DiBernardino said before the match the Red Stars were not “going to change our style too much because of who we are playing. That said, the stats learly show we’re up against a dangerous team.’’

Western New York is red hot after a recent 7-1 win over Boston and now the shutout against Chicago.

Big three back in town


When the Red Stars visit Washington on Saturday, its three Olympians --- Christen Press, Julie Johnston and Alyssa Naiher, will be on the United States roster when it plays South Africa in a friendly match at noon Saturday at Soldier Field.

The U.S. team also faces Costa Rica in a friendly July 22 in Kansas City, Kansas.


The Stars completed a trade with the Boston Breakers, sending one of their international roster spots for the remainder of the 2016 season.  In exchange, the Red Stars receive Boston’s second highest pick in the second round of the 2017 NWSL College Draft. 
With the addition of the second round pick, the Red Stars now hold seven selections in the 2017 College Draft, including one pick in both the first and third rounds, two in the second round and three in the final round.