Blanco's goal during stoppage time ties Chicago with Real Salt Lake 1-1

Blanco's goal during stoppage time ties Chicago with Real Salt Lake 1-1

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SALT LAKE CITY (AP) -- Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored in the second minute of stoppage time to give the Chicago Fire a 1-1 tie with Real Salt Lake on Saturday in both teams' season opener.

Bakary Soumare's own goal in the 71st minute gave Real Salt Lake the 1-0 lead. Real Salt Lake's Dema Kovalenko whipped the ball into the penalty box and Soumare's attempted clearance went past goalkeeper Jon Busch into the net.

Real Salt Lake nearly scored again in the 82nd minute, but Busch saved Kovalenko's volley off a corner kick.

Real Salt Lake has never won an opener, having gone 0-1-2 in its three previous seasons.

Real Salt Lake had a 6-0 advantage in shots on goal in the first half. Chicago didn't get its first shot on goal until the 65th minute, when Real Salt Lake goalkeeper Nick Rimando saved Gonzalo Segares' shot.

That was the Fire's only shot on goal other than Blanco's score. Rimando stayed active, though, intercepting crosses and clearing the ball from danger. He collided with Chicago's Andy Herron in the 85th minute while punching the ball away.

Real Salt Lake finished with nine shots on goal and 17 total shots while the Fire had eight total shots.



On Cuauhtémoc Blanco's goal in second half stoppage tome:

"I thought our guys did a fantastic job playing the game; they took a lot of chances. And then at the end it's a special player who makes one special goal. It wasn't about a breakdown on our part or a bad mistake in our penalty box. It was about one special player who made one special play and didn't do really anything else the entire game - except run around and whine."

On RSL's failures to convert more chances around the goal:

"It's just a bit of an unfortunate situation in those games when you don't finish your chances. Really, when we get into the 88th minute we should be two or three up."

On whether he was frustrated by Chicago's "bunker mentality":

"No, because that's soccer. It's soccer, and we all know it's soccer. Our players had a good notion that that was going to be the case, and it was, so that's soccer. And no disrespect to Chicago, that's the game plan. They came away with what they wanted, which was one point."


On having the better of the play vs. Chicago:

"I thought we had our possession. We outshot them, but if you keep a team like that one-nothing down you need to find that last goal, that killer goal, to put them away. Unfortunately we didn't today."

On the differences between this year's opener compared to last season's:

"We're definitely a different team from last year. Unfortunately we didn't come up with the three points today, but we have to look forward to next week and go to a good team, at Chivas (USA), and try to get the three points there."


On what he remembers about the equalizer scored by Chicago MF Cuauhtémoc Blanco:

"That he shot the ball and it went in the back of the net, and they tied the game. It's one of those things where we dominate the whole game - I think the fans saw how good we were - but one crazy play like that, and he gets his foot on it and it goes in the back of the net. That's all he needs."

On next week's match with Chivas USA

"I think last year we would've had our heads down. This year the team knows how good we played. Going into next week I think we're going to show again that we are a contender in this league. This is the first game of our new season, and the next game's another game and that's where our focus is right now."

On the play of the RSL defense:

"It was kind of weird out there, where I didn't have to make six or seven saves a game. [RSL DF Nat] Borchers was strong in the air. Organization-wise, we were, I think, perfect. You know, a missed clear and they get the goal. I think all in all, our defense went in there and did exactly what Robin [Frasier] and Jason [Kreis] wanted us to do."


On RSL's mindset following the game:

"This is my first year, you know, and we've got a locker room with our heads down. No, this is not going to happen like this. Whatever happened last year is gone. This is a new team, like [Head Coach] Jason [Kreis] said, these are new players and this is not going to happen again.

On moving forward after the draw:

"This is a game, we win as a team and lose as a team and it's nobody's fault, we just have to do better. This is no exception, we have to do better than that. This can't happen… we're disappointed. We've just got to work hard this week, go to Chivas (USA) and do better. This is not acceptable. We lose as a team and win as a team, and we've got to do better… and we will."

On bringing energy to the field as a second half substitute:

"I'm always excited to play, but when you get in, I don't know, 20 minutes, you're just trying make something happen. Bring some energy to the guys, because they've played 70 minutes. It doesn't matter, it's disappointing today, but we've got to move on. We know we have a good team, a good group of guys. No superstars involved here. We just have to get better this week and move on. This is done, it's only going to get better."


On what he learned in his first official game as head coach of the Fire:

"I've been around long enough and in enough games like this where you just keep believing in your guys and keep hopefully making the right moves and today we did. We came on at the end and got a great goal by Cuauhtémoc."

On bringing a point back to Chicago:

"The idea on the road is you get three or one, and we did tonight, but it took us until the end to get the point. It's never easy to come in and play in a team's home opener because we knew they were going to put a lot into it, and we were able to withstand that and come out and take the point away."

On the lack of foul calls by the referee in a physical first half:

"I felt like it was that way for both teams. We felt like, ‘You know what, it's a real game and we have to deal with it,' and I thought for the most part our guys adjusted well in the second half."


On his late-game equalizer:

"It was a good goal, and I got to share it with my teammates, which is the most important thing. We worked hard together and we got one point out of it."


On returning to the field as a first-choice ‘keeper:

"It was nice to get back in the swing of things. To know that the job is mine to lose this year and being healthy, it's just great. It gives me a new appreciation for playing again. I still take it seriously but I have fun because I went through two years of, to be honest, hell, for me. I'd get on the field for 8 or 9 games and then I'd have another injury."

On his play tonight:

"I thought I got into a good rhythm in the first half and saw a couple of routine saves that got me relaxed and into the game. It was good for a first game, and the guys in front of me took very good care of me, I've got to take my hat off to them. They made it easy for me to settle in and do my job."


On escaping Salt Lake with a point:

"It was a difficult day for us in regards of generating play. It was a difficult surface, it was windy, and we knew that RSL was going to come out and press us from the beginning, but we were able to withstand their attacking play in the first half. I think with Cuauhtemoc making the play at the end we will leave Salt Lake satisfied with this outing."

On Blanco's ability to come through in the clutch:

"What can you say about a guy like that? I don't know how many games of high pressure - World Cups, World Cup qualifiers - that he's played in front of packed houses, so he's used to that type of attention and pressure and he relishes being in that spot. We're thankful he's on our team, but we have to surround him with better service and put him in better spots and I'm convinced that will come out throughout our season."

(Copyright 2008 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.) APTV-03-29-08 1842MDT

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