The Chicago Fire's layoff did not cool down midfielder Marco Pappa. He netted his fourth goal in three games as Chicago defeated the New England Revolution, 1-0, on Sunday night in Major League Soccer action at Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. The Fire have a five-game unbeaten streak.
The 22-year-old Guatemalan already has surpassed his goals total of a year ago with a team-high six tallies this season. Pappa's goal came in the 30th minute when he eluded New England's Shalrie Joseph with a hesitation move, then cranked a 30-yard shot past Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis. Reis dove to his right, but could not get much more than a glove tip on the ball.
Chicago (4-3-5) looked like it padded its lead to 2-0 in the 43rd minute. Fire target forward Brian McBride had a header off of Pappa's corner kick. New England's Sainey Nyassi stood just behind the goal line on the far left post when McBride's header bounced off of Nyassi's legs. Replays did not confirm whether the entire ball crossed the plane, and the Revs stayed within one goal.
New England (3-8-2) had an abundance of scoring chances -- several through Zack Schilawski in the first half -- and Nyassi's 61st-minute attempt when he manuevered around Fire defender Wilman Conde and shot just wide right of the net.
But the Fire defense and goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra kept New England off the scoreboard. It was Dykstra's third clean sheet of the season as he came up with six saves.
Despite the Fire going into a defensive mode toward the end of the match, New England's best opportunities actually came in the first half. Schilawski could have burned the Fire early on, and getting through that first half unscathed was pretty significant for Chicago.
In the 10th minute, the Revs smartly took their free kick while Chicago still was organizing itself, and it led to a Schilawski shot that deflected off of Conde and went to Dykstra. In 24th minute, Schilawski had a header that went wide left as he beat the Fire defense. And in the 37th minute, Schilawski had a header that went over the crossbar, and the Fire left him unmarked.
A clean sheet is a clean sheet, and it does not really matter if the journey to get it had its rough patches.
The Fire showed some poise toward the end, and Dykstra's play also improved in the final minutes. The first-year No. 1 goalkeeper still is going to have a few scary moments here and there, but Dykstra had some confident moments toward the end when he stepped up to fend off crosses and dangerous sends into the box.
Chicago is in the thick of the East and pulled off a road win against a conference foe. You can't ask for much more than that.