Fire and Chicago Red Stars analysis and notes

  • 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 bits

- 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.




WHEN: 5 p.m., Sunday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



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.



Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Win or lose, this is great way to end regular baseball season

  • Written by Jeff Vorva


Two days after the excitement of a bunch of much-publicized and high caliber games played at Standard Bank Stadium for the Do It Stevie’s Way baseball tournament, there was another event at the Crestwood park.

This one was low-key. It was one game. There weren’t a bunch of media members there -- only me.

But it was still pretty special.

Evergreen Park High School’s baseball team hosted its second Tony Knight Night at the park. Evergreen Park played Marist on a summer-like evening on May 23 to close out the regular season for both teams.

I never met Tony Knight, who died in 2014 at age 29, but I wish I did.

Last year, I covered the opening of the Evergreen Park Athletic Association Little League season and it was a Tony Knight love-fest with people saying nice things about the man and his mother, Mary Ellen, threw out the ceremonial first pitch. Tony was a former EP student who loved Evergreen Park sports and was a fixture at most sporting events ling after he graduated.

His obituary said “His smiles, dimples and laugh were unforgettable.’’

Before the Marist game, there was an announcement about why we were all there that included “He had an enthusiasm for everything that he did – we should all strive to live the way Tony did in our daily lives.’’

The idea for the game is to feed the Tony Knight School Spirit Scholarship fund. For the past two seasons, $1,000 of scholarship money was donated in Knight’s name. In 2014, Mike Rizzo earned the scholarship and this year, Moraine Valley Community College-bound Connor McKeever earned the check.

The only think to spoil what seemed like a perfect night for Knight was Marist beating the Mustangs, 13-1 in the game. I don’t think Tony would have enjoyed that.

But don’t make the RedHawks out to be the bad guys. I saw plenty of Marist fans in the stands so the money that they left at the entrance gate is helping the scholarship fund.

The Stevie’s Way Tournament finished up its fifth year of bringing in some state powers to beat each other up all in the name of making money for scholarships at Mt. Carmel in the memory of Steven Bajenski, a Caravan student who died in 2009 at age 17.

St. Rita beat Oak Park, 7-2 for the title on May 21. This tournament was so strong that Brother Rice had its 30-game winning streak snapped and finished third.

Win or lose, the money raised for Stevie’s Way and Knight’s Night are going for worthwhile causes and even though the next few weeks will be filled with postseason excitement, these two events are the perfect way to finish off the regular season.

Wood working

We will be presenting a longer story in the near future but I thought it was cool that Brad and Kyle Wood – a couple of Orland Park natives who graduated from St. Laurence – made it to their respective all-conference teams.

Kyle, a senior at Purdue, made the third All Big Ten team at first base after hitting 12 home runs and driving in 37 runs. He is the first Boilermaker honored since 2012.Eight of his homers came in March.

 Brad, a sophomore at Northern Illinois University, made the all-Mid-American Conference team at second base after hitting .289 with 37 runs and helped turn 31 double plays.

STATEMENT GAMES: Stagg's first title after 12-year drought worth bragging about

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 3 Stagg tennis with statement games


Photo by Jeff Vorva

Michal Wolan, a sophomore at Stagg, won a sectional title Saturday and helped his team to its first sectional title since 2003. 

Stagg won its first boys tennis sectional championship since 2003 and Chargers coach John Daniels did a lot of bragging…

…about his counterpart at Sandburg.

From 2004 to 2015, Sandburg won 11 out of 12 titles (Marist won one in 2009) while Stagg was getting shut out. The first thing Daniels did after clinching the Stagg Sectional on Saturday was to heap praise on Eagles coach Brian Ostrander.

“He’s probably the best coach in the south suburbs,” Daniels said. “You can tell by how much his team improves. He’s a really good coach.’’

But Daniels had plenty of time to give some love to his team, which scored 31 points to hold off the Eagles, who had 24.

Michal Wolan, whose brother Brendan won the previous two individual sectional titles, kept the family tradition going as the sophomore was beating Sandburg’s Jonluke Passett, 6-7 (2), 6-4, 3-2 before Passett retired. The Sandburg senior left-hander battled through injuries all season but still qualified for the state tournament for the fourth straight year.

“I think Michal got it together after the first set,” Daniels said. “I think he was nervous in the first set and was trying to go for winners every time. But after that, he understood that by making Jonluke work a little bit, you don’t have to hit it hard to have a winner.’’

Wolan qualified for state as a freshman in doubles and went 2-2 with partner Warren Wudtke.

The state meet begins today, Thursday, at various sites in the north and western suburbs.

“I just need to keep playing my game and finishing,” Wolan said. “I actually had fun last year – I enjoyed it very much. I can’t wait until I play there this year.’’

Stagg freshman Kevin Wancik will make his state debut after claiming third on Saturday and Shepard junior Paul Milkus will make his second state appearance after taking fourth.

Stagg’s doubles team of Patrick Harper-Luke Schendl, Sandburg’s Adam Caridi-Anthony Coffel, Oak Lawn’s Michael Rodriguez-Patrick Skupien and Chicago Christian’s Charlie Blim-Li Zhang finished first through fourth respectively and will head to state.

