Football Aid history was made at 09:30 am on Saturday, March 24, 2018, as our 1st ever game in the USA kicked off at Chicago Fire’s Toyota Park! The match itself was a close encounter, with the Fire’s Home team just coming out on top 4-1 despite a spirited performance from the Away team. Huge thanks again to the Chicago Fire Foundation for making a dream become a reality.
Date: Saturday 24th March 2018
Venue: Toyota Park
Chicago Fire (Home) vs Chicago Fire (Away)
Kick Off: 09:30 am
Playing Legend: Frank Klopas
The game kicked off in cool conditions, but it didn’t affect the players at all and both teams started the game well, passing the ball with great accuracy straight from the opening whistle.
The Away team, playing in the all Grey Away/Secondary kit were coping well with any early Home attacks and their Centre Backs Nick Mulvaney and Craig Smith were looking comfortable in defence, and it was the pair who were instrumental in starting the attack that led to the opening goal.
The classy No 4 Mulvaney intercepted the ball in the left back position and played it to his defensive partner Smith and the No 5’s accurate long pass freed Robert Green on the right wing, the striker raced away from the Home defence and drove into the right side of the box before sending a dangerous cross towards his strike partner. The Fire Home team No 5 Rich Duffy did well to get his head to the cross, however he couldn’t get enough on his attempted clearance and the ball glanced past his Home keeper Tim Van Horn into the net…With just 7mins on the clock the Fire Away team were in front! (0-1)
The Fire Home team’s Legend Frank Klopas was keen for his Men in Red to hit back quickly and he tried to start an attack from the restart, however the attack was broken up by Away No 10 Dmytro Korinenko and the midfielder went on a determined run which ended up with him free on the edge of the area with a great chance to double his side’s lead, however Home keeper Tim Van Horn did brilliantly to stop his efforts with his legs!
The Home team hit back and the Away keeper Panagiotis Diamantis had to race out of his goal to intercept a dangerous through ball, the clearance fell to Home No 10 Mike Burke but his 1st time effort from distance was just wide.
The Away team’s attacking trio of Michael Skocinski, Dmytro Korinenko and Robert Green looked lively and were combining well to cause the Red defence problems and when Skocinski raced onto another fine ball from Craig Smith he looked like extending his side’s lead, however Home keeper Van Horn narrowed the angle quickly before making another fine save. Soon after Skocinski’s pace and skill gave him another chance on the left side, but this time it was Rich Duffy who thwarted the attacker with a fine block.
The Men in Red responded well though and Klopas’ fine through ball found Home striker Brian Smith in space in the box, however his 1st time effort was palmed away well by Away keeper Diamantis. Unfortunately the No 1 injured his leg stretching to save the ball and despite bravely carrying on had to be replaced soon afterwards.
The Home team continued to press and they got their reward with 24mins on the clock. No 8 Kevin Banks did very well to win the ball on the left and when it broke to his striker Sean Guidera the left midfielder made a great run beyond the Away defence, Guidera played Banks in with a delightful lobbed pass and the marauding midfielder charged forward and produced a brilliant left foot lob of his own to chip the ball over the advancing keeper and into the net! (1-1)
The Away team responded well to their setback and Murray Findlay’s clever square ball found the advancing defender Nick Mulvaney in space 25 yards out, however his well struck effort was just too high. Back came the Red team and when No 9 Brian Smith raced onto a headed pass from Mulvaney and rounded the keeper he looked odds on to score, however the Away defender did brilliantly to get back in time to clear the goal bound effort off the line.
The Away team’s No 15 Kevin McVeagh was adding to his side’s attacking threat and went close soon afterwards, however his well struck low effort was brilliantly tipped past the post by Home keeper Van Horn.
The game was very even at this stage and both teams were showing excellent attacking intent, with quick passes being played in midfield and great movement from both sets of attacking players. However despite all this intricate build up play it was a more direct approach that led to the Home team taking the lead just before half-time! The ball was won back in midfield by the lively No 15 Jorge Gonzalez and when Mike Burke picked it up on the right, the No 10 spotted Gonzalez in space and played a great long ball in behind the defence, Gonzalez controlled the ball on the run but just as he was racing clear the Away team’s Dmytro Korinenko stuck out a foot to intercept the ball and it deflected into the empty net past the advancing replacement keeper Eric Muehlbauer….(1-2).
That was to be the final score of the 1st half and the Fire Away team went into the break with a narrow 1 goal lead. It had been a fantastic 45mins of football and with the teams so evenly matched the result looked too close to call!
