Sun, Sep 2
7:00 PM ET

Preview: Postseason looming as Chicago host Houston

TOYOTA PARK, Bridgeview, Ill.
September 2, 2012 (WEEK 26, MLS Game #254)
6 p.m. CT (Galavisión; NBC5.2)
A pitched battle for placing in the Eastern Conference is ahead on Sunday evening when the Chicago Fire entertain the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park. Both clubs currently sit among the five playoff spots in the Eastern Conference – the Dynamo just a point ahead of the Fire, with just a two-point margin back to sixth place. The Fire are coming off a 4-2 loss at D.C. United that ended a three-game winning run; the Dynamo hit the road off back-to-back home draws, last a 1-1 result with Toronto FC.
REFEREE: David Gantar. AR1 (bench): Brian Poeschel; AR2 (opposite): Scott Kachmarik; 4th: Michael Kennedy
MLS Career: 13 games; FC/gm: 26.8; Y/gm: 3.3; R: 8; pens: 1
CHICAGO FIRE – OUT: DF Cory Gibbs (R knee meniscus repair); DOUBTFUL: DF Steven Kinney (R groin pain); QUESTIONABLE: MF Logan Pause (rib fractures)
HOUSTON DYNAMO -- OUT: DF Alex Dixon (heat illness); DF Warren Creavalle (L ankle sprain); MF Brad Davis (illness)
CHI: Dan Gargan, Pavel Pardo
HOU: Calen Carr
CHI: Sebastian Grazzini, Patrick Nyarko, Dominic Oduro, Gonzalo Segares
HOU: Corey Ashe, Macoumba Kandji
ALL-TIME (14 meetings): Fire 3 wins, 16 goals … Dynamo 6 wins, 21 goals … Ties 4
AT CHICAGO (7 meetings): Fire 1 win, 7 goals … Dynamo 3 wins, 11 goals … Ties 3
2012 (MLS)
4/15: CHI 1, HOU 1 (Pause 27 – Bruin 24)
7/3: HOU 0, CHI 0
  • The teams have played to two draws already this season. On April 15, Houston’s Will Bruin and Chicago’s Logan Pause traded goals in a 1-1 draw at Toyota Park ended early because of bad weather. The teams played to a scoreless draw July 3 at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • The teams have now played to four consecutive draws in their all-time series.
  • Coaches' records: Frank Klopas vs. HOU: P3 W0 L0 D3 … Dominic Kinnear vs. CHI: P19 W7 L5 D7
  • The teams combined for just three shots on target for the evening. Chicago’s Marco Pappa tested Tally Hall in the 12th minute with a left-footed strike from outside that box -- the only chance the Dynamo 'keeper had to deal with.
  • Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two saves on the evening, both in the final 45 minutes, greatly threatened by neither.
  • HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-3-3): Tally Hall - Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe - Luiz Camargo (Brian Ownby 69), Adam Moffat, Brad Davis - Boniek Garcia, Will Bruin (Brian Ching 65), Macoumba Kandji (Colin Clark 81).
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Dan Gargan, Austin Berry, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares - Pavel Pardo, Logan Pause - Patrick Nyarko (Hunter Jumper 87), Chris Rolfe, Marco Pappa (Orr Barouch 72) - Dominic Oduro (Alex 54).
The Chicago Fire return to action after a weekend off, their three-game winning streak put to an end in a 4-2 loss to D.C. United on Aug. 22. The Fire are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 41 points from 24 games.
  • United took the lead in the in the 19th minute. Chris Pontius scuffed a left-footed shot from outside the box that rolled past a static Fire defense toward the far post, where Dwayne De Rosario streaked in to knock home his 99th career MLS goal.
  • The Fire pulled even in the 44th minute on their first real scoring chance of the game. Sherjill MacDonald, Marco Pappa and Daniel Paladini executed a flowing passing move at the top of the 18-yard box, as Pappa fed Paladini to his left and United goalkeeper Bill Hamid had little chance against Paladini strike from inside the area.
