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Fire Win Opener at Toyota Park

By Todd McClamroch in News on Apr 9, 2007 12:26PM

2007_04_07_mapp.jpgSaturday night, the Chicago Fire won their first season opener in five years. The game time temperature was a frigid 31 degrees but that did not deter nearly 15,000 fans from coming out to Toyota Park to cheer on the Fire. The fans were barely in their seats before the Fire netted the game winner. In the fourth minute midfielder Justin Mapp(right) drove down the sideline and crossed a ball to Logan Pause who flicked it on past Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis to put the Fire up 1-0. It was the first MLS career goal for Pause.

Chicagoist was impressed with the play of Justin Mapp. After the game, Sarachan commented "We gave Mapp some freedom to roam". In addition to serving the game winner to Logan Pause, Mapp was tireless in the first half, prowling the field on offense and defense and creating a ton of scoring opportunities for his teammates.

Like most contests between these two rivals there was a lot of pushing and shoving and for the most part the referee let them play. Fire midfielder Chris Armas was on the wrong end of an elbow from Revolution defender Gary Flood. Armas required stitches as a result of the hit, and Coach Sarachan commented that Armas looked like Rocky Balboa . (We have the photo to support that statement).

The Revolution fought hard to equalize the game. In the fifty-second minute Taylor Twellman took a rare shot from outside the 18-yard box that got past Fire keeper Matt Pickens but ricocheted off the crossbar. Just six minutes later, Revs midfielder Andy Dorman volleyed a cross that required Pickens to make an acrobatic save. As the time wound down Pickens was called for a delay of game that provided New England an indirect kick from the top of the 18-yard box. Twellman's blast passed the wall built by the defense but was saved by Pickens. Despite having several scoring chances the Fire were able to shut out the Twellman-led offense and secure the victory.

After the game Coach Sarachan commented, "For a first night, opening game, we get very high passing grades, but we certainly have room to improve, no question, in terms of managing and keeping possession and killing the game off. We're pleased that we got one under the belt already, and we'll go back to work on Monday, and iron some things out."

The Fire are in sole position of first place as the only team in the East to earn three points with a victory. The Fire travel to Denver to take on the Colorado Rapids next Sunday. The Rapids christened their new soccer specific stadium, Dick's Sporting Goods Park(insert your own joke here), with a 2-1 victory over D.C. United Saturday afternoon.

Photo from Flickr: Chicagoist_todd