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. 


League, state and national honors for area athletes in baseball, softball and girls soccer

  • Written by Jeff Vorva



The three Players of the Year featured this week are who the Reporter-Regional newspaper deemed to be the best in the area.

Choosing these athlete is rarely easy. We have a deep pool of athletes to choose from – many have been decorated with honors several times. Here is a look at some of the area award winners:


LOUISVILLE SLUGGER ALL-AMERICAN: Our Player of the Year, Ryan Kutt of Brother Rice, and his teammate, Andrew Dyke were both named to the first team.

ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL BASEBALL COACHES ASSOCIATION: Kutt and Dyke made the Class 4A team along with Sandburg’s Kevin Lane. Chicago Christian’s Dan Vos and Evergreen Park’s Dan Smith were selected on the Class 3A team.

CHICAGO CATHOLIC LEAGUE: In the Blue Division, Kutt won the Player of the Year award while Dyke won the Tony Lawless Award.

Kutt, Dyke, Jack Nelligan and Mike Massey were Crusaders made the all-conference team while Anthony Rios, Anthony Robles, Angel Sandoval and freshman Matt McCormick were named for St. Laurence.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE: Marist’s John Carmody, Zach Sefcik and Jack Snyder were named to the all-conference squad.


METRO SUBURBAN CONFERENCE: Chicago Christian was represented by Vos, Adam Schoenle, Jacob Bultuis, Tyler Edgar and Zach Frieling.

SOUTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCE RED: Richards placed Angelo Smith, Chris Zeschke, Ryan Renken, Andrew Calderon, Nick Mejia, Nick Fritz and Mitch Crook on the all-conference team.

Shepard’s Rob Marinec, AJ Alarcon, Jordan Noftz and Jack Carberry were named to the team.

Oak Lawn’s Chad Cwik, John Roberts, Justin Swatek and Liam Blake and Evergreen Park’s Jim Smyth and Smith were also were also named.

SOUTHWEST SUBURBAN CONFERENCE BLUE: Sandburg’s Brandon Comia, Andy Gaytan, Lane,  Eric Papierski and Jack Wolfe and Stagg’s Max Downs, Josh Nowak annd Nick Worst were named all-conference.


ILLINOIS COACHES ASSOCIATION: Marist’s Madison Naujokus was named to the Class 4A first-team All-State, Shepard’s Skylor Hilger and Heather O’Kelly plus Sandburg’s Ashley Wood to the second team and Marist’s Paige Egan, Emily Reilly and freshman Angela Zedeck joined Sandburg’s Sam Coffel on the third team.

EAST SUBURBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE: Marist landed five on the all-conference first team – Lizzie Annerino, Egan, Cassie Lindmark, Najokas and Zedak.

GIRLS CATHOLIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: Mother McAuley athletes who made the first team were Amy Balich, Holly Marousek, Kathleen Janiga and Alexis Smaharz while Queen of Peace players named were Ashley Lynch, Kelly Walinski and Lindsay Cudecki.

METRO SUBURBAN CONFERENCE: Chicago Christian’s Hannah Dieck, Bethany Regnerus, Brooke Veldman and Christa Janowiak made the all-conference squad.

SOUTH SUBURBAN CONFERENCE RED: Sara Kiziak of Richards was named the league’s Player of the Year for the second time in her career. She also earned it as a sophomore in 2014.

Richards’ Savanah Julian, Lauryn McManus, Becky Wujcik and freshman Isabel Martinez made the all-conference team with Angela Abrand being named honorable mention.

Shepard was represented by Heather O'Kelly, Skylor Hilger, Jalyn Stepney, Bryanna Cross and Gabriella Graffeo.

For Evergreen Park, Bethany Salazar, Maddie Meisl and Maddie Vojacek were all-conference players with Kelly Farmer named honorable mention.

Oak Lawn was represented by Marianna Vazquez and Jessie Hasset.

SOUTHWEST SUBURBAN CONFERENCE BLUE: Sandburg’s Coffel, Niki Saviano, Brianna Soltid and Wood joined Stagg’s Maria Shalabi and freshman Lexi Voss on the all-conference team.


ILLINOIS HIGH SCHOOL SOCCCER COACHES ASSOCIATION ALL STATE: Stagg’s Jazmin Castanon, Sandburg’s Kylie Hase and Marist’s Alex Lenz were named to the team.

IHSSCA ALL SECTIONAL: Queen of Peace’s Krysta Buche and Kelsey Healy and Marist’s Claire Collevy and Cara Donegan made the team.

IHSSCA SECTIONAL HONORABLE MENTION: Marist’s Ashley Smialek, Richards’ Isabella Nelson, Evergreen Park’s Dianne Oladejo, Stagg’s Veronica Stafira and Emily Stefan, Chicago Christian’s Abby Tiermersma, Shepard’s Heather Banis and Carolina Slaby and Sandburg’s Sarah DeWolfe and Sydney Rudny were honored.

EAST SUBUBAN CATHOLIC CONFERENCE: Marist’s Claire Collevy and Kelly Ferguson were named to the all-conference team.

GIRLS CATHOLIC ATHLETIC CONFERENCE: Queen of Peace’s Buche was named the White division’s Player of the Year. Teammate Healy was named to the all-conference team.

Mother McAuley’s Maggie Bettinardi was named all-conference in the Red division. 

METRO SUBURBAN CONFERENCE: Chicago Christian’s Tiemersma and Karlee Kuyvenhoven were selected to the all-conference team.

SOUTH SUBURBAN RED: Shepard’s Banis was named Player of the Year while Slaby and Amer Mason were named to the all-conference team.

Dominique Miller and Shannon Meegan of Richards were named to the all-conference team.

Oak Lawn’s Marianna Vazquez and Jessie Hassert plus Evergreen Park’s Jamoriah Gross and Oladejo were also named to the first team.


SOUTHWEST SUBURBAN BLUE: Sandburg’s DeWolf, Hase, Rudny, Bella Strolia and Christine Szymanski were all-conference.

For Stagg, Castanon, Sydney Downs, Stafira and Stefan made the all-conference squad.



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…