International Friendlies in the middle of the season: not one sane person likes them. They take time away from those important league matches or that important rest time. The most you can ask for in games like these are for no one to get hurt, and for some entertaining soccer. Last night, we had both those things. And we got something extra, too. When the Chicago Fire played reigning Mexican League Champions Santos Laguna to a 2-2 draw on Saturday Night at Toyota Park in Bridgeview, the Fire Faithful got a glimpse at their future.
As it seems to happen more often then not, the Fire's opposition struck first. Benjamin Joya received the ball from a teammate on the left wing approximately 25 feat away, then proceed to dance around Hunter Jumper, who didn't do himself any favors tonight in the 90 minutes he played, and Michael Videira, who we'll get to in a minute, like they didn't even exist. He ended his run with a left footed shot that went right past a diving Paolo Tornaghi. The shot was well placed and there was really nothing anyone could have done short of giving up a penalty to stop it. It was a wonderful goal.
And just 4 minutes later, Michael Videira turns the ball over and boom Santos goes up 2-0. Daniel Luduena pounced on a bad touch and slotted it out of the reach of a diving Tornaghi.
The Fire's best chance of the half came in the 7th minute, when Shirjill MacDonald wound his way into the box and shot the ball into the post on the near side. The strange thing however, was that the Santos players didn't try to obstruct the ball's path. They stopped moving as Mackie reared back to fire. It was as if they thought that there was no shooting lane and thought the ball was going to roll calmly out for a goal kick.
After a lackluster first half for the most part, the Fire came out like gangbusters to start the second. Two minutes in, right sided midfielder Dominic Oduro was clipped from behind right out side the area, and on the ensuing free kick, Daniel Paladini's quest for a third goal in as many games was denied by a fingertip save from substitute goalkeeper Miguel Becerra. He couldn't stop Michael Videira's header of the corner,taken by Alex, however.
The Fire's second goal was a beautiful bit of play between Corben Bone and Dominic Oduro. Dom stole Santos' lunch, then gave it to Bone running to his right, and he put it away, cross court. As Rudy Gomez said on twitter, "Andres Inesta with the Fire goal." That's how good this goal was.
The game was chippy. Multiple yellows as expected and a few shoving matches took place. Victor Pineda was a huge victim of the chippy play, and selective foul calling by the refereeing. He couldn't buy a call tonight. It seemed almost every time he got the ball, he would be tripped or shoved to the ground without nearly a look at the whistle. On one such occasion, he tripped in the box. But to both his credit and detriment, didn't fall down immediately and tried to continue his run, which wasn't conducive to drawing a penalty, but showed that he doesn't go down easy.
The last chance for the Fire came in stoppage time, when Corben Bone attempted to put Daniel Paladini in on goal, but his pass was just a tad too heavy, and the Santos net minder calmly put an end to that.
Final Score: 2-2
Ladies and gentleman, The Future of The Chicago Fire: Victor Pineda. From the outset, he was involved and very positive in the game. His feat are brilliant on the ball, and he knows where to be at all times. Unfortunately, he couldn't find the back of the net, but that seemed to be the only thing wrong for him tonight, if you can call it that.
Tony Walls had a good game, believe it or not. He made several good passes once he got acclimated into the game, which is understandable, considering that he didn't play much before tonight. It's also fairly evident that he's a midfielder as opposed to a defender, where he started the night.
Speaking of weird yet successful positioning, Dominic Oduro played on the right wing tonight. And did so successfully. He was a nuisance all night to Santos' back line and set up Corben Bone on his goal. He was the next best player to Pineda, and can be successful at the position. If Patrick Nyarko gets the call to Europe some time in the next few years, Dom can play in that spot.
Chicago Fire 2 - 2 Santos Laguna
Chicago Fire: 70-Paolo Tornaghi; 20-Tony Walls, 21-Michael Videira, 99-Hunter Jumper; 3-Dan Gargan, 12-Logan Pause (C) (Daniel Paladini 46'), 27-Victor Pineda; 8-Dominic Oduro, 71-Alex (17-Pavel Pardo 78'), 19-Corben Bone; 7-Sherjill MacDonald (Jalil Anibaba 46')
Substitutes not used: 1-Jay Nolly, 13-Gonzalo Segares, 22-Austin Berry, 23-Arne Friedrich, 4-Alvaro Fernandez, 14-Patrick Nyarko, 18-Chris Rolfe
Head Coach: Frank Klopas
Santos Laguna: 1-Oswaldo Sanchez © (25-Miguel Becerra 46'); 2-Oswaldo Alanis, 5-Aaron Galindo (19-Rafael Figueroa 46'), 38-Caesar Ibanez, 57-Kenyi Adachi (20-Osmar Mares 69'); 15-Alejandro Martinez (8-Juan Pablo Rodriguez 46'), 17-Rodolfo Salinas (6-Marc Crosas 46'), 37-Candido Ramirez; 10-Daniel Luduena (87-Walter Sandoval 87'), 49-Carlos Parra (58-Daniel Guzman 73'), 54-Benjamin Joya (67-Carlos Torres 90+')
Substitutes not used: 69-Luis Alberto Garcia
Head Coach: Benjamin Galindo
CSL - Benjamin Joya (unassisted) 24'
CSL - Daniel Luduena (unassisted) 29'
CHI - Michael Videira (Alex) 48'
CHI - Corben Bone (Dominic Oduro) 63'
CHI - Victor Pineda (caution) 22'
CSL - Kenyi Adachi (caution) 43'
CSL - Candido Ramirez (caution) 51'
CHI - Daniel Paladini (caution) 61'
CSL - Marc Crosas (caution) 72'
CHI - Hunter Jumper (caution) 72'
Referee: Jesus Cisneros
Assistants: Anthony Vasoli, Brandon Rinkenberger
Fourth Official: Michael Kennedy