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Fire, Whitecaps muster lackluster draw

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos stands by his approach -- possession game, attractive soccer and offensive-minded soccer.

The Fire handled the possession aspect on Saturday against the expansion Vancouver Whitecaps. The clear problem was that Chicago had no final touch and played to a scoreless draw in front of 11,680 at Toyota Park.

The Fire (1-4-4) are winless in six straight games.

"I want to play football," De los Cobos said. "For me, it's very easy to put the ball forward with long balls, but I don't like it. I'm going to die with my idea, with my philosophy to play. It's possible to happen whenever. I believe in myself. I believe in my players."

The theme on Saturday was missed chances, but they were amplified by the fact that Chicago had plenty of space to work with and high-percentage scoring chances throughout the night. The Fire's productivity, however, resulted in only a 4-2 shots on goal advantage over the Whitecaps.

In the first half when Dominic Oduro lofted a shot over the crossbar at close range in the 32nd minute, and at the time it was the best scoring chance for either side. Marco Pappa played a perfect ball to Oduro, who then attacked toward the left side of the box, cut inside to his right and lost the Whitecaps' defense. Oduro had only Whitecaps goalkeeper Jay Nolly in his way, but his shot toward the upper left of the frame sailed over the bar and into the Section 8 crowd.


In the 44th minute, Diego Chaves hit the right post as Oduro and then Pappa worked the ball from right to left to create Chaves' scoring chance. Chaves had another close call in the 18th minute when Chaves and a pair of Whitecaps defenders converged on Oduro's send toward the box. Chaves took a spill, and whether or not there was contact, Vancouver defender Alain Rochat disrupted the play.

In the 64th minute, Corben Bone had a strike shortly after a Pappa free kick, but Bone's shot also sailed over the crossbar. Chaves and Gaston Puerari also had some second-half strikes that reached the fans and did not go on frame.

"I think we had control of the game, maybe 70, 75 minutes, but at the end of the game we had some problems," De los Cobos said. "We feel some frustration because we had opportunities to win this match. We lost some order, and we have all the time in the game."

The Whitecaps (1-3-4) rarely got into the offensive third with a dangerous threat, but in the 75th minute, Eric Hassli had an opportunity that might have been better than Oduro's. Hassli received the ball from Davide Chiumiento as he stayed even with the Fire's back line and found himself with plenty of space against Fire goalkeeper Joe Conway. Hassli attempted to fake out Conway and attack to the left, but his maneuver -- if it even qualifies as a maneuver -- was ineffective and Conway snagged the ball.

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was not part of the bench roster because of a right quad injury, so Alec Dufty was the backup to Conway. Midfielder Patrick Nyarko also was missing because of an undisclosed illness that has lingered for the past several days. Fire defender Cory Gibbs, who rejoined the team in full training on Thursday following a hamstring injury, did not dress Saturday.

Analysis: The Fire went with the same starting lineup in back-to-back games for the first time this season. So the combination of playing a poor Whitecaps side and the Fire having some continuity on their own side had to play a big factor in their possession game.

But Chicago wasted plenty of key scoring chances, taking 12 shots in all, but only putting four on frame. The Fire had more than enough room to work with as the Whitecaps defense sagged back on a regular basis.

Oduro's finishing has been brought into question before his Fire tenure, but his first-half chance with only Nolly in his way was a chance that needed to be a goal. Chaves' chance at least hit the frame, but that too would have changed the game. Minimally, the Fire should have produced a 2-0 halftime lead, but the Whitecaps escaped with a point on the road.

The Fire's lack of productivity with their final touch or two created a match that was painstaking to watch. And the brand of ball that De los Cobos wants to play has not come to fruition.

While possession and build-up are keys toward an attractive brand of soccer, the team's lack of offense Saturday was not attractive soccer. Only four shots on goal while the team has the ball at its feet for most of the game was not attractive soccer. Botching fantastic scoring opportunities against an expansion side that was ineffective was not attractive soccer.

Chicago was the better side against Vancouver. But considering the Fire's profound absence of finishing, their scoreless draw was a just result.