  • But United grabbed the game with goals on either side of halftime. In first-half stoppage time Andy Najar – deployed at right back – beat two challengers and crossed to Lionard Pajoy, and D.C.’s newest acquisition headed home. Then in the 51st minute, Brandon McDonald looped a beautifully placed header from a Chris Korb cross following a cleared corner.
  • Chicago’s Gonzalo Segares added intrigue to the match’s final quarter-hour when he dove to convert a difficult set-piece header in the 75th minute, from a Pavel Pardo service.
  • But Long Tan sealed the result for United, turning home a pass from De Rosario from the penalty spot that just eluded the grasp of Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
  • Fire head coach Frank Klopas made one change to the team that defeated the New England Revolution 2-1 at Toyota Park. Marco Pappa started in the midfield in place of Alvaro Fernandez.
  • CHICAGO FIRE (4-2-3-1): Sean Johnson - Jalil Anibaba (Alvaro Fernandez 63), Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares - Daniel Paladini (Alex 85), Pavel Pardo - Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, Marco Pappa (Dominic Oduro 74) - Sherjill MacDonald.
  • The Fire saw their three-game winning streak, matching their longest of the season, come to an end in the loss at D.C. United.
  • “I think we came out too casual in certain situations,” Fire coach Frank Klopas said. “We have to be more alert and more focused. I think that teams must earn the goals they score against us, but some of United’s goals were a little soft and we could have prevented them.”
  • The four goals conceded in the United loss were the most by the Fire this season – they had not allowed more than two in any of the first 24 league games.
  • “I think we were very, very unorganized today. In the past, we’ve been a team that is very compact, and today was the opposite,” said fullback Gonzalo Segares. “We were very stretched, and they took advantage of that, finding space for players like [De Rosario]. They found a lot of space and were able to run at us.”
  • After going more than two months without an assist, Marco Pappa has two assists in the last three games, contributing to the Fire’s opening goal.
  • “At the end of the day it’s about scoring goals. The 4-2 result is a clear indication that we must take better advantage of our chances and finish more often,” said Pappa. “I think everyone contributed positively on the pitch today, but unfortunately we could not get the score we wanted.”
  • Making his third consecutive start, Sherjill MacDonald played for the full 90 minutes and recorded his second assist in MLS. He has a goal or an assist in each of his three starts for the Fire.
  • “[My fitness is] getting better but I still feel I have work to do,” said MacDonald. “I have another week to train and hopefully next game I’ll feel better. The last game I was a bit tired because of the game on the weekend. I gave everything and I can’t do more than that.”
  • Daniel Paladini made his second consecutive start with Logan Pause sidelined with injury, and scored his first goal since his rookie season of 2008.
  • “Defensively, he covers a lot of ground, and he destroys a lot of plays for the opposing team,” Segares said of Pause. “He’s a player in the midfield that we definitely missed. On a day like today, when we were so stretched out, it would have been a game where he could cover a lot of ground.”
  • On Wednesday, the Fire announced the transfer of Guatemalan international Marco Pappa to SC Heerenveen in the Dutch Eredivisie would take place immediately, instead of at the end of the MLS season.
  • “This was a very difficult decision to make, however, we feel it is the best move for the club and the player at this time," said Fire president of soccer operations Javier Leon. "This transfer provides the club with flexibility under the salary cap and made sense as we look toward the future. Marco came into his own as a member of the Fire, he has been a big part of the club and we wish him the best in this next phase of his career."
The Houston Dynamo remained unbeaten at their new home, reaching a second consecutive draw in a 1-1 tie with Toronto FC on Saturday evening at BBVA Compass Stadium. The Dynamo are in third place in the Eastern Conference with 42 points from 26 games.
  • The Dynamo took the lead 21 minutes in through striker Will Bruin, who hit a deft chip from 12 yards, taking advantage of a charging Freddy Hall to sneak the ball under the crossbar. Bruin’s tally was the direct result of some sublime build-up play from Boniek Garcia and Ricardo Clark.
