Sunday's Colorado Rapids vs. Chicago Fire Match Preview

COMMERCE CITY CO (From MLSNet.com) - Two teams that began their 2007 seasons in bright fashion meet in an intra-conference matchup in the second game at Dick's Sporting Goods Park this Sunday.
The Colorado Rapids opened their new stadium in fine fashion last weekend defeating last year's Supporters' Shield winners D.C. United 2-1 before a sellout crowd and national television audience.
The Chicago Fire also opened their new season with a victory getting an early goal at Toyota Park and making it stand up in a 1-0 victory against the New England Revolution an MLS Cup Finalist from a season ago.
Sunday's match will feature free tickets for kids ages 16 & under with the purchase of an adult ticket as well as a free giveaway of Dick's Sporting Goods Park Inaugural Season Iron-On Patches to the first 5000 kids into the stadium! For details on these promotions click here!
For the full match preview of Sunday's game visit the Colorado Rapids' Official Match-Up Page featuring interactive projected lineups insider game notes and the latest injury and suspension reports by clicking here!
COLORADO RAPIDS v CHICAGO FIRE MATCH PREVIEW
by MLSNet.com
Location: DICK'S SPORTING GOODS PARK Commerce City CO
Kickoff: 6 p.m. MT
TV: Altitude; CSN-Chi
Sunday April 15 2007 (WEEK 2) / MLS Game #13

REFEREE: Jair Marrufo. SAR (bench): Rob Fereday; JAR (opposite): Frank Anderson; 4th: Ben Chouaf
MLS Career: 50 games; FC/gm: 29.7; Y/gm: 3.5; R: 11; pens: 21
Games involving Rapids: P10 W2 L5 T3; FC/gm: 26.3; Y/gm: 2.7; R: 1; pens: 5
Games involving Fire: P13 W4 L6 T3; FC/gm: 33.6; Y/gm: 3.2; R: 4; pens: 6

HEAD-TO-HEAD
ALL-TIME (26 meetings): Rapids 10 wins (1 shootout) 34 goals ... Fire 13 wins 45 goals (0 shootout)... Draws 3
AT COLORADO: (12 meetings): Rapids 7 wins (1 shootout) 21 goals ... Fire 2 wins (0 shootout) 20 goals ... Draws 3
• This is the first of two meetings between the clubs this season the only one set for Commerce City. The return match will be played at Toyota Park in Bridgeview Ill. on July 1.

LAST YEAR (MLS):
8/26: CHI 1 COL 0 (Robinson 12)
9/13: COL 1 CHI 0 (own goal 3)

• A year ago the teams split the season series each taking 1-0 decisions on their home grounds. It was the second consecutive season the teams had split their two meetings each winning at home.
• The Fire last won in Colorado on Oct. 6 1999 when they took a 1-0 victory at Mile High Stadium. In the eight visits west to meet the Rapids since they've managed to take points on three occasions with draws in 2000 2001 and 2003.
• Four of the five road victories in the all-time series between clubs came in their first nine meetings from 1998 to the first of four encounters in the 2000 campaign. Since then the road team has taken maximum points on just one occasion: a 3-0 Colorado victory at Soldier Field on Aug. 14 2004.
• Coaches record: Fernando Clavijo vs. CHI: P10 W4 L3 D3 ... Dave Sarachan v COL: P10 W5 L4 D1

COLORADO RAPIDS
The Colorado Rapids made sure the opening of Dick's Sporting Goods Park would be a memorable one getting two goals in the first half before holding for a victory against 2006 MLS Supporters' Shield winners D.C. United on Saturday afternoon. The Rapids are tied with Chivas USA atop the Western Conference with three points each.

