The Chicago Fire were on the road tonight in Santa Clara, California to take on the San Jose Earthquakes at Buck Shaw Stadium in front of a crowd of 10,525. This was a very physical match that featured some late on-field dramatics and a bit of a goalie duel between Fire keeper Sean Johnson and Earthquakes keeper, Jon Busch. A recap of the night's action is after the jump.
Sean Johnson was tested early on as the Quakes came out of the gate fast and physical. The Fire weathered the initial onslaught and were able to maintain some possession to slow the Quakes down. In the 14th minute, Dominic Oduro timed a nice run to get into a one-on-one with Earthquakes keeper Jon Busch. Busch stood his ground and denied Oduro of a goal.
The Fire were able to string together a couple of good possessions leading up to the 20th minute, but nothing came of them. In the 21st minute, a ball found its way to the backpost where a waiting Simon Dawkins one-timed a shot on net forcing Sean Johnson to make a fantastic diving save.
In the 25th minute, the Fire had a free kick from just outside the penalty box. Nothing came from the free kick, but the Fire maintained possession. The possession resulted in a shot from Alex, who stuck a volley from the top of the of the 18, forcing Jon Busch to make a diving save.
In the 33rd minute, it was Sean Johnson's turn to make a amazing save as a streaking Simon Dawkins found his way behind the Fire back line and fired on Johnson at point blank range. Two minutes later, Dawkins was back for more, as he put another shot on target and forcing Johnson to make another leaping save.
The FIre finally hit pay dirt in the 37th minute as Chris Rolfe buried a shot past Busch. Rolfe's goal seemed to boost the Fire's confidence as they were by far the better team over the remaining minutes of the first half.
In the opening minutes of the second half, San Jose looked slow and the Fire's offense had no issues moving the ball in the Quakes defensive third. After a few corner kicks, Alex was able to split a pair of Quakes defenders for a clear shot on goal, but Jason Hernandez, one of the San Jose center backs, hustled back in time to deflect the shot.
In the 60th minute, Steven Lenhart was subbed on for Rafael Baca. The Earthquakes put a few more shots on net before Sherjill MacDonald made his Fire debut as he was subbed on for Dominic Oduro in the 64th minute.
In the 70th minute, Dan Gargan was shown a yellow card for tripping Shea Salinas. The foul lead to a free kick where Steven Lenhart posted up near the top of the box and made an acrobatic flying kick. The shot went wide, but he did manage to hit Patrick Nyarko who fell to the pitch in pain. Nyarko would return to the match.
The Earthquakes kept the pressure on until late in to the match and the Fire hunkered down and played defense waiting for opportunities to counter attack. The Fire had an opportunity in the 78th minute with Logan Pause finding himself in a rare one on one situation with John Busch. Unfortunately, Pause wasn't able to slip one past Busch.
In the 83rd minute, Frank Klopas made a defensive substitution as Hunter Jumper came on for Alex. Five minutes later, Daniel Paladini came on for Chris Rolfe as the Fire looked to protect their 1-0 lead.
In the final minutes of the match and added time, the game got chippy. Lenhart and Johnson got in a shoving match. Alan Gordon got sent off with a second yellow card for a foul on Dan Gargan in the box. As Gordon exited the field, the fans began to chant "Ref, you suck.' The announcer had to remind fans over the P.A. that they shouldn't throw objects on to the field.
Once play resumed, the referee added a few more minutes on to the stoppage time. This generous gift was just enough to give San Jose one last chance on goal. On Steven Lenhart wig night, it's only fitting that Steven Lenhart would get the equalizer at the death. Buck Shaw erupted in jubilation as the ball rippled the back netting.
Coming into this game, most Fire fans would consider a draw a huge point on the road. To be so close to having three points, this feels a little bit like a loss.
The Fire are back in action again next Saturday, August 4th at Toyota Park to take on Toronto FC.