At the University High Sectional in Chicago, both of Brother Rice’s doubles teams made it to state as Ryan Cunnea-Brenden Leibforth finished third and TJ Saas-Joe Mendala took fourth. Cunnea is a Crestwood resident while Leibforth is from Evergreen Park, Saas is from Chicago and Mendala is from Oak Lawn.


At Downers Grove North: Sandburg was the lone team from the area to win a sectional title as the Eagles won the Class 3A sectional Friday night racking up 98 points – 10 ahead of runner-up Lockport.

The Eagles’ sectional champs were Chris Torpy in the 800-meter run (1 minute, 54.36 seconds) and his twin brother Sean Torpy in the 1600 (4:12.65) plus the 4x800 relay team (7:42.70).

Other Eagles who qualified for the state meet, which opens Friday at Eastern Illinois University in Charleston, were Ayo Abiona in the 100 and 200, Jibreel Brown in the 400, Dylan Jacobs in the 1600 and the 4x100 relay team.

Shepard qualified three athletes – Neiko Carter in the long jump, Caleb Washington in the 3200 and Corey Williams in the 100 high hurdles.

At Morton: Brother Rice had a sectional champion with Jelani Edmond in the discus with a heave of 155 feet, 9 inches. Also qualifying for the Class 3A state meet was Tajh Silas in the 110 high hurdles.

At Glenbard South: In Class 2A, two St Laurence athletes won sectional titles to extend retiring coach Terry Murphy’s season for one more week. Murphy has coached at the Burbank school for 40 years.

The Vikings’ Doug Kosch won the shot put with a 44-9 ½ and Lonnie Chambers won the discus with a 144-8.

Evergreen Park’s Joey Ryan qualified in the pole vault.

At Seneca: In Class 1A, the Chicago Christian 4x400 relay team (3:35.71) and Elijah Butler (200, :22.18) were sectional champs and will compete at state. The Class 1A meet starts Thursday.

Also qualifying were Ben Friesen in the 400 and the 4x800, 4x100 and 4x200 relay teams.


The St. Laurence No. 1 boat finished 28th out of 64 teams while the No. 2 boat took 48th at the state meet Friday and Saturday at Carlyle Lake in Carlyle.

The first boat, featuring Matt Misicka and Paul Petan, caught three fish totaling 4 pounds and 9/16th ounces. The second, featuring Anthony Ptak and Brandon Cavanaugh, caught one for 1 3/16th.

It was the fourth time the Vikings qualified for state and the first time the school qualified two boats.

Elkville (Elverado) won the state title with 10 fish totaling 21 5/16th.



Fire and Red Stars analysis and notes

  • Written by Jeff Vorva

Page 2 FIRE 12

 Photo by Jeff Vorva

Arturo Alvarez jumps over DeMarcus Beasley (left) and goalie Tyler Deric prior to scoring the lone goal in Saturday’s 1-0 Fire win over Houston.


WHEN: 7:30 p.m., Saturday

WHERE: Toyota Park, Bridgeview



LAST TIME: Portland, the defending MLS champ, beat the Fire 1-0 Aug. 7 in Portland thanks to a Fanendo Adi goal in the 22nd minute.

Fire makes Dynamo suffer


A little more than 24 hours after Chicago Fire General Manager Nelson Ridriguez hosted a roundtable with the media and proclaimed “we have not made other teams suffer,” his troops went out and made another team suffer.

The Fire, which entered Saturday’s match in last place in the Major Soccer League Eastern Conference won its second match of the year and first since April 2 after a 1-0 victory over Houston, the last place team in the Western Conference.

Arturo Alvarez jumped over former Fire star Demarcus Beasley and goalie Tyler Deric for a clear path to score in the third minute and goalie Sean Johnson, playing in just his second game of the year, notched his first win and shutout since Aug. 2.

“I thought he (Deric) was going to clean me out but I stuck with it and fortunately it went my way,’’ Alvarez said. 

While a win over another last-place team is nothing to turn cartwheels over, it looms large because the Eastern Conference is filled with teams that are not on fire and a couple of more victories will get the Fire (2-5-4) quickly back into the playoff conversation.

So this week, while preparing for defending MSL champion Portland, which is suffering on its own and trying to stay out of the Western Conference basement, the Fire can feel happy after ending a four-match-in-11-day period with a win.

“With what we have gone through, I am happy for everyone who stepped on the field today and gave their all,” said Johnson. “We have to build on this win. Any positive you can get, you have to run with it.’’  

Beasley back briefly

Beasley, a defender who played with the Fire from 2000-2004 and had 16 goals, made his first trip back after spending many years playing abroad, including a stint with Manchester City, he is back in the Untied State playing in the MLS.

But Beasley, who turned 34 Tuesday, left the match in the 13th minute after aggravating a previous unnamed injury.

After the match, he tweeted that he took responsibility for the loss and shouldn’t have played.

 Accam suspended

 David Accam, the Fire’s scoring star who missed most of the season with a knee injury but played against New England and the New York Red Bulls, sat out another game – this time for a disciplinary reason.

