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SATURDAY, JUNE 14, 2003 - CHICAGO FIRE 3, METROSTARS 2
Photo Courtesy of MetroStars
EAST RUTHERFORD, NJ Chicago Fire midfielder Andy Williams registered an assist on all three of his teams goals as the Fire defeated the MetroStars 3-2 at Giants Stadium on Saturday afternoon. It was the League-leading third road victory of the campaign for the Fire (4-2-3, 15pts) and it moved them to within two points of the Eastern Conference leading MetroStars (5-3-2, 17pts), who have lost two consecutive games after going on a seven-game unbeaten stretch.
The Fire have now won the last four regular season matched played between the two teams at Giants Stadium dating back to Sept. 1, 2001. Chicago was playing against Head Coach Bob Bradley for the first time since he moved to the MetroStars during the offseason after five seasons at the helm of the Fire.
MetroStars forward Eddie Gaven (16 years, 232 days) became the youngest player in club history and the second youngest player in League history to appear in an MLS regular season game. Both teams fielded several young players including a total of eight starters who were 22 years of age or younger.
Gaven teamed up with 18-year-old Mike Magee in attack for the home team but the two were unable to capitalize on scoring opportunities in the first half. Magee misses the mark on two headers in the 12th and 33rd minute while Gaven was foiled by Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton on a one-on-one close-range effort in the 19th minute.
The Fire, however, would take advantage of the inspired play of Williams to take a 1-0 lead in the 31st minute. The Jamaican international, who used exquisite dribbling moves and a refined touch to wreak havoc during the match, created the opportunity when he dodged three MetroStars defenders 25 yards from goal. He proceeded to combine with forward Ante Razov on two consecutive give-and-go exchanges near the top of the box and poked the ball into space for Razov. The Fires all-time leading scorer slotted a left-footed shot from 15 yards out past goalkeeper Paul Grafer for his fourth goal of the season.
The Fire were the most dangerous in attack to start the second half as they exhibited a deadly counterattack led by the vision of Williams and the penetrating runs of Razov and rookie Damani Ralph. The visitors scored two goals in five minutes both started by long balls into space from the left foot of Williams, who moved from the MetroStars to the Fire during the offseason.
In the 61st minute it was Ralph who was on the end of Williams service. The Jamaican rookie beat MetroStars defender Joey DiGiamarino to the ball and fired home under Grafer, who was coming off his line to challenge near the right corner of the six-yard box. It was Ralph's third tally of the campaign.
In the 66th minute Williams fed Razov into space and the latter used a fake on MetroStars defender Kenny Arena before taking the ball to his left foot and lofting a curling shot into the top left corner of the goal. Razovs second of the match (fifth of the season) made the score 3-0, marking the first time the MetroStars had given up more than two goals all season.
The MetroStars did not let up and made a furious comeback in the final 10 minutes. First it was rookie and second half substitute Jacob LeBlanc, who netted his first career goal in the 83rd minute after latching onto a cross from the left side of the area by Amado Guevara. A penalty kick in added time converted by Guevara, his first goal in MLS, would pull the MetroStars within a goal (3-2) but the comeback would stop there as referee Brian Hall signaled the end of the match a minute later.
Both teams were missing players who joined the U.S. National Team for the FIFA Confederations Cup in France. Chris Armas, Carlos Bocanegra and DaMarcus Beasley missed the match for the Fire while Clint Mathis and Tim Howard were absent in the MetroStars ranks. The Metros were already without the services of veterans Eddie Pope and Jaime Moreno, lost to long term injuries, while the Fire did without forward Rodrigo Faria, who is still in Brazil after the death of his father.
The Fire return to action on Wednesday, June 18 when they host the Dallas Burn at Cardinal Stadium in Naperville, IL in the first match of the Brimstone Cup series (8:30PM ET), the trophy created by fans of both clubs and awarded to the winner of the season series between the teams over all competitions. The MetroStars will host another ESPN2 Soccer Saturday home match when Carlos Ruiz and the Los Angeles Galaxy pay a visit to Giants Stadium next Saturday, June 21 (4:00PM ET).
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