A bizarre mid-week day game was probably not something the Chicago Fire were too thrilled with when initially looking at the 2012 MLS Schedule. Still, with twenty minutes to go, it looked as if the Fire would be able to hang on and steal a point on the road against the New York Red Bulls.
Thierry Henry changed that.
The French striker scored in the 71st minute off a Sebastien Le Toux cross as the Red Bulls were able to knock off the Fire 1-0 in front of an announced crowd of 15,814 at Red Bull Arena. The win put the Red Bulls four points ahead of the Fire in third place in the MLS Eastern Conference Standings.Recap
The first half was all Red Bulls, but they had nothing to show for it thanks to some quality shot-stopping from Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
The Fire had the first half-chance of the match in the 13th minute. Off a corner kick, right back Dan Gargan broke free from his defender, but his header went wide of Red Bulls ‘keeper Bill Gaudette's net.
The Red Bulls star striker Henry found space on the left flank in the 16th minute, but the Fire back line recovered well and were able to force the Frenchman to take a difficult shot on goal. Johnson didn't have to use much effort to make his first save of the match.
The first card of the match was issued to Fire midfielder Marco Pappa in the 20th minute for an errant tackle of Red Bulls midfielder Mehdi Ballouchy. The card meant that Pappa will miss the Fire's next MLS match at the San Jose Earthquakes on July 28.
Perhaps angered by the tackle, Ballouchy followed up with the first threatening shot on goal in the 21st minute. His shot from just outside the box had to be parried away by Johnson for his second save of the match.
If this match were taking place at Toyota Park, Johnson would have secured free milk for the fans in attendance in the 29th minute with his third save. Henry's free kick from about 45 yards ago appeared to be searching for a header, but instead it fell harmlessly into the hands of Johnson.
The Red Bulls most entertaining opportunity of the first half might have been in the 40th minute. Former Fire PDL and current Red Bulls defender Brandon Barklage found the new striker Le Toux with a cross and the former Whitecaps man's bicycle kick attempt went just over the bar.
Johnson then had to make two saves on midfielder Joel Lindpere and Le Toux just before halftime to preserve the scoreline heading into the locker room.
The Fire brought on midfielder Patrick Nyarko for the Brazilian Alex to start the second half in an attempt to open up the game.
Gargan had another opportunity off a corner kick in the 50th minute, but he wasn't able to put his header on target.
Barklage picked up the Red Bulls' first yellow card for a hard challenge on Pappa in the 60th minute. Right after that, both teams made substitutions, with defender Connor Lade coming on for midfielder Victor Palsson for the former MetroStars, and for the Fire, midfielder Rafael Robayo coming on for striker Dominic Oduro.
It appeared the match was headed for a 0-0 draw until the Red Bulls found a bit of magic late.
It was Le Toux finding Henry with a beautiful cross in the 71st minute The Red Bulls DP Henry found just enough space to fire his shot off the right post and in to give the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead.
The goal was Henry's 10th of the season and Le Toux's first assist as a Red Bull.
The Fire attempted to find an offensive spark in the 76th minute, using their last substitution to bring on striker Orr Barouch for midfielder Logan Pause.
The Red Bulls weren't content to simply sit back and defend as they brought on striker Kenny Cooper for the goal-scorer Henry in the 82nd minute.
It looked as if the Fire had caught Gaudette out of position in the 83rd minute. Off a Pavel Pardo free kick, the ball eventually landed at the feet of Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, whose shot had to be headed off the line by Barklage.
The Red Bulls should have put the game away moments later in the 86th minute when Lade found Le Toux unmarked in the box, but the new striker whiffed on a powerful scissor kick effort, and the Fire to able to clear the ball from danger.
The home side brought on defender Stephen Keel for former Fire defender Wilman Conde in the 87th minute as the Red Bulls looked to close out the match.
Gargan had an opportunity to equalize for the Fire off a Segares cross in the 88th minute, but the right back was once again unable to put his header on target.
The Fire desperately tried to find an equalizer, and Nyarko picked up a yellow card for a collision with Gaudette while attempting to gain possession in the box.
The Red Bulls held possession for most of the four minutes of stoppage time, but the Fire were able to wrangle one last corner in the final minute. It was for naught though, as the Red Bulls were able to clear it and hang on for the full three points.
The Fire made two changes to the starting lineup from Saturday night's 1-0 win over the Vancouver Whitecaps, recalling right back Dan Gargan in place of German international Arne Friedrich and midfielder Marco Pappa, who was battling a respiratory infection, in place of winger Patrick Nyarko.
The match took place at 1 P.M. EST due to the Red Bulls' attempt to attract children and summer camps to Red Bull Arena.
The two clubs last met on June 17 at Toyota Park, when the Fire emerged victorious by a 3-1 scoreline. Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares and Chris Rolfe all scored for the Men in Red. The two clubs meet again in what is now the rubber match of the series at Red Bull Arena on October 6.
The Fire are next in action on Saturday night, as they host an international friendly with Aston Villa at Toyota Park. They are back in MLS action on Saturday, July 28 when they travel to Buck Shaw Stadium to take on the San Jose Earthquakes.
Starting XI: Johnson; Gargan, Anibaba, Berry, Segares; Pause (c) (75 for Barouch), Pardo; Rolfe, Alex (46 for Nyarko), Pappa; Oduro (61 for Robayo)
Substitutes: Nolly, Barouch (75 for Pause), Nyarko (46 for Alex), Jumper, Bone, Robayo (61 for Oduro), Paladini
New York Red Bulls
Starting XI: Gaudette, Barklage, Holgersson, Conde (87 for Keel), Miller, Ballouchy, Lindpere, McCarty, Palsson (61 for Lade), Henry (82 for Cooper), Le Toux
Substitutes: Vuolo, Borrajo, Keel (87 for Conde), Lade (61 for Palsson), Ruthven, Arteaga, Cooper (82 for Henry)