Unlikely Hero: Pavel Pardo scored the game-winning goal off a free kick for the Chicago Fire against the Vancouver Whitecaps on Saturday night. The goal was Pardo's first of the season.
After perhaps their worst performance of the season last Sunday, the pressure was on the Chicago Fire to turn things around.
The Men in Red responded.
A Pavel Pardo goal off a free kick early in the first half was the difference as the Fire were able to overcome a late red card to Arne Friedrich to knock off the Vancouver Whitecaps 1-0 in front of 16,820 fans at Toyota Park.
The Fire now have 31 points through 19 games, which moves them level on points but behind on goal differential with current Eastern Conference third-place side New York Red Bulls, who the Fire play on Wednesday afternoon.
The Fire started out with some much need energy and were rewarded with their first goal in two matches.
After midfielder Patrick Nyarko was taken down by Whitecaps defender Jun Marques Davidson, midfielder Pavel Pardo stepped up on the ensuing free kick and delivered a beautiful shot into the top left corner on the net from 20 yards out to give the Fire the early lead.
The 10th minute goal was Pardo's first of the season and the first the Fire had scored since Marco Pappa's goal against Sporting Kansas City back on June 29.
Shortly after in the 23rd minute, Fire midfielder Alex, making his first start for the club, found forward Dominic Oduro with only the keeper to beat on the left side, but Whitecaps goalkeeper Joe Cannon was able to come off his line and make appoint-blank save to keep the deficit at one.
The Whitecaps offense wasn't able to manage a shot on goal until the 29th minute. Mattocks' shot from the top of the box was easily saved by Fire Goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
The Fire were back on the attack in the 34th minute. Alex made a solid run through the middle of the field before unleashing a powerful shot from about 30 yards out, but the shot curled wide left and out of play.
Pardo then attempted to double his goal total on the night in the 35th minute, but his long-range effort went over the bar.
Fire defender Gonzalo Segares picked up a yellow card for a challenge on Whitecaps midfielder Bryan Robson in the 36th minute.
The Fire weren't done peppering Cannon's goal, and in the 38th minute, midfielder Chris Rolfe's shot from the top of the box was wide left.
Alex was then next to go into referee Jose Carlos Rivero's book in the 41st minute for a sliding challenge from behind on Caps midfielder Gershon Koffie. Robson's free kick attempt from 40 yards out was well taken, but it sailed just over the bar.
The cards continued as Whitecaps defender Alain Rochat picked up one for a foul on Oduro near midfield in the 43rd minute.
Rochat was substituted at halftime as midfielder Dane Richards made his first appearance for the Whitecaps after being traded to the club from New York Red Bulls on Friday in exchange for forward Sebastien Le Toux.
Johnson had to make his second save of the match in the 49th minute. Again, it was Mattocks with the shot from outside the box, but Johnson was able to punch the ball away.
Oduro looked to have doubled the Fire's lead in the 53rd minute. Rolfe found the Ghanaian striker in front of goal, and the ball ended up in the back of the net, but Oduro was ruled to be offside.
Alex joined the fun in the 55th minute. His shot from distance forced a diving save from Cannon.
In a bit of a surprise substitution, the Fire brought on midfielder Corben Bone for Oduro in the 65th minute. The appearance was Bone's second of the season and his first since May.
A third Fire player went into the Rivero's book as defender Arne Friedrich picked up a yellow card in the 67th minute for a tackle on Mattocks.
Things got worse for Friedrich in the 69th minute.
The German international was given a second yellow card for another tackle on Mattocks who was nearly free on goal.
On the ensuing free kick, Robson's shot was just wide left of Johnson's goal.
The Fire made their final sub in the 78th minute when midfielder Rafael Robayo came on for Nyarko.
The Whitecaps had perhaps their best opportunity of the match in the 87th minute. Defender Young-Pyo Lee found Hassli in the box, and his header was on target, but Johnson was able to tip the ball over the bar.
It appeared Hassli injured his ankle coming down after the attempt, as he limped off the field and did not return until late into stoppage time.
In a rare offensive attempt since Friedrich was sent off, Robayo had an attempt from long range, but the shot went harmlessly wide of Cannon's net.
Perhaps it was the fatigue at the end of a five-game road trip, but the Whitecaps weren't able to find another opportunity to exploit their man-advantage as Rivero blew his whistle after four minutes of stoppage time.
With the win, the Fire have now taken 13 points from their last six matches.
The Fire came into the match having not scored a goal in their past two matches. They lost 2-0 to the LA Galaxy last Sunday. They next travel to Harrison, New Jersey to take on the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday afternoon.
Brazilian midfielder Alex made his first start for the club. He signed for the Fire in late April, but did not make his first appearance in a substitute role on June 29.
The Whitecaps wrapped up a five-game road trip on Saturday night. They lost a heartbreaker to Toronto FC 3-2 on Wednesday, conceding the winning goal in the final moments of stoppage time. They finally return home on Wednesday when they host the LA Galaxy.
Starting XI: Johnson; Anibaba, Berry, Friedrich, Segares; Pause (C), Pardo; Rolfe, Alex (71 for Gargan), Nyarko (78 for Robayo); Oduro (65 for Bone)
Substitutes: Nolly, Gargan (71 for Alex), Paladini, Bone (65 for Oduro), Robayo (78 for Nyarko), Pappa, Puppo
Starting XI: Cannon, YP Lee, DeMerit, Bonjour (75 for Hassli), Harvey; Robson, Davidson, Koffie, Rochat (46 for Richards), Nanchoff (59 for Camillo); Mattocks
Substitutes: Knighton, Klazura, Mitchell, Richards (46 for Rochat), Teibert, Camilo (59 for Nanchoff), Hassli (75 for Bonjour)