The Fire officially completed pre-season play this morning with a 3-1 victory over the defending NASL champion
NSC Minnesota Stars at the Toyota Park practice field. Goals scored by Dominic Oduro, Daniel Paladini, and Orr Barouch provided the difference but head coach Frank Klopas wasn't thrilled with allowing a late goal from a set piece. "I wasn"t happy with the start or the finish of the game. At the beginning we were slow with our ball movement but we picked up the game and at the end giving up a soft goal like that has got to get better. I wasn't happy with the last ten minutes and how we finished off, mentally we've got to stay in the game for ninety minutes," said Klopas.
The Fire controlled possession for most of the first half after a slow start as the speed of Dominic Oduro and Patrick Nyarko began to cause big issues for Minnesota defenders. The Fire took the lead in the 18th minute after Oduro intercepted an errant goal kick by Stars 'keeper Matt Van Oekel and fed a streaking Patrick Nyarko who beat the Minnesota defense into the penalty area. Nyarko then found Oduro cutting towards the net for the tally.
After the initial gaffe on the goal kick, Van Oekel managed to stop Marco Pappa, Nyarko, and Oduro on three good scoring chances before allowing the final two goals. Marco Pappa danced away from defenders in the 66th minute to assist on Paladini's goal. Federico Puppo, who also had a good scoring chance of his own in the second half helped finish the scoring for the Fire in the 77th minute with an assist similar to Pappa's. This time Puppo found Orr Barouch at the far post allowing the young forward to chest the ball into the net.
Minnesota scored on a header from a free kick in the 88th minute to spoil the clean sheet effort for the home side.
The Fire reserves also played a match against the Stars immediately after the first team outing. The night cap ended in a 1-1 draw on the strength of a fantastically struck ball from 30 yards out by Paladini. "They put me at the top of the box because they know I can shoot," offered the midfielder. "I hit it well, luckily it went in."
Paladini feels the team is in a much better situation coming out of camp this season than last and is ready to contribute in whatever role the coaching staff sees him in. "Anybody that's been here for consecutive years gets a little more familiar with the city, the environment, the guys on the team, the coaching staff and I think Frank is building something good this year. Whether it's me coming off the bench or starting I just have to be ready because there are tons of guys in my position but that's just healthy. It's a healthy team and it's competitive."
The reserve match was marred by second half red cards to guest player Juan David Duque and Orr Barouch. Both calls were a bit puzzling since neither side really was able to determine what was done to justify being shown straight red. Barouch apparently was dismissed for arguing about an elbow that was thrown into his mid section. The infractions were insignificant enough that Stars coach (and member of the '98 Fire) Manny Lagos and Klopas agreed to allow two Fire players into the game to replace Duque and Barouch.
Fire Line Up
GK Nolly (Tornaghi 46')
D Gargan (Walls 46')
D Gibbs (Jumper 64')
M Robayo (Paladini 64')
M Pause (Videira 82')
F Oduro (Puppo 70')
F Nyarko (Bone 64')
News and Notes
- Sebastian Grazzini did not play but warmed up on the side. After suffering a hamstring tweak during the last few days of workouts in South Carolina, the Fire playmaker has yet to resume full training but Klopas indicated that he would be ready to train full bore on Tuesday in preparation for the opener in Montreal. Marco Pappa started in the center mid role today with Rafael Robayo on the right and Logan Pause on the left.
- The reserve match featured playing time for Victor Pineda, Corben Bone, Kellen Gulley, Kwame Watson-Siriboe, Kheli Dube, and Sean Johnson.
- Johnson will likely miss at least the first two matches of the season due to US Olympic team play.
- Conspicuously, Pari Pantazopoulos and Amadou Sanyang did not see action.
- Former New England Revolution forward Zack Schilawski came into the reserve match late for the Fire. He is getting a look after being released by New England last week.
- The Fire open the season next Saturday in Montreal and Klopas doesn't necessarily like the week off while almost everyone else is in action this weekend. "We want to start. With a new team it's an opportunity for us to look at them and see them play but we know a lot of their players because they have players from within the league, for sure it's good that we get to see them in a game but I'd like to play. I'd rather have played the game (this weekend)," said Klopas.
- The club has added an eighth junior affiliate. This one in Michigan.
- The Fire expect to announce their television broadcast schedule some time next week.