LAST MATCH
• Before a sellout crowd and a national television audience watching on ABC Sports the new-look Rapids opened their new home with all the pomp and pageantry despite freezing cold conditions while also sporting new colors the team now wearing burgundy and blue.
• It didn't take them long to hit for the first goal in stadium history. From a corner kick Terry Cooke -- the assist leader in MLS a season ago -- swung in a service from the right and Herculez Gomez got up in front of his marker to nod the ball past United goalkeeper Troy Perkins for the opening goal after 19 minutes.
• Then in the 35th minute the Rapids doubled their lead. Kyle Beckerman was sent through in the left side of the penalty area and he sent a ball through the goal area that sailed untouched to beyond the far post. But Cooke was there to collect it and it laid back a pass for Roberto Brown at the penalty spot. The Panamanian international coolly took a touch before slotting it home inside the left-hand post.
• United pulled a goal back in the 80th minute. Brian Carroll sent substitute Kasali Yinka Casal free on the left and he hooked a cross into the area where Luciano Emilio opened up his MLS scoring account heading home past Rapids 'keeper Bouna Coundoul. But the Rapids withstood a final flurry from United to ensure a win to inaugurate their new home.
• Rapids head coach Fernando Clavijo ran out his first-choice lineup to open the season. Bouna Coundoul won the goalkeeping job in preseason while Kyle Beckerman and Jovan Kirovski formed the central midfield partnership with Pablo Mastroeni slowed by injury.
• Here's Clavijo's team (4-4-2): Bouna Coundoul - Brandon Prideaux Ugo Ihemelu Mike Petke Greg Vanney - Terry Cooke Kyle Beckerman Jovan Kirovski (Pablo Mastroeni 60) Herculez Gomez - Roberto Brown Nicolas Hernandez (Jacob Peterson 79). Substitutes Not Used: Nico Colaluca Dan Gargan Zach Thornton Daniel Wasson Chris Wingert
• "I think we managed it well Colorado coach Fernando Clavijo said. "We knew we were playing a quality team; there were a lot of emotions going through this game. A lot of things were happening in our minds and we were able to get opportunities to the players that we brought in and they were a big part of this win."

TEAM NEWS
• The Rapids took real advantage of the width of the Dick's Sporting Goods Park field - at 80 yards wide the biggest in MLS - to cause United problems on the flanks.
• "We had to be sure we did the things that work for us Clavijo said. "We have two outstanding outside midfielders Cookie and Herculez Gomez. We know we have some guys up front that definitely can finish on crosses. We have to connect. We have to get the ball wide. We have to get the ball in the box and we have to have those guys finishing. And that's exactly what happened."
• Said Gomez: "The field's enormous. We kept moving around we had players in the midfield we got players in the back spray the ball around wide go through the middle. It's going to make teams run. Let's face it nobody likes to run on the pitch chasing a soccer ball. So it's definitely to our advantage."
• Clavijo said Gomez - who was a forward with the Los Angeles Galaxy - at first was uncertain about his role as a winger. "He's a very young talented forward that we transferred to midfield a new position Clavijo said. "He was questioning me in the beginning and he told me right now that he will never question me again. He's hopefully an upcoming star for us so I'm very pleased."
• Clavijo was also thrilled with the play of Coundoul. In the offseason the Rapids traded veteran Joe Cannon to the Los Angeles Galaxy and signed veteran Zach Thornton (last with the Chicago Fire) yet Coundoul - with five career MLS appearances - was the starting goalkeeper on First Kick.
• "You've got to remember he's only 22 years old Clavijo said. "He's a young goalkeeper and he has some big shoes to fill in Joe Cannon. But I think we took a chance for the future of this franchise. I was very pleased with Bouna and the whole team with the way they performed."
• The Rapids were also looking to make a statement in their new home - especially having gone 0-9-2 in season openers in club history before the win against United.
• "It was one of our things to bring a lot of energy in the first 15 minutes. We wanted to have the better start than them. It just went from there. As the energy came we started to relax and we started to create some chances. We just kept with it said Kyle Beckerman. "There was a little pressure. We haven't won the opening game before so it wasn't on our side to win. We all thought this is a new chapter so it was a fresh start with the new stadium new colors and all that. We all knew it was a big deal. We didn't want headlines to say 'Rapids lose home opener.' Once we got out there the nerves went away and we were able to play."

CHICAGO FIRE
The Chicago Fire made an early goal stand up for a 1-0 home victory against last year's other MLS Cup Finalist the New England Revolution in their season opener Saturday evening. The Fire sit atop the Eastern Conference with three points the only team in the division to win on First Kick 2007.

