Thursday, July 28, 2005

Chicago holds AC Milan to the fire

Chicago came to play. It's nice to see that MLS teams are no longer scared of their bigger European rivals. Heck, for a little while it looked like the Fire were about to snatch this match. It would have been real easy for them to just drop to the side after going down a goal in the 21st minute, but Chicago had other plans. In less then a minute, they marched down Solider Field, blowing past Milan's midline, letting Chris Rolfe snap the trigger on a fast shot that beat a confused looking Valerio Fiori. Game tied.

Then, in the 35th, Any Herron broke away from the pack and had an excellent chance on goal, but ended up putting it right into the keeper’s hands. Unfortunately, Herron did the exact same thing on a break away in the 57th. However, he got a second chance on this break when Fiori smacked the ball back at him, but again, he could not get it past the goalie.

In, what turned out to be the final high moments of the match for the Fire, the 64th and 67th minutes, both Chad Barrett and Samuel Caballero had shots on goal that bounced off the posts. Had this been the end of the match, it would have been hard to say that Chicago was not the better side. However, soccer is a 90-minute affair.

Milan controlled much of the final 20+ minutes and they made good use of their time. Alberto Gilardino put the ball in goal in the 76th and Serginho did the same in extra time. The interesting thing about Serginho's shot is that it was almost not counted. The ball hit the crossbar flew down right behind the goal line and bounced back out onto the pitch where it was cleared. But the ref was able to see what had happened and made the correct call.

Something to point out, during the last 20 or so minutes, Fire coach Dave Sarachan substituted seven players in order to give everyone an opportunity to play in this match. In doing so, he knew he was making it harder on his team to win, but it was still the right and classy thing to do. For a lot of his team, this will be their one, and only chance to play against a squad like Milan. I'm glad Sarachan respects his players enough to not try to fight for a meaningless victory at the expense of their enjoyment.

On a personal note, I not only picked the winner, but I got the score correct as well. Maybe I should only predict matches involving International teams.

Chicago Fire 1 - AC Milan 3



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