By SAM STEJSKAL
Cuauhtemoc Blanco and his Chicago Fire teammates just didn’t have enough against Club America Wednesday night, losing to the Mexican giants, 2-1.
Played in front of a raucous Toyota Park crowd, the game was certainly not lacking in excitement. Both teams played in an attacking manner, keeping the pro-Club America crowd in full voice.
Juan Carlos Silva put America ahead after just 2 minutes of play, lofting a ball over the head of Fire keeper Nick Noble.
Noble, who got the start in place of regular Fire goalie Jon Busch, was to blame for America’s second goal, which came courtesy of Mexican-international Pavel Pardo.
The former Stuttgart midfielder’s 42nd minute tally came off of a free kick from just wide of the area. The shot beat several Fire defenders before it deflected off of Noble and into the back of the net.
Despite creating a bevy of chances, the Fire was only able to score once. Their loan tally came in the 73rd minute, when Chris Rolfe was able to slot home comfortably after a Stefan Dimitrov through ball found Rolfe unmarked inside the box.
The game, which marked the beginning of a business partnership between the two clubs, saw many Fire regulars given a rest. Brian McBride and John Thorrington did not dress for the match and normal starters Bakary Soumare, Wilman Conde, and Patrick Nyarko only logged 45 minutes.
The Fire starter that logged the most minutes was, unsurprisingly, Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco, who was the crowd favorite Wednesday night, played 67 minutes.
Blanco’s extended playing time, in a game that means nothing to the Fire’s point total, raised some questions about the 36-year-old's status for Saturday’s game against the Seattle Sounders.
“I think it was a good run for him,” said Fire head coach Denis Hamlett, who acknowledged that it was a “special night” for Blanco. “I think the key is to not push him too much because of the quick turnaround. He’s still getting his legs under him and we wanted to monitor him tonight.”
The match also saw some Fire youngsters get significant playing time. Rookie Baggio Husidic got the start and fellow first-year player Stefan Dimitrov came in at the half.
“All in all our young guys showed me that I think we have a deep roster,” said Hamlett. “[We have] a group of guys that I feel comfortable with and at any point if I have to call a guy for a start or to come on as a reserve they can help us.”
What did you think about the match? Did Blanco play for too long, or were his 67 minutes a necessary evil? Do you feel that it’s viable for MLS to schedule in-season friendlies? Will tonight’s match hurt the Fire on Saturday, or do you see Seattle’s mid-week US Open Cup match canceling Wednesday’s game out?
Share your thoughts below.