With the Eastern Conference leaders New York Red Bulls coming to town, Chicago provided the perfect setting for a soccer match with a packed crowd at Toyota Park on an absolutely gorgeous day. The result? Not so perfect. Marco Pappa equalized for the Fire with a superbly taken goal from outside the box in the 58th minute, but prior to that the Fire had yet to find any luck in front of goal. Pappa’s 5th goal of the season changed that and also sent Toyota Park into a frenzy. Joel Lindpere had opened the scoring late in the first half after Yamith Cuesta failed to properly cope with a defense-splitting through ball from Thierry Henry.
“It’s just about starting off on the right foot so we can control the flow the of the game,” Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson said. “It’s difficult coming from a goal down.”
The Red Bulls, coming off a 4-2 loss in Seattle, could have led by more at the half but Sean Johnson did well to keep the Fire in it with several fine saves. The save of the bunch arrived early in the first half, Henry found Dane Richards in space on the break and his one-time shot was tipped over the bar by Johnson to keep the scores level.
The Fire were quick to respond. Husidic did well to control a long ball near the edge of the box before laying off to Barouch, who ripped a fierce volley over the crossbar. Barouch then followed that up with a low drive from the left side of the penalty box, but his shot on this occasion fizzled harmlessly wide. Seconds later New York was on the attack. De Rosario created space outside the Fire penalty box with a neat turn before laying the ball off to Richards, whose powerful one-time shot was well saved by Johnson.
With just over a half hour played, the Fire came closest to finding a goal so far. A fantastic cut back by Nyarko provided the Ghanaian with space to send in a deep cross towards a wide open Barouch. The Israeli forward’s soft header had Coundoul grounded, only for the ball to bounce inches wide of the far post; a painful miss for a player who has come incredibly close to scoring on a number of occasions in the past few weeks.
The Red Bulls goal would arrive five minutes for the break and at a cruel time for the men in red, who had been causing pressure prior to the goal. The Fire came out of the break intent on finding an equalizer, which they eventually did through Pappa’s fine effort from outside the area. The goal would galvanize the Fire, but the home side were still unable to find the crucial tie-breaker.
New York came close to doing just that in the 72nd minute. After Richards earned the visitors a corner kick, Stephen Keel met De Rosario’s corner kick with a diving header that flew just wide of the post. Diego Chaves, who had entered the match for Barouch immediately following Pappa’s goal, came close to making his mark with a goal but Coundoul was equal to his low drive at the near post.
Both teams pressed for a winner with no luck, although Nyarko had Toyota Park on the edge of their seats with a dangerous run at the New York defense only to fire his shot wide of the post. Oduro managed to do the same in stoppage time, but like Nyarko, his shot was off target.
“‘It’s been a while since I played up front,” Dominic Oduro said. “I’m still getting adjusted to making runs behind the defense. But after a couple training sessions we’ll get it together and I think it will be an excellent role.”
In the end, the Fire can feel proud of coming from a goal down to equalize, but will rue what is now their sixth consecutive home draw.
Shots: Chicago – 14 New York – 8
Shots on goal: Chicago – 5 New York – 4
Saves: Chicago – 3 New York – 4
Fouls: Chicago – 13 New York – 13
Corner kicks: Chicago – 6 New York 4
Offsides: Chicago – 2 New York 7