The 2011 MLS Reserve League Central/Mountain Division champions Chicago Fire opened the Reserves League season Tuesday morning against the Real Salt Lake reserves on a windy and overcast day. I went to the game to get a good look at some of the new faces on the team as well as see how some familiar faces have progressed. After the jump, I share my thoughts on the game as well as the festive atmosphere.
Looking at the starting lineup I was very interested to see how Rafael Robayo would perform in a reserve match. He didn't light up the field as I had anticipated, but he was active on the pitch and wore the captain's armband.
The backline had a very youthful look with new draftees Tony Walls, Austin Berry, and Hunter Jumper and returning from last year's loan Kwame Watson-Siriboe rounding out the back four. Walls was an active part of the match and pushed forward whenever he could. Early in the match, he got on the end of a loose ball, but only managed to bundle the ball inches wide of the net. Watson-Siriboe is an intimidating force who tried to dispossess the opposition through raw strength and aggression rather than technical tackling. That may get him in trouble in the future. Berry didn't really stand out, which is good for a center back, and Jumper also moved forward often, but his crosses were often way off the target thanks to the gusting winds.
The Fire did manage to break through early as Corben Bone latched on to the end of a loose ball in the box. A failed clearance from a corner kick made its way back out to Bone and his volley found the lower corner of the net. Bone's goal turned out to be the only goal of the game.
After that, the game had settled down as much of the play was influenced from the heavy winds. Real Salt Lake's Will Johnson managed to threaten with a couple shots at goal, but Jay Nolly was never under any real pressure.
In the second half, Robayo, Federico Puppo, and Orr Barouch left the match to be subbed on by Victor Pineda, Kheli Dube, and Lucky Mkosana respectively. Mkosana made the biggest impact of the group by getting a couple of good shots off at goal and should have buried a breakaway attempt late in the game.
I originally intended on making detailed notes and providing updates on my Twitter feed, but a rowdy group of about 15 Section 8 members managed to tempt me into participating in singing, chanting, and joking around. The reserve games are a good time for new songs to develop and we had a blast trying new things out. When the game ended, the supporters group went field side to congratulate the players on the victory.
We managed to catch up with the legendary C.J. Brown congratulating him on his entry to the Ring of Fire and his academy team. A few photos were taken and he left after a round of handshakes and smiles.
The reserve games are a great way for fans to come out to support the players who don't regularly get the spotlight and experience raw, unfiltered Section 8 support and charming irreverence. Everyone is welcome and for the low, low price of free, it is a great time to be had. The reserves are back in action on Monday, April 2nd in Colorado and return back home Monday, April 16th against Houston.