CHOO CHOO! Hear that? It’s the sound of the Chicago Fire preseason hype train as it continues to roll over competition headed into the regular season opener. Even with familiar faces such as David Accam, Gilberto and newly christened golden boy John Goossens on the bench, the Men in Red make quick and easy work of the NASL’s Minnesota United, cruising to a 4-0 victory Wednesday night in the Simple Tournament in Portland. And really, that scoreline did little justice to just how dominate the Fire were as the talent level between the two squads was apparent throughout the match. The Loons, who lost the first match of the tournament to the Timber by the same 4-0 scoreline, looked overmatched by the Fire as the players executed Veljko Paunovic’s high-press system to perfection. Questions about the back line were hardly addressed Wednesday, rarely being challenged as the Loons were dispossessed almost every time they got the ball into the final third. One of the five players to start both matches of the tournament, Matt Polster continues to make the case for being captain and potential new face for the franchise. The defensive midfielder was all over the pitch, cutting off passing lanes and making Minnesota players uncomfortable with his tight, physical play. The last point may still be the main knock on Polster, as he drew a yellow card in the 42 minute for taking down Juliano Vicentini from behind. One match after being described as ‘invisible’ by Hot Time’s editor Jeff Engelhardt, Homegrown player Joey Calistri made his mark Wednesday night with a first half brace. The first goal was a combination of cool nerves from the youngster and some suspect defense, as Calistri found himself with the ball at his foot about seven yards from goal after some poor defensive marking on a Michael Harrington’s cross into the box. After the ball bounced around near Brandon Vincent, it fell to Calistri, who knocked the trick shot off the left post for the first goal. Just over ten minutes later, the same three players found themselves responsible for the second goal. Harrington’s low pass across the face of goal was inches from going out-of-bounds before Vincent got to the ball and placed a pass straight to Calistri in the box, who drilled a first-touch shot into the bottom right corner. The Fire continued the onslaught in the second half, even as Pauno used his unlimited substitutions to give his youngest players a chance to impress. Kingsley Bryce, who spent most of last season with Saint Louis FC, scored in the 61st minute with what we’ll consider a ‘well placed’ looping header that arched about 16 ft in air before dropping in smallest area between goalie and crossbar. Was Bryce trying to score on what looked like an innocuous header? Probably not, though I doubt he’d admit that. Secondary note on Bryce’s goal was the assist from Rodrigo Ramos, the 20-year-old Brazilian who made his first appearance with the club on Wednesday. Speedster Alex Morrell caused Minnesota fits on the left side once subbed in the second half, drawing a penalty kick in the 88th minute after being tripped in the box. Arturo Alvarez finished the scoring by easily securing the penalty kick for the final goal. Even with the final score and the overall dominant performance, it cannot be stated enough just how much Minnesota United looked like a second division squad. Even though the Loons are set to join MLS next season (and check out the stadium designs they unveiled today for some satisfying stadium porn), the future fellow Midwestern club simply are not going to be a challenge to most non-Colorado MLS teams. The Fire will not have to wait long for another preseason test though, as they face tournament host Portland Timber Sunday night at 7 p.m. in both team’s final preseason match before the MLS season begins in March. Prepare yourself Providence Park, cause this hype train ain’t getting stopped by some weak timber. What were your thoughts on the match? How much can really be taken away from a match against NASL teams? Oh, and #Twitter4Klopas
All Aboard the Preseason Hype Train!
Another match, another victory as Chicago Fire make quick work of Minnesota United