Half-Time: Chicago Fire (Home) 2 - 1 Chicago Fire (Away)
The Men in Red came flying out of the blocks in the 2nd half, determined to increase their lead and Jorge Gonzalez was again prominent in attack, this time he carried the ball forward and made space for a shot, however his well struck effort was saved well by Frank Klopas who had swapped sides at the break and was currently in goal for the Home team!
The team in all Grey were playing the ball about well though and another long range effort from Mulvaney flew just past the post. Next to fire and attempt on goal was Luca Rajola Pescarini, but the sub’s right foot strike was well held by Van Horn. The Reds continued to press for an opening, however centre back pairing Duffy and Olaguez were combining brilliantly to snuff out any attacks that came their way.
Down the other end another dangerous run from Gonzalez allowed him the opportunity to fire an effort at goal, however it was just too high. However his team didn’t have to wait long before they extended their lead, with 50mins on the clock No 11 Sean Guidera produced a fantastic right foot finish to increase his side’s lead. It was an excellent range strike and the striker celebrated it in emotional fashion, and it was evident the goal meant a lot to the skilful Scottish striker. (3-1)
The side in Grey were not despondent though and they continued to play the ball about skilfully and press the Home defence for opportunities. However the Home backline held out well and on 61mins the pacy Home No 14 Francisco Rivera increased the Men in Red’s lead further with a cool finish into the bottom corner (4-1).
The Away team’s Robert Green was a lively presence in attack and his left foot finish from distance tested the handling skills of Home keeper Tim Van Horn, but true to form the impressive keeper was up to the task.
The teams had given their all and with tired legs evident on both sides the play became stretched, however great last ditch defending at both ends of the pitch prevented any further goals being scored.
The referee’s whistle brought a fantastic end to end encounter to an end, and our 1st ever game in the USA came to a close with the Chicago Fire Home team enjoying a fine 4-1 win. The game was closer than the score-line suggested though and on another day the result could have gone the other way, and both sets of players could certainly feel extremely proud of their efforts.
It was a brilliant and historic occasion for all involved and we’d like to say a huge thanks again to Chicago Fire Soccer Club, the Fire Foundation and Fire Legend Frank Klopas for their brilliant support in making a dream become a reality.
Full-Time: Chicago Fire (Home) 4 - 1 Chicago Fire (Away)
Man of the Match Home: Rich Duffy
Man of the Match Away: Kevin McVeagh
Moment of the Match: Kevin Banks
Home/Primary Team: Tim Van Horn, Chu Kin Ip, Frank Klopas (1st Half), Fernando Olaguez, Rich Duffy, Brian Brand, Paul Johns (C), Kevin Banks, Brian Smith, Mike Burke, Sean Guidera, Francisco Rivera, Jorge Gonzalez
Home Mascots: Charlotte Van Horn & Jack Johns
Away/Secondary Team: Panagiotis Diamantis, Bradley Passmore, Frank Klopas (2nd half), Nick Mulvaney, Craig Smith, Anthony Polcaster, Eric Muehlbauer (C), Steven Passmore, Michael Skocinski, Dmytro Korinenko, Robert Green, Murray Findlay, Kevin Banks, Kevin McVeagh, Luca Rajola Pescarini
Away Mascot: Chloe Muehlbauer
Match Report written by Simon Farnan
PHOTOGRAPHY & VIDEO FOOTAGE
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AFTER MATCH FEEDBACK
"What an amazing game! Football Aid pulled it out the bag again! Played centre back, scored an OG after 7 minutes but we bossed it after that and won 4-1. Oh and got man of the match!"
Rich Duffy - Home Team No 5
"Big thanks to @ChicagoFire and @ChiFireFound for having the vision & making the leap of faith to bring @FootballAid to the U.S. for the first time ever. Wonderful facilities and even greater people!"
Tim Van Horn – Home Team No.1
"Had a great time playing for a great cause, the @ChiFireFound . Thanks to @FootballAid, Frank Klopas, and @ChicagoFire for a once in a lifetime experience. #cf97 – at Toyota Park"
Anthony Polcaster – Away Team No.6
"I’m already ready for next year’s one! Thank you for the amazing opportunity."
Michael Skocinski – Away Team No.9
"It was utterly fantastic, something I hadn't thought possible. I watched The Fire play LA Galaxy recently and it was cool seeing Toyota Park in a new light having been lucky enough to play there. My favourite things to do annually, are 1) Go to the U.S. 2) Play in a Football Aid match. For those 2 things to mesh was something special, and for the benefiting charity to be a foundation that is directly built in to the fabric of the club, that's pretty unique too in my experience. It was a fantastic event, thank you to yourselves at Football Aid for dreaming it and creating it with the co-operation of both the club and the foundation. Brilliant, brilliant."
Sean Guidera – Home Team No.11