Mexico's national team goalkeeper was the focal point forthe 86 minutes he spent in goal and the four he spent as a fieldplayer Friday night, but the Fire still absorbed its third straight1-0 loss before 24,661 at Soldier Field.
This one was administered by the New York/New JerseyMetroStars, who came into the game 0-3 and without Tab Ramos andMarcelo Vega, two of their top players.Ramos is recovering from knee surgery. Vega, a Chilenational team member, hasn't reported. Goalkeeper Tony Meola,however, notched his 15th career shutout - a Major League Soccerrecord."We're clearly a frustrated group," Fire coach Bob Bradleysaid. "Going three games without a goal is disappointing. In otherways, our overall play was OK, but that doesn't mean anything if youcan't convert it into goals."The game produced the first victory for MetroStars' headcoach Alfonso Mondelo, Bradley's first choice as his assistant coach.Mondelo rejected an offer from the Fire to stay in his native NewYork, and the MetroStars later hired him.Campos' presence helped the Fire draw the third-bestsecond-game home crowd for any of Major League Soccer's 12 teams, butthat was small consolation. Fire general manager Peter Wilt washopeful for 20,000, which seemed conservative after 36,444 showed forits first home game two weeks ago without Campos.The goalkeeper's preparation for his first Fire appearanceleft something to be desired. Campos was was supposed to bring hisown uniforms, but reportedly gave them to youngsters in Los Angelesearlier in the week. He picked up bright yellow jersey and shorts atNike Town Friday morning. The jersey was a Brazil field uniform witha Fire patch sewn over the logo, and the shorts were University ofMichigan style without lettering.Campos also wasn't prepared for an early free kick by theMetroStars.Kerry Zavagnin hit it in the 14th minute and found AlexiLalas unmarked and boring in on Campos. With no defender to help,the 5-6 Campos challenged the 6-3 Lalas on a header, and it was nocontest. Lalas headed the ball into an open net, giving theMetroStars the first goal for the first time in their four matches."I came over a little late, and Lalas was able to get it overme," Campos said.Jorge Salcedo, a Fire midfielder, called it "a fluke goal"and criticized the MetroStars' defensive style after it was scored."They didn't come to play," Salcedo said. "They snuck outwith a win that they shouldn't have." The MetroStars set a teamrecord with 29 fouls.Lalas, a defender on the United States national team in histhird MLS season, predicted Campos will help the Fire as soon as he'savailable full-time. "He'll help them on and off the field," Lalassaid. "I'd pay money to see him."The MetroStars' scoring play was similar to the one thatbeat the Fire in San Jose on Saturday. Only the personnel wasdifferent. San Jose's Ronald Cerritos challenged for a head ballwith Zach Thornton in the Fire net and defender C.J. Brown also nearthe play. Cerritos headed over Thornton.Lalas had an easier opportunity. No defender was near him.Francis Okaroh was assigned to cover him, but he had fouled EduardoHurtado to set up the free kick.Lubos Kubik, who had been guarding (marking) Hurtado, switchedto Lalas. "But he couldn't keep up with him," Bradley said.The Fire had more shots (17-8), more shots on goal (4-2),more possessions in the box (21-7) and more possession time (62percent to 38 percent). Still, the first-year team fell below .500for the first time. Campos, who has yet to practice with histeammates, wasn't fazed."The team is very well structured," he said. "I'm happy tobe with the team. Unfortunately, the goal didn't fall for us. Butwe have a good future. The team will come together."