LAST MATCH
• At Toyota Park the Chicago Fire and New England Revolution were resuming their rivalry that has taken on a fever pitch in recent years with the Revolution knocking the Fire out of the MLS Cup Playoffs each of the last two seasons on their way to the final.
• It took the Fire just four minutes to jump into the lead. Justin Mapp collected a long pass on the right touchline before curling in a low cross to the near post. Fire midfielder Logan Pause and Revolution defender James Riley both challenged for it before the ball deflected past 'keeper Matt Reis inside the far post.
• Chicago goalkeeper Matt Pickens did his part in the second half to make sure the lone goal would stand up twice denying Taylor Twellman -- who also saw a shot come crashing off the crossbar -- and on three occasions denying Andy Dorman two of those saves coming in the dying minutes of the contest.
• Dave Sarachan had his first-choice lineup available and started Justin Mapp as a wide-ranging playmaking midfielder behind the young strike pair of Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe.
• Here's Sarachan's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Pickens - C.J. Brown Jim Curtin Gonzalo Segares - Logan Pause Chris Armas Diego Gutierrez Ivan Guerrero - Justin Mapp (Dasan Robinson 85) - Chad Barrett (Calen Carr 92+) Chris Rolfe (Thiago 77). Substitutes Not Used: Jon Busch Floyd Franks Brian Plotkin Osei Telesford
• "For a first night opening game we get very high passing grades but we certainly have room to improve no question in terms of managing and keeping possession and killing the game off Sarachan said. "We're pleased that we got one under the belt already and we'll go back to work ... and iron some things out."

TEAM NEWS
• The Fire were especially pleased they were able to make the early goal stand up though not without some anxious moments.
• "1-0 - that's the way we wanted to start today. I thought it was a great start for us tonight. Obviously getting an early goal was really critical in our opening game at home Sarachan said. "I thought it was really lively but as the half went on we got a little bit careless. We dodged a couple balls in the box that [Taylor] Twellman almost got his head on. Second half again we had a pretty good start to the half. Obviously [New England] was behind pushing."
• Said defender C.J. Brown: "I felt like we did fairly well. A shutout is always a good sign of that. I think Pickens obviously made some huge saves for us. Defensively I felt we were pretty well organized. We were staying on the forwards. They got a couple free shots but that's a given. You're going to give them one or two a game and Pickens came up big on those."
• For Logan Pause it was his first goal in his 97th career MLS game. "I made a hard near-post run. Justin [Mapp] got around a defender and clipped the ball in. I got a little dink on it with my head and it squeezed in. ... It's nice to get the monkey off my back. Playing in the league for over four years and now getting a goal is a big relief and it's even better because I was able to contribute to the win."
• For Matt Pickens who won the starting goalkeeping job late last season it was his second career shutout. He shut out D.C. United 1-0 Sept. 17 2006. "It is a comfortable for me to that I know that every night that I will be in goal Pickens said. "Playing in Chicago is a great atmosphere and the fans add to the intensity of the game and I feed off that."
• A real key to the Fire scheme was the freedom afforded to Justin Mapp. The lithe playmaker was especially dribbling at Revolution defenders roaming from side to side to find chinks in the New England rearguard.
• "It's something I like and when the coaches give me room to roam I just want to take advantage of that Mapp said to the Daily Southtown. "The latter part of the season last year I had the same kind of role and I was able to do some things. But to come out and do it tonight and get the win that's the most important thing." Said Sarachan: "Game to game we'll see how he fits into the system but people saw tonight what he can do when he finds room. He's very dangerous out there."
• Jim Curtin started in the center of defense just his third start in a league game since May 6 of last season when he suffered a fractured foot that limited him to just six league appearances the rest of the way - though he did start three of the Fire's four matches in their U.S. Open Cup run (and came on as a substitute in the final).
• Before the match the Fire signed goalkeeper Jon Busch who had been placed on waivers by the Columbus Crew. In exchange the Fire gave up a selection in the 2009 Supplemental Draft. Busch has been limited to just 17 appearances over the past two seasons with a couple of knee injuries.