For a few minutes, it looked like the Chicago Fire's 2014 home opener woud be something of a fairy tale. There was Homegrown player Harrison Shipp, a kid from Lake Forest, serving the curling corner that Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz would head home for the lead. There was the league MVP, Mike Magee, finally debuting for the home team. And there was a howling, thumping Section 8 behind them, their songs and chants echoing through the frigid late-winter air: WE! ARE! RED! WE! ARE! WHITE! For maybe 20 minutes, the fairy tale was viable.
But the bone-deep ache of the cold has a lesson for everyone, and today's lesson was this: Don't get ahead of yourself. Everyone gets cold. Fairy tales are just tales. All the hope in the world won't help if you don't clear a bouncing cross. The Fire didn't, allowing Dax McCarty to side-foot home and wasting an otherwise immaculate 90 minutes of defensive concentration. The visiting Red Bulls, who had plenty of the ball but precious little in dangerous spaces, escaped with a 1-1 draw.
The Fire started rousingly. An attacking sequence led to a corner kick, then a second. Shipp, in his second straight start for the club, spun an outswinger in front of the goalmouth, where Chicago's three set-piece targets were running a game in layers - Bakary Soumare closest to goal, occupying both keeper Luis Robles and Ibrahim Sekagya; Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, slashing at the near post from deeper; and Larentowicz, the deepest, shadowing Hurtado from a couple yards behind. Shipp's ball found Larentowicz, who managed to steer his header under the crossbar despite lunging backward to make contact. 1-0, Fire, and the thumping of the drums echoed through the sunny, cold March afternoon.
Just like in last week's game against Portland, the captain had a hand in both the play which claimed the lead and the play which surrendered it. It was Larentowicz's hurried, mishit clearance - admittedly the second or third of same in the sequence - which fell to a wide-open McCarty in the 21st. This meeting of the Ginger Power Alliance did not have happy consequences for the Men in Red, as Dax the Diminutive made no mistake.
The Fire had many moments of cutting attacking play, but in general eschewed the opportunity to possess the ball in favor of turning and moving directly on net. The basic statistics - 60 percent possession for the visitors, but more than twice as many fouls for Red Bulls (20-9) - tell the tale: Chicago trying difficult passes while swarming forward, New York scrambling to deal with those breakouts, then slowing down the ball to find Henry.
Notable on the day was the first-team debut of the Fire's first Homegrown signing, Victor Pineda, who came on in the 71st minute. In the end, a bright, cold day of near-misses, and a pimp-slap from reality: The season's a long one. Fairy tales are hard-won 'round here.
Chicago (0-2-1) travels to DC on Saturday at 3 p.m. CT, while New York (0-2-1) host Chivas USA on Sunday.
CHICAGO 1, NEW YORK 1
Fire Starting XI: Johnson; Watson, Soumare, Hurtado, Cochrane; Shipp (Anangono - 66'), Larentowicz (C), Alex, Joya (Pineda - 71'); Amarikwa, Magee
Substitutes: Reynish, Ianni, Franco, Pause, Pineda, Anangono, Gentile
Red Bulls Starting XI: Robles, Eckersley, Olave, Sekagya, MIller, Sam, Alexander (Convey - 83'), McCarty, Steele (Luyindula - 72'), Cahill, Henry
Substitutes: Meara, Kimura, Miazga, Bover, Convey, Luyindula, Wright-Phillips
Scoring Summary: CHI - Larentowicz - 6' (Shipp), NY - McCarty - 21' (Unassisted)
Misconduct Summary: CHI - Magee - 13' (Yellow), NY - Olave - 30' (Yellow), NY - McCarty - 74' (Yellow), NY - Eckersley - 79' (Yellow), NY - Sekagya - 84' (Yellow), NY - Cahill - 90+' (Yellow)