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Fire Cruises Past Kansas City, 5-1

August 15, 2002 - Major League Soccer (MLS) - Chicago Fire News Release

Naperville, IL (Wednesday, August 14, 2002) - The Chicago Fire drubbed the Kansas City Wizards 5-1 tonight in front of a season-high and Wednesday night team record of 15,919 raucous Fire fans at Cardinal Stadium at North Central College in Naperville, IL. The Fire had five different goal scorers tally in the contest, moving into first-place in the Eastern Conference with a record of 9-9-4 for 31 points. The Columbus Crew (9-10-4, 31 points) defeated the Los Angeles Galaxy earlier tonight, 3-2, but the Fire currently holds the tiebreaker with the Crew. The game also was the first ever with Fire forwards Ante Razov, Hristo Stoitchkov, and Josh Wolff all in the starting lineup.

"The most important thing is the way we responded to giving up an early goal," said Fire Head Coach Bob Bradley. "It shows that there is still some fight left in these guys. It would have been easy coming off of a game where we were really unhappy with the way we played against Dallas (last Saturday). Now we found ourselves down so early. It would have been easy to see them lose it a little bit, but at that point it was a real strong push and that says a lot."

The Fire got the game-winning goal in the 15th minute, when Wolff calmly slotted home a goal behind Kansas City goalkeeper Tony Meola to put Chicago up 2-1. Razov fed rookie Kelly Gray up the right wing, and the Portland product dribbled into the box, finding Wolff at the far post as he raced away from Wizards defender Mike Burns and poked home his fifth goal of the season. Wolff later left the game in the 55th minute, after suffering an injury to his right knee. The U.S. World Cup member will undergo an MRI tomorrow for further evaluation.

"It was good to get back in the lineup," said Gray, who made his first start in three games. "I am just trying to give it my best. I have a lot of support and I am just glad I could help them out."

The visitors scored first in the 8th minute after KC forward Dario Fabbro's close-range shot was thwarted by Fire goalkeeper Zach Thornton, and the rebound fell right to Preki, who blasted his shot past Thornton to give Kansas City a 1-0 lead early in the game. The Fire countered the effort with a goal by World Cup starlet DaMarcus Beasley, in the 12th minute. Stoitchkov laid off a pass to Gray, who found Beasley at the top of the box. The Fire's prodigy fought off a challenge by K.C.'s Nick Garcia and buried a shot into the lower right corner past the lead-footed Meola.

"We were able to posses the ball and I was able to make a diagonal run," said Beasley. "Kelly saw me and I was yelling at him and he played a great ball. I tried to cut Nick Garcia back inside and I saw Tony cheating to the near post, so I hit it to the far one. I thought Kelly had a heck of a game tonight. He is my man of the match."

Chicago poured on the goals to mark its highest offensive output of the season and most since destroying the Wizards 7-0 on July 4, 2001. In the 44th minute, Stoitchkov scored a spectacular goal to make it 3-1 after collecting a long-ball on the right wing from Wolff. The Bulgarian World Cup star dribbled in alone on Meola as he charged out and flicked the ball over the 'keeper. He darted around Meola, outran the oncoming defenders, and slotted a shot into the wide-open net for a one of the most splendid goals of the season and his second in consecutive games.

Chicago scored two late goals in the 88th minute and in injury time. The first came from the Fire's Dema Kovalenko as he scored his first goal of the season. The latter was Razov's team-leading 12th of the season on a 20-yard direct kick that he ripped into the lower left corner past backup K.C. goalkeeper Bo Oshoniyi. The Fire was awarded the set piece when Garcia took down Beasley as he raced in alone on Meola. Garcia was issued a red card for stopping a goal scoring opportunity and minutes later Meola was issued his second yellow card of the game for dissent, resulting in a red card, while arguing with the referee. The goal and assist on the game moved Razov into a third-place tie with Dallas' Jason Kreis on the MLS scoring chart with 12 goals and five assists for 29 points.

The Fire increased its all-time record against the Wizards to 11-2-0 (7-0-0 at home) and has won all three contests, since losing a 1-0 heartbreaker at MLS Cup 2000 and has outscored KC 14-1 in those games. Thornton's six-save performance increased his personal record against KC to 11-1-0, with a minuscule 0.75 goals against average.

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