With three precious points appearing to be cruelly slipping away from the Chicago Fire, as well as any hopes of qualifying for the playoffs, the men in red dug deep and snatched a late and dramatic winner against Chivas USA to secure a 3-2 win at Toyota Park on Saturday afternoon.
It was the type of match that could have and most likely would have ended in a draw earlier in the season. But not anymore, this team has heart. This team has character. And as a result, this team has an unyielding desire to right the wrongs from earlier this season and make a push for the playoffs. After all, the Fire have now won three consecutive matches at home and have only lost once in the last seven matches.
In a match full of drama from start to finish, Cory Gibbs headed the Fire into the lead just two minutes into the match after climbing highest at the back post on a corner kick. Chicago doubled its advantage in the 26th minute courtesy of a Juan Pablo Angel own-goal, ensuring the Fire scored two goals or more at home for just the fifth time this season.
The drama would really start to set in ten minutes later as Gibbs was sent off for a tackle on Michael Lahoud. The former USA International may have come in late, but Lahoud’s reaction made the foul appear worse than it was. With a man advantage, Chivas USA would make the numbers count in the second half with two goals in quick succession on the hour mark. After being denied by a brilliant save by Sean Johnson minutes earlier, Angel scored with a low drive to cut the lead in half and set the stage for a well taken equalizer just two minutes later through Nick LaBrocca.
Down to ten men and surrendering a two goal lead, thoughts of a third consecutive league home win suddenly vanished as the confidence around Toyota Park quickly evaporated. Suddenly, the already faint hopes of qualifying for the playoffs were replaced with thoughts of gaining consolation through the US Open Cup. How could the team let a two goal lead slip? How, just when the season seemed to be changing for the better, could the Fire throw away a two goal lead and a much needed three points? Through determination and undeniable character, Chicago ensured those questions would become irrelevant.
After LaBroca’s equalizer, the Fire refused to get down on themselves and instead continued to push forward in search of a winner. Oduro wasted a golden opportunity in the 75th minute. The Ghanaian beat two Chivas defenders, rounded Kennedy, but was only able to find the side netting when Patrick Nyarko was wide open in the middle of the penalty box. Despite that miss, I knew, I just knew, that if there was going to be anyone who was going to rescue the Fire, it was going to be Dominic Oduro A tenth goal of the season seemed like destiny. A fifth win of the season seemed like fate.
Sure enough, ten minutes after that miss, Oduro tapped home from three yards out to clinch all three points for the Chicago Fire following some brilliant play by substitute Diego Chaves and a great, unselfish pass from Patrick Nyarko. Looking at the picture below, it’s clearly evident that Nyarko could have gone for goal himself. Instead, unselfishness was the name of the game and the Oduro reaped the benefits.
“Before the game I told Patrick if there’s a breakaway you better give me the ball,” said Oduro after the match. Good thing Nyarko listened!
So there it is, the Fire did what would have been considered the unthinkable a few months ago and secured all three points against all odds. Instead of shooting themselves in the foot, the team proved they have the desire and the determination to push for the playoffs. Some will view it as a lost cause, but good luck trying to tell that to this group of guys. Carry on Chicago!