Fire burns out, looks to next year

By Brandon Smith

The Houston Dynamo club soccer team extinguished the Chicago Fire’s promising playoff season Oct. 31 with a 2-1 victory at Toyota Park.According to Chicago Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas, the team’s loss was somewhat of a surprise. The match was the Fire’s first post-season appearance since 2009, when the team endured an equally frustrating loss to Utah’s Real Salt Lake.“A big thanks goes out to my staff and the players,” Klopas said. “These guys went out of their way to reach the goals and objectives we set in pre-season, and as a coach, I could not ask for more.”Houston forward Will Bruin put the game out of reach early in the second half when he scored the team’s second goal.The Fire had a winning record this year of 17-11-6, with nine  wins at home. A tie against D.C. United on Oct. 21 landed the team in the fourth seed of the playoffs, which forced it to face Houston in an unwanted knockout round.Klopas reflected on the team’s season and thanked the Fire’s loyal, high-energy fans the team has accumulated over the years.“I want to thank all of our fans that always find their way out to support us,” Klopas said. “The Fire jerseys in the stands have made Toyota Park a difficult place for [away teams] to come and play.”But the 11,000 fans at Toyota Park couldn’t help the Fire win after Houston scored its first goal in the 12th minute of the game.“We tried to push the goal, and I had a couple of chances but couldn’t finish,” Fire midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “That’s soccer for you though. At the end of the game, you have to just understand that this is the sport, and you have to move on.”The fire made a tactical substitution at halftime and switched outmidfielder Alex for team captain Logan Pause. Bruin caught the Fire’s defense flat-footed at the beginning of the second half and scored a goal from just inside the 18-yard box, which gave the team a 2-goal lead that the Fire could not overcome. The substitution was not a waste, however, because Alex responded with a late goal.The Fire worked tirelessly in Houston’s half of the field, releasing five shots on goal, but it did not bounce the team’s direction, according to Pause.“It’s tough when the ball just doesn’t bounce your way,” he said. “Sometimes a season comes down to one game. You have to give credit to Houston for coming here and getting the result.”Despite the tough loss, Klopas and his team are confident that their short-lived playoff run has been a learning experience.“All I can say is that I have a lot of passion for this club, this city and these fans,” Klopas said. “I can tell you that with every setback, there are opportunities. We’re going to come back and get stronger and work even harder [to] make sure we can [get better as a team].”