Chicago Fire forward and Arlington Heights native Brian McBride capped off his 17-year professional career with a stylish, world-class goal. McBride and Fire defender C.J. Brown each played in their final match as Chicago topped Chivas USA, 4-1, on Saturday at The Home Depot Center in Carson, Calif.
Both players are retiring after memorable careers on the pitch. Brown has played for the Fire in all of their 13 seasons.
"Our guys played for the jersey and pride," Brown said. "It was a good effort all the way around."
On Saturday, McBride notched his 80th tally in MLS play, a back-heel shot in the 40th minute, as the Fire went on to score a season-high four goals. McBride was set up by Freddie Ljungberg, who had a goal and an assist for the Fire (9-12-9).
"Brian was a big player, a true professional," Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said. "All the players want to leave in the last match like Brian did tonight, scoring a great goal and helping the team win."
Ljungberg did the brunt of the work to set up McBride's tally, getting past a pair of Chivas defenders on the right side, then crossing the ball toward McBride. McBride made his run toward the near right post within the goal box against Chivas defender Carlos Borja. As McBride fended off Borja, he took Ljungberg's pass and back-heeled the ball with his right foot, finding the inside of the far left post for a 1-0 lead.
The Fire added to their lead in the 47th minute with a Ljungberg goal. Peter Lowry sent the ball up and found Marco Pappa on the left side. Pappa beat Chivas' Mariano Trujillo one-on-one and sent the ball toward the penalty-kick spot. His pass bypassed McBride and Ljungberg struck the ball to the right set of the net for a 2-0 lead.
In the 57th minute, Giancarlo Maldonado's header goal cut Chivas' deficit to 2-1. Sal Zizzo sent the ball in from the right side, where he had plenty of space, and Fire defender Deris Umanzor did not get there in time to pressure. Maldonado got behind Brown and received the cross, heading the ball to keep Chivas (8-18-4) in the match.
But Chicago maintained some distance the rest of the way. In the 68th minute, Logan Pause sent the ball forward as Calen Carr was ruled even with Chivas' back line as he made the run forward. Carr, who replaced McBride in the 51st minute, had a slightly strong touch on the dribble and Thornton decided to come out to challenge. But Carr maintained possession, faked like he was going to send to Pappa and instead dribbled around Thornton and shot the ball into the empty net for a 3-1 lead.
Second-half substitution Baggio Husidic capped off the scoring in second-half stoppage time with a header to take a 4-1 lead. Pappa had the attack and forced Thornton to make the save. But in typical Husidic fashion, the Libertyville native and former University of Illinois-Chicago standout was in the right place to head the ball into the empty net for his fifth goal of the season.
Analysis: The Fire's key players stepped up against Chivas -- Ljungberg was incredibly active from start to finish. McBride had a solid strike. Fire defender Wilman Conde's header clearances were crucial at times, though on some occasions early on Chivas was able to generate some long shots from these clearances because the Fire midfield couldn't progress the ball further.
Most of the focus was on the Fire's retiring duo. Chivas' Jonathan Bornstein also said farewell to MLS as he heads to Tigres UANL of the Mexican First Division.
Lost in the shuffle was the return of rookie Fire goaltender Sean Johnson, who had missed three previous matches because of an eye injury. Johnson made five saves on the night.
So the campaign ends much earlier than normal for the Fire. There is no postseason. There is no winning record. There are now a pair of veteran players who will not be back in the fold.
For a second straight year, a busy offseason awaits for Chicago. Clearly, missing the playoffs for only the second time in the organization's history is a huge disappointment.
The Fire went out the right way on Saturday, but plenty of important personnel -- and perhaps coaching -- decisions await.