Fire fall to PSG in Sister Cities opener

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire simply did not look like they were ready for their own tournament.

Without a shot on goal in the first 45 minutes and Paris Saint-Germain capitalizing on one of its first-half chances, the French side held on the rest of the way for a 1-0 victory Wednesday in the first-ever Sister Cities International Cup at Toyota Park.

In the nightcap, Red Star Belgrade defeated Legia Warsaw, 1-0.

Sister Cities resumes Saturday, with the Fire taking on Legia Warsaw in a consolation match at 6 p.m. PSG faces Red Star Belgrade afterward to decide the Sister Cities champion.

In the Fire-PSG matchup, Clement Chantome scored the game's lone goal for PSG as both teams trudged through an incredibly slow start attacking-wise. Chantome's goal was a header past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the 14th minute. Ludovic Giuly crossed the ball in from the right side and Chantome headed the ball into the ground toward the middle of the goal. Johnson was moving to his left, but the ball scooted past his feet as PSG netted the 1-0 lead.

"It was a good cross in, a header down to the ground -- obviously I take full responsibility," Johnson said. "I was in good position, and the ball hit a little divot. I should have saved it."

The Fire had some sporadic scoring chances in the second half, and they were close to earning an equalizer in the 86th minute. Fire defender Wilman Conde sent a looping ball over PSG's defense and Chicago's Stefan Dimitrov chest-trapped the ball to himself. He got a foot on the ball with just himself, goalkeeper Edel Apoula and the goal in his path. But Dimitrov's shot went over the crossbar and onto the top netting.

"In the second half, I think we played better," De los Cobos said. "We stayed close to tying the match."

PSG came awfully close to putting the match out of reach in the first half. In the 40th minute, the Fire defense caught a huge break when defender C.J. Brown had a bouncing pass back to Johnson. With the PSG attack closing in, Johnson tried to kick the ball away from danger. PSG intercepted, and Christophe Jallet was in great position to rip a shot at the goal with the Fire defense scrambling. Instead, Jallet passed to Guillaume Hoarau, who was in an offside position on the left side.

The Fire's first shot on goal came in the 48th minute, when forward Collins John's header was saved by PSG midfielder Jeremy Clement at the goal line. Fire midfielder Mike Banner's corner kick from the right side connected with John, who headed the ball low to the ground. But Clement's kick save kept Chicago off the scoreboard.

Analysis: If the Fire did not open the match with the bulk of their regular starters against PSG, there could be some justification to the loss. But Chicago's lone goal allowed came with the regular starters on the pitch, minus Andrew Dykstra. The Fire hovered around midfield for much of that first half, and did not test PSG goalkeeper Edel Apoula once in the first 45 minutes.

Fire rookie goalkeeper Johnson was mildly tested. He did come up with a solid save in the 64th minute, when PSG's Marcos Ceara belted a shot toward the upper right corner. Johnson covered it with a leaping save, batting the ball away for a PSG corner kick that did not amount to anything.

Fire defender Kwame Watson-Siriboe and midfielder Corben Bone saw some playing time. But aside from Watson-Siriboe blocking one deep shot attempt and Bone pelting a PSG player with the ball on one occasion, there was not enough time to analyze their play. Which brings into question what De los Cobos wanted this match to serve as.

He stated that this was a chance to look at some of his backup players, but if they were trying to find something valuable within this match, they're clutching at straws.