  • But pushing for a late equalizer, TFC found one five minutes from full time. Terry Dunfield made a streaking run through the box to latch onto a pinpoint cross from Darren O’Dea after a quick throw-in, and completely free in the box, he hit a sharp header that Tally Hall could only parry off the bar and into the net.
  • Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear made one change to the team that came back for a 2-2 draw with the Columbus Crew at BBVA Compass Stadium. Ricardo Clark came into the midfield in place of Adam Moffat.
  • HOUSTON DYNAMO (4-3-3): Tally Hall - Andre Hainault, Jermaine Taylor, Bobby Boswell, Corey Ashe - Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark (Je-Vaughn Watson 77), Brad Davis - Calen Carr, Will Bruin (Brian Ching 84), Macoumba Kandji (Adam Moffat 73).
  • While the Dynamo drew for a second consecutive match and haven’t won since the 2-0 win vs. New York on Aug. 3, they did remain unbeaten in league play at BBVA Compass Stadium.
  • “We stopped moving off the ball and were very passive with our movement and very passive with our passing and made it very easy to defend,” head coach Dominic Kinnear said. “If you look at the goal we scored the movement was wonderful. We had those moments in the second half but there wasn’t enough.”
  • The Dynamo’s 21-game home unbeaten streak is third-longest in MLS league play, now one game behind the Columbus Crew’s streak set June 28, 2008-Aug. 26, 2009. The MLS record is 29 home games unbeaten, held by Real Salt Lake.
  • “It’s frustrating,” said goalkeeper Tally Hall. “It all comes together. It’s at home, I think we’re the better team and I know I can make that save nine out of 10 times and I only say that because I didn’t make it tonight. It feels like a loss in the locker room. Walking off the field, it’s very frustrating. It’s a disappointing way to end what could have been three points.”
  • Will Bruin scored his first goal since July 15, a six-game scoring drought. He now has 11 goals for the season, in a six-way tie for fourth place in the MLS Golden Boot standings.
  • “It’s like getting the first one of the year,” Bruin said. “It’s kind of like getting the weight off your shoulders and to play more freely.”
  • Ricardo Clark made his first start since his return to the league, having come on as a substitute in each of the previous two matches.
  • “It was my first start in the new stadium, so I’m thankful for that. I just wanted to contribute as much as possible,” Clark said. “I thought the tie was decent, but we may have let three points slip away.”
  • Boniek Garcia recorded his second assist in as many games, and now has five assists for the Dynamo, starting every game since June 30.
  • The Dynamo now have a stretch of three road games out of the next four, before returning home for a threegame homestand Sept. 29-Oct. 20.
  • “I think it’s a mental thing because we definitely have the personnel to win this game,” defender Andre Hainault said. “It’s a mental thing that we’ve got to sort out because it was not good enough tonight. We’ve got to start getting wins because we can’t coast to the playoffs. We’re not going to make it with that mentality.”
  • On Thursday, the Dynamo came away from Honduras with a vital 1-1 draw in their CONCACAF Champions League match against CD Olimpia. Douglas Caetano scored in the seventh minute to put Olimpia ahead, but Adam Moffat scored the leveler in the 57th minute.
  • Here’s the Dynamo team: Tyler Deric; Kofi Sarkodie, Nate Sturgis, Jermaine Taylor, Andre Hainault; Boniek Garcia, Adam Moffat, Luiz Camargo (Bobby Boswell 64); Je-Vaughn Watson, Cam Weaver (Will Bruin 84), Colin Clark (Macoumba Kandji 75)
  • “When it was time to knuckle-down and defend and fight they did that, too, so I’m really happy for them,” Kinnear said. “We got scored on pretty early and it didn’t faze the guys at all. Mac [Kandji] came in and provided some good energy going forward. You protect the score a little bit, but I thought we broke well at times. We deserved everything they got tonight except for the red card.”
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