Photo by ISIPhotos.com
By THOMAS FLOYD
An early Marco Pappa strike led the Chicago Fire to a 1-0 win over Toronto FC in Saturday's Carolina Challenge Cup opener between two Eastern Conference foes looking to bounce back from missing the playoffs in 2010.
Pappa found the game's lone goal six minutes in when the Guatemalan midfielder collected a feed from Davis Paul and saw his a deflected shot beat Toronto goalkeeper Stefan Frei.
Chicago spent most of the match, played at Blackbaud Stadium in Charleston, S.C., down a man after Logan Pause was shown red in the 36th minute for a slide tackle on Toronto midfielder Oscar Cordon.
But the Fire's rebuilt back line of re-entry draft selection Cory Gibbs, first-round SuperDraft pick Jalil Anibaba and Croatian signing Josip Mikulic, along with substitute Gonzalo Segares, held Toronto off the score sheet.
Here is a roundup of the rest of Saturday's MLS preseason action:
UNITED DOWNS THE BATTERY
Joseph Ngwenya finished a cross from strike partner Josh Wolff in the 71st minute to lift D.C. United to a 2-1 win against the Charleston Battery in the second half of Saturday's Carolina Challenge Cup doubleheader.
Chris Pontius opened the scoring for United when he coolly finished Dax McCarty's fourth-minute through ball. Former United midfielder Stephen Armstrong equalized for Charleston on a penalty kick in the 15 minute.
Striker Charlie Davies logged 11 minutes for United after entering as a late substitute for Wolff. McCarty wore the armband for D.C., marking the first time coach Ben Olsen has selected a captain this preseason.
BRUIN, HOUSTON DEFEAT SMU
Houston Dynamo first-round SuperDraft selection Will Bruin took a significant step forward in his bid to win the starting job alongside veteran forward Brian Ching, notching a hat trick during the Dynamo's 5-0 thrashing of Southern Methodist in Houston.
Bruin, who only played the first half, scored all three of his goals via headers, connecting on Brad Davis corner kicks in the 15th and 30th minutes before nodding home a Mike Chabala cross in the 31st minute.
Davis showed off his set-piece expertise again in the 40th minute when he bended in a 30-yard free kick. Jason Garey, who is competing for playing time up top with Bruin, Cam Weaver and Dominic Oduro, found net with an 87th-minute volley off a Hunter Freeman feed.
CHIVAS USA FALLS TO UCLA
It was a good day for Bruins all around, as UCLA picked up a 2-1 win over Chivas USA in Carson, Calif.
Alan Gordon's close-range finish in the 23rd minute gave Chivas an early lead. But Chandler Hoffman equalized for the Bruins shortly before halftime, and a 76th-minute penalty kick from UCLA's Andy Rose proved to be the difference.
Chivas striker Justin Braun saw his first preseason action after suffering an Achilles injury in January's U.S. national team camp.
FC DALLAS CRUISES AGAINST SAHUAROS
FC Dallas rolled to a 7-0 victory over the Arizona Sahuaros after exploding for six goals in the first half of its scrimmage against the amateur side in Phoenix.
Milton Rodriguez bagged a brace while Eric Avila, Jackson, David Ferreira, Marvin Chavez and Ruben Luna also scored for the Hoops.
Will Chicago's new-look defense help get the Fire back to the playoffs? Is McCarty the right pick for captain in D.C.? Does Bruin deserve to start next to Ching for Houston?
Share your thoughts below.