For Aston Villa left back Eric Lichaj, Saturday night's 1-0 victory against the Chicago Fire at Toyota Park represented one last visit home before the English Premier League season begins next month.
"It felt good playing in front of my parents and my brothers," the Downers Grove native said, "because they haven't seen me play live -- especially in Chicago -- so it was a good feeling."
Lichaj started and played 57 minutes of the international friendly and was a big part of shutting out the punchless Fire, whose attack continues to struggle. The Fire has managed just 2 goals in its last five MLS games, and Saturday marked the third straight match it was shut out.
"Eric's come in and done really fine at left back, which is not his usual position," Aston Villa coach Paul Lambert said.
"The way we played I thought we could have dominated, maybe could have created a few more chances," Lichaj said. "But it's all right. We got the win, and that's what we wanted."
Lichaj said he spent the EPL off-season at home "chilling with my brothers," but "after a month and stuff I get itchy to be back."
Lichaj wasn't the only local guy to take the field in an Aston Villa uniform. Goalkeeper Brad Guzan of southwest suburban Homer Glen came on in the 79th minute for starter Shay Given and finished the shutout.
The Fire started just four players who began Wednesday's league match at New York and brought on seven substitutes in the second half.
"For us it was an opportunity for some guys to continue to have some rhythm, since we don't have a league game this week," said Fire coach Frank Klopas, whose team resumes league play next Saturday at San Jose after Wednesday's All-Star Game, "and obviously an opportunity for some other players to get 45 minutes, 60 minutes in and make sure that they're in a position where they're ready to help out in case we need them."
"I'm happy with the effort of the players, and we walked away luckily with no injuries."
The game's only goal came in the 29th minute, when Aston Villa's Gabriel Agbonlahor beat Fire defender Arne Friedrich to a Chris Herd cross and headed it past goalkeeper Jay Nolly from 6 yards out.
"It was good. It was good for a lot of the younger guys, guys that are in the league for the first year to play a team like this," Klopas said.
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