You’re in pain. You know something needs to change because you can only go so long with that constant throbbing discomfort in the delicate nerves of your mouth. You know the cure will be painful and the last person you want to see is the dentist. But sometimes you just have to endure more pain to rid yourself of that long-term problem.
On Tuesday, the Chicago Fire got a visit from Dr. Louisville City FC who almost forgot to bring the novocaine. It wasn’t until after 115 minutes of an often painful procedure that sweet relief was finally delivered in the form of a Quincy Amarikwa goal. It was Amarikwa who suffered most and could not find relief no matter how many times he tried. Shots sprayed left, right and over the crossbar as he looked for an answer to his problems.
He finally found it after Guly do Prado fired a shot to the top right corner of the goal that was deflected off the head of Amarikwa – who was standing outside the six-yard box – to the far post. In that moment the pain went away. Yes, the Fire got their 1-0 win, but Louisville City FC left their mark.
The third-division side enjoying its debut season as a professional club was undaunted by the task of going on the road to play an MLS side for the first time ever in its brief history. If the Fire thought Tuesday’s match could be a breather after a tough game and long trip at New England, Matt Fondy reintroduced himself to the Men in Red with a diagonal shot at goal that forced a diving save from Sean Johnson.
From that 11th minute effort, it was game on.
Louisville FC would keep the pressure on and enjoy the best chance of the game in the 22nd minute when Magnus Rasmussen fired a shot over Sean Johnson, hitting the crossbar and missing by inches. Realizing the game would be a dog fight, the Fire picked up the pressure in the last 15 minutes of the half with their best chance coming in the 31st minute.
Fire forward Jason Johnson forced a turnover near the top of the Louisville box. The ball fell to Amarikwa who was standing alone in the center of the box with plenty of space and time. As Louisville goalie Scott Goodwin rushed off his line, Amarikwa rushed his touch and the attempt went wide right.
With both teams missing opportunities, the defensive players for both teams stood out. Louisville centerback Conor Shanosky and defensive midfielder Aodhan Quinn snuffed out multiple chances while Fire rookie Matt Polster looked good for his first time at centerback with Chris Ritter performing solidly in Polster’s usual defensive midfield role.
The Fire enjoyed more possession in the second half and pressed harder but a number of errant crosses, poor corner kicks and off-target shots only built more frustration to the scoring pains. It also opened up some counter opportunities for a quick Louisville attack.
While Kadeem Dacres' speed gave the Fire fits at times, it was substitute Niall McCabe who surely would have scored in the 85th minute if not for an excellent recovery tackle from Adailton. It was Fondy who found a streaking McCabe up the left side with acres of space and only Sean Johnson to beat. But as McCabe entered the box, he slowed down, hesitated on his decision and was dispossessed by a hustling Adailton.
That chance followed a 61st minute cross to the far post by Charlie Adams who nearly found an onrushing Bryan Burke for a tap-in goal.
The Fire had their fair share of chances as well. Amarkiwa couldn’t find the net with his header on a Polster cross in the 71st minute and Eric Gehrig barely missed a Shaun Maloney delivery to the back post in the 78th minute. Harry Shipp hit both Amarikwa and do Prado with perfect passes to the top of the box in the final 10 minutes of regular time, but neither could convert.
The tough and painful procedure was not without its casualties either. Maloney, who subbed on in the second half, had to come out in the 97th minute with a knock. The severity is unknown, but hopefully it is nothing more than exhausted legs and a sore hamstring after a couple of games with Scotland across the pond and a long flight back.
Coach Frank Yallop did not sugar coat the victory, but said while it was not pretty the ultimate goal was to advance to the next round and the result can still breed confidence.
But like any trip to the dentist, there is likely to be pain after the novocain wears off. The Fire may have cured a minor ailment Tuesday, but the performance also showed the cure may have been a filling when a root canal is needed.