Early surge helps Fire edge Revs
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire made an early push on the offensive end, and they needed every goal to overcome a late lapse on the defensive end against the New England Revolution on Sunday. Chicago tallied three first-half goals and edged the Revs, 3-2, in front of 14,576 at Toyota Park.
Fire midfielder Sebastian Grazzini had a goal and an assist before leaving the match in the 25th minute because of left hamstring tightness. Dominic Oduro netted his team-leading 11th goal, and Patrick Nyarko's first goal of the season proved to be the game-winner as the Fire took a 3-0 lead into halftime.
It was a much needed victory for Chicago in order to stay within reach of the bottom of the wild card pack. The New York Red Bulls moved back into the final wild card position on Saturday with 39 points after posting a 2-0 win over the Portland Timbers.
"There was a lot on the line -- do or die, I think, for both clubs," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "We came out and we had a very good start to the game."
The Fire (6-8-15, 33 points) still have to make up a six-point deficit over five games, and they will not have much time to rest as they travel to Rio Tinto Stadium to take on Real Salt Lake. As for the Revs (5-13-12, 27 points), their hopes for the postseason have just about faded, though the last-place Eastern Conference squad has not mathematically been eliminated just yet.
Grazzini was having a strong match with a goal and an assist. But he was replaced by Baggio Husidic after he hurt his hamstring.
"I just got a little stiff," Grazzini said. "The same as the [Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup] game against Richmond. I feel all right, but I'm going to try to work hard to get back as soon as possible."
It is hard to say if Grazzini can make a quick enough recovery in time for the Fire's Wednesday match at Real Salt Lake.
"I'm not sure because I haven't been looked at by the doctors yet," Grazzini said through a translator. "But hopefully [Monday] we'll be able to get that taken care of, and then hopefully be back by Wednesday because I would like to play."
"I don't know the extent or how serious the pull is," Klopas said. "But we'll have to see how he feels [Monday]."
On Sunday, Grazzini netted a penalty-kick goal in the fifth minute for a 1-0 lead. The Fire earned the opportunity after Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis tripped up Nyarko in the fourth minute. Grazzini then assisted an Oduro goal in the ninth minute for a 2-0 advantage. Grazzini had a couple of chances to slot the ball to Oduro as the Revs' defense broke down in tracking Oduro.
Nyarko then got into the scoring column in the 30th minute with an open-net goal after Reis made a poor attempt to clear the ball with his foot. That gave the Fire a 3-0 halftime lead for the first time at home since a 4-0 victory over the Revs on April 3, 2008.
The Fire maintained their three-goal cushion for most of the second half, but Revs midfielder Ryan Guy tallied an unassisted score in the 90th minute, followed by his second goal a couple minutes into stoppage time.
"We're kicking ourselves a little bit because we made it a little tougher on ourselves at the end," Nyarko said. "But it's a win. We set the tone early and we got ahead early. That was the key in this game. We still had a couple of chances to put the game away, but that's how it goes."
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson actually was tested pretty regularly, but he had a beat on most of New England's scoring chances, coming up with a game-high eight saves. His counterpart, Reis, made three saves.
Analysis: The Fire will take the closing minutes to heart, but this match clearly was in Chicago's control. Chicago had its most productive first half of the season, while the Revs looked every bit like a non-playoff team that they are about to become.
The Fire should be concerned that Grazzini has not had a healthy stretch with the Fire. While Husidic did not have a poor performance on Sunday off the bench, it is not even fair to compare him against what Grazzini brings to the pitch with his control and the ability to create scoring opportunities.
Klopas smartly gave Oduro and Nyarko some rest in the second half in gearing up for Salt Lake this Wednesday. RSL will be eager to erase its horrific 4-1 loss to D.C. United over the weekend.