BY ANTHONY ZILIS
After losing 1-0 to New England Saturday, the Chicago Fire are officially out of the SuperLiga.
Gone are the days of Cuauhtemoc Blanco and Chris Rolfe, who helped lead the Fire to the brink of a title in the same tournament last year, and the Fire are left looking for an offensive spark.
They hope they found it in their new designated player, Mexican striker Nery Castillo.
The Fire announced the signing of Castillo minutes after the game ended.
"He's a tremendous player that can break opposing defenses down, create opportunities," said Fire technical director Frank Klopas, who added that the signing was two years in the making.
The absence of a dangerous offensive weapon was glaring during Saturday's game.
It wasn't as if the Fire were outplayed Saturday, but even when though they controlled possession for much of the match, chances were hard to come by.
The Fire's best scoring chance came in the 12th minute, when Mike Banner hit the post on a shot from 20 yards, but Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis was barely tested the rest of the game.
New Englands goal came in the 76th minute, when Fire defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe turned the ball over, and Marco Perovic buried a shot from 20 yards.
"When the striker cut inside, we needed to be quicker to step to the ball. I think we did well to recover, but unfortunately, it was a good finish, credit to their striker," Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson said.
Saturday wasn't the first time one play has completely swung a game for the Fire, a team C.J. Brown has accused of not carrying the right attitude in recent games.
Castillo's reputation for having a fiery attitude, Brown said, is much needed.
"You always want someone out there with a little attitude," Brown said. "Hopefully he can spark it on the field, be fighting with guys. That's what we were always about. We fight when we needed to fight, we played when we needed to play and if he has that attitude. Look at Blanco. Blanco had that same kind of attitude, Stoichkov had that same attitude. I think it'll be good for us."
While the Fire's SuperLiga campaign has them in somewhat of a downward spiral, the Revolution won their first two games of the tournament and are quickly turning around a season that seemed sour only weeks ago.
"I think we implemented all the stuff we did at home, that worked for us and I worked here too. If we keep playing this way, we should start turning things around and getting better results," Revolution defender Chris Tierney said.
The Fire, meanwhile, are riding a four-game losing streak.
For a team riddled with injuries and inconsistency, the Fire are hanging on to the hope that their new signing can turn things around.
"It's good for somebody fresh to come in and hopefully spark the group.It's going to be exciting for Chicago, bringing in a Mexican player, with the understanding that a Mexican player will bring in a lot of fans, too," Brown said.
"I think bringing him in will … kind of spark the rest of the players to go hard. I think it's a good thing. We need some fresh feet out there."
Patrick Nyarko hopes to be back for the next league game, which is against the Galaxy on August 1.
Although Kwame Watson-Siriboe gave away the ball that led to the New England goal, he played well and de los Cobos liked what he saw.
"His performance tonight was much better than the previous matches, but he is a rookie," de los Cobos said. "Unfortunately, he lost the ball and New England had a chance. Marco Perovic’s strong strike surprised Sean (Johnson) Though we controlled the whole game, they were efficient when it came to the last touch.”
The second game of the night between Morelia and Pumas ended in a 2-2 tie, after Morelia jumped out to a 2-0 lead.
A rocket volley by Javier Cortes from 20 yards tied the game in the 86th minute.