Fire tie FGCU in preseason opener

The Chicago Fire's Marco Pappa and Kwame Watson-Siriboe each netted goals, but Chicago could not hang onto a 2-0 lead and settled for a 2-2 draw in its preseason opener against Florida Gulf Coast University on Thursday at Ave Maria University in Ave Maria, Fla.

The game consisted of three 30-minute periods instead of two 45-minute halves.

"I think we were OK, but we could have done a little better," second-year defender Watson-Siriboe said. "We have trialists and new players and we're still trying to get better every day with each other and know each other's habits."

Chicago's starting lineup included Sean Johnson in the goal; Jalil Anibaba, Josip Mikulic, Cory Gibbs and Gonzalo Segares on defense; Patrick Nyarko, Baggio Husidic, Logan Pause and Daniel Paladini in the midfield; and Gaston Puerari and trialist Gabriel Ferrari at forward.

But it was the second interval of Fire players who generated the game's first two goals, starting with Pappa's 35th-minute tally for a 1-0 lead. Pappa began the attack from the left side, switched the ball to the right to Bratislav Ristic, who then crossed it back in to Pappa for the score.

Watson-Siriboe then pushed the Fire's lead to 2-0 as he headed in a Pappa corner kick from the right side in the 48th minute.

"It was an amazing corner kick from Marco, and I was just able to get away from my defender and head it in," Watson-Siriboe said.

Watson-Siriboe was part of a defensive back line that included Colombian trialist Yoximar Granados, open tryout winner Pari Pantazopoulos and Mexican trialist Michael Muniz. Following a rookie campaign that included seven starts, Watson-Siriboe is hoping to continue his progression within the Fire lineup.

"Physically I was ready -- it's more the mental aspect that I've worked on," Watson-Siriboe said. "Sometimes last year I would play well, but I also had mental lapses. Anytime you get into the pro game, overseas or MLS, you will be physically able to play, but it comes down to your mental ability for 90 minutes."

On Thursday, however, the Fire could not contain the FGCU Eagles for the full 90. FGCU cut the Fire's lead to 2-1 with a goal from sophomore midfielder Andres Navas in the 65th minute against the Fire's third goalkeeper, trialist Alec Dufty. Eagles junior forward Scott Harrison tied the match at 2-2 in the 76th minute on a penalty kick, following a foul by Fire trialist Erik Ustruck.

The Fire's best preseason tests will be the following week when Chicago takes on a pair of MLS foes. The Fire face the New York Red Bulls for a doubleheader on Feb. 23, followed by a match against Seattle Sounders FC on Feb. 26.

Armas nominated for Hall: Former Fire midfielder Chris Armas was nominated for the National Soccer Hall of Fame Class of 2011 on Thursday in his first year of eligibility.

Armas played for the Fire from 1998 to 2007 and was named to the Ring of Fire in 2009. The Brentwood, N.Y., native started in 212 of 214 games, logged 19,018 minutes, and posted 42 assists and eight goals during his 10-year Fire career.