Accam was fined and suspended by Major League Soccer for a play against the Red Bulls that “endangered the safety of an opponent” according to an MLS news release.

Rodriguez said that while the Fire accepted the punishment without protest, “David is not a dirty player.’’

 Hunt for the hunt

The Fire entered the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup competition again and will enter the tournament in the fourth round and will play June 15 either at home against Indy Eleven or on the road against Louisville City. Indy and Lousiville square off Wednesday.

Since 1998, the Fire have compiled a 39-13-4 record in Open Cup play, including a 26-1-1 record in matches played in Illinois.



When: 6 p.m., Sunday

Where: Toyota Park, Bridgeview

Red Stars record: 4-1-1

Sky Blue record: 2-3-1

Last time: The Red Stars won 3-0 June 28 in New Jersey. Vanessa DiBernardo scored in the sixth minute to set the tone and Jen Hoy and Alyssa Mautz added goals.

Leaving an Olympic-sized void -- three stars from first-place Red Stars will be missing for Sunday’s Sky Blue game


The three stars of the Chicago Red Stars – goal machine Christen Press, red-hot goalie goalie Alyssa Naeher and super defender Julie Johnston – will be missing when the team hosts Sky Blue on Sunday at Toyota Park and it will be interesting to see how the team functions without them.

The big three, who will likely make the final cut for the United States Olympic team, will join 22 others for the U.S. in a pair of matches against Japan in June and they are scheduled to leave for training camp on Friday.

The Red Stars (4-1-1) are coming off Sunday’s 2-1 road victory over the Seattle Reign, which ties them with Washington for first place in the National Women’s Soccer League.

In the past, Red Stars coach Rory Dames has expressed confidence in his roster and said that when the Olympians are gone, there is still quality players on the team.

Jen Hoy stepped up on Sunday and put in a pair of goals against Seattle, which played without star goalie Hope Solo who had a death in her family. If Hoy keeps it up, she will be able to help make up for the offensive void left by Press (three goals, which ties her with six others for the National Women’s Soccer League lead).

Replacing Naeher won’t be easy after she racked up 485 minutes of shutout work before Seattle’s Kim Little score on a penalty kick in the 89th minute. Naeher just missed setting a league record of five straight shutouts because of Little’s kick.

Look for Michelle Dalton of Mount Prospect to get the call in the net on Sunday. She started 12 games last year and recorded five shutouts and had 47 saves.

Johnston has had some injury issues this season with the Red Stars and Katie Naughton of Elk Grove Village replaced her so that transition should be smooth this weekend.

Sky Blue, which is based in New Jersey, had gone seven matches on the road without a loss until losing to the New York Flash, 5-2, on Saturday night.


Jeff Vorva's Extra Point: Fire players downplay heroic act

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



The popular “Chicago Fire” television show features actors playing characters who pretend to save lives.

And if they mess up, these fine actors get a shot at doing it again. And again. And again…

On May 11, members of the Chicago Fire were involved in a life-threatening situation on live TV. And if they messed up, they didn’t get another chance. And they only had seconds to react.

The Fire was on the road playing Vancouver and in the 11th minute, Fire goalie Matt Lampson and the Whitecaps’ Masato Kudo collided.

The 6-foot-3 Lampson‘s shoulder connected hard with the 5-9 Kudo’s face and Kudo hit the ground and hit his head on the ground. On TV, it looked bad. But it was even worse than it looked.

Kudo bit his tongue and lip during the impact and blood was flowing.

Vice Sports tweeted that it was “one of the scariest hits you’ll see in soccer.’’ Sportsnet had video of the play and issued a warning that it “may be difficult to watch for some.’’  

Lampson, Joao Meira and Razvan Cocis immediately gathered around the fallen soccer player but they didn’t just stand around waiting for the trainer to come. Some swift action was taken.

"I think Joao turned him over, it was a smart move because he (Kudo) had blood in his mouth,’’ Cocis said after the game. “When I got there, I tried to put my finger in his mouth to take his tongue out so he didn't swallow it.

“His mouth was stuck so I forced him to open it and tried to keep his tongue out and then the medical staff came. I'm glad he's okay, I hope he's going to be fine."

Well, Kudo is alive but not all that fine. He suffered a fractured jaw and underwent surgery the next day.

A few days later, Kudo gave public kudos to the Fire players as he Tweeted “Thank you for saving my life” and singled out Lampson, Meira and Cocis.

But no one is patting themselves on the back in Fire camp.

“We’re brothers in the game,” Lampson said. “Credit to the guys on the field because they responded quickly and no doubt helped him. I wish him the best and credit to both organizations for handling it as well as possible."

Even Fire General Manager Nelson Rodriguez low-keyed what his troops did.

“Any player on any team would have done that in that moment,” Rodriguez said. “I don’t necessarily believe that Razvan and all the guys were any more special than any other player. That’s the code.’’

Maybe, but I don’t know if that code extends to digging into another man’s bloody mouth and rooting around seeking a tongue.

These guys reacted fast and did the right thing.

They may not think it’s a big deal, but it is.

Just ask Masato Kudo.