Oduro, shorthanded Fire top Chivas
September, 17, 2011
By Charlie Corr | ESPNChicago.com
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire could not have drawn up a better start. The only question was whether Chicago could finish, especially playing down a man.
In an up-and-down match that included a two-goal lead followed by a level second half, the Fire's Dominic Oduro came to the rescue with a shorthanded, game-winning goal in the 85th minute to lead Chicago to a 3-2 victory over Chivas USA on Saturday in front of 15,246 at Toyota Park.
"These are the kinds of games that are very exciting, for sure," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "Memorable ones, things you can build on. You kind of feel that in the past, maybe the team would not have found a way to pull this one out."
The Fire had to play much of the match down a man when defender Cory Gibbs was issued a red card for fouling Chivas' Michael Lahoud in the 37th minute.
Chicago blew a two-goal lead for the first time this season. But the Fire found an opportunity to garner their third win in four league games when Oduro finished a strong buildup from Diego Chaves and Patrick Nyarko, who had the set-up pass from the left.
David Banks/Getty ImagesThe Fire's Cory Gibbs celebrates his goal with his teammates.
"I looked at first and saw that Dom was wide open," Nyarko said. "I had the other option of shooting, which the goal was a clear chance enough. But I made the easy play. Dom was wide open and he was onside. I laid the ball and he made it for an easy finish."
As for Gibbs' questionable red card, replays showed that the amount of contact looked like it was far less than Lahoud's body language showed during the live run of play.
"It was a hard tackle," Gibbs said. "Would I have given a red? No. Definitely, probably a yellow. But that's the referee's discretion. It was just unprofessional of me at the time, and I hold responsibility for it. The call was made and it was a red. At the end of the day, I hold responsibility for the situation we were put into."
"I know he went hard -- maybe the studs were up," Klopas said. "But I didn't see something different than the one that Patrick was down [in the seventh minute against Chivas defender Michael] Lahoud, because the studs were up on that one, too. I thought it was a little bit harsh, the red, for sure. I thought it was maybe a yellow. But I'd have to see it. I haven't seen the play."
Gibbs will now have to serve a one-game suspension when the Fire host the New England Revolution on Sept. 25 at Toyota Park. On Saturday, Gibbs' provided a strong start for Chicago, heading home a Sebastian Grazzini corner kick in just the second minute for an early 1-0 lead against Chivas.
The Fire then benefited from a Juan Pablo Angel own goal in the 26th to gain a 2-0 lead.
However, Chivas worked its way back into the match with Angel's 61st-minute tally and Nick LaBrocca's 63rd-minute score to tie the score at 2-2.
"I felt we gave up those two goals really easily," Nyarko said. "It was up to us to show our will there, to gut it out. We were just waiting, sitting, waiting for our opportunity to pounce. Luckily we got it toward the end of the game."
The Oduro goal gives him 10 on the season, and he is the first double-digit scorer for the Fire since Damani Ralph in 2004. The goal also gave Gibbs something to cheer about away from the pitch.
"Seeing Oduro score that goal, it almost pulled me out of the grave," Gibbs said. "I was really down on myself."
Analysis: Anything less than a win would have further dampened the Fire's faint playoff chances, but Chicago rose to the occasion on Saturday.
Though the defense did surrender a couple of goals, the back line and, of course, goalkeeper Sean Johnson have to be commended on this one. The back line had to shuffle things around with Gibbs' red, and Johnson continues to impress with some huge saves. He had Angel's number on more than a few occasions en route to six saves on the night.
The loss of Gibbs for New England will be a bit of a setback, but Chicago seems to have things covered when right back Dan Gargan returns from his one-game suspension.