Well, what else did you expect?
The Chicago Fire walked in to Dallas Saturday night and got outplayed while giving up two spectacular goals en route to a 3-1 defeat.
The odds were always stacked against the Fire in this one. Chicago was coming off an exhaustive defensive effort against Sporting Kansas City Wednesday and needed to travel to play the team with the most points in MLS who wanted a rebound victory in a big way after a 5-0 defeat to Seattle midweek.
Fire coach Veljko Paunovic seemed to know the writing was on the wall, leaving Sean Johnson, Jonathan Campbell and David Accam all at home.
Some Fire losses sting and some are frustrating, but this was neither. It was surprisingly OK, even though they conceded the Brimstone Cup in the process. The top goal for the season needs to be winning the U.S. Open Cup at this point, so Wednesday’s game is a big one. Winning a road game this season absolutely needs to be a goal, but it didn’t have to be this one.
The Fire actually had an opening 10 minutes that had me thinking maybe, just maybe, a big upset or at least a draw could be in the cards. Chicago had the first best chance of the game when Matt Polster sprung Kennedy Igboananike on a break with a great pass in the 7th minute. Though Igboananike was all alone, he shot right at Jesse Gonzalez who was guarding the near post.
Despite the missed opportunity, the Fire’s defense seemed up to the task as well. Poster was doing a great job of cleaning everything up and disrupting passes while keeping Mauro Diaz extremely quiet. But after those first 10 minutes, the game gradually tilted more to Dallas until they were in full control by halftime.
Diaz announced his presence in the game in the 16th minute with a pass to Max Urruti that led to an off-target shot but dangerous chance.
Seven minutes later, Fabian Castillo would electrify the crowd with a stunning assist that ended with Urruti heading in the first goal of the game. Castillo streaked down the right side, chipped the ball over Rodrigo Ramos’ head, split two defenders, got to the ball first and made the key cross.
The Fire looked to have a brief chance to level when John Goossens made a great interception and passed the ball perfectly to Igboananike on a break who ended up getting bodied off the ball in the box before he could shoot.
From that point on, it was all Dallas with Diaz becoming more dangerous throughout the half before ripping a rocket shot off the post and in from 20 yards out in 41st minute. With a 2-0 lead at halftime, history showed the game was all but over. Dallas was on a 15 game home unbeaten streak and held a 9-0-1 record when scoring first this season while the Fire were carrying their notorious 33 game road winless streak.
The second half was more of FC Dallas, though Matt Lampson was a brief bright spot with a save on Michael Barrios and smothering one of the many dangerous crosses from Castillo. Unfortunately, Lampson also had quite a few lowlights including some very poor distribution.
The Fire tried their best to push for a goal, with Goossens doing a lot of the hustling and taking shots from distance in an effort to break through. It was nice to see that fight at the very least.
Chicago did break through when substitute Arturo Alvarez struck with a fantastic free kick goal from right outside the box. However, it took less than a minute for Dallas to answer when Castillo once again used his speed and skill to free himself of a defender in the box and make an exquisite back pass to Mauro Rosales who iced the contest at 3-1.
In the end, Dallas outshout Chicago 20 to 10 with nine on goal compared to the Fire’s four. Possession was split 55 percent to 44 percent in favor of Dallas. It ended up being a fairly entertaining contest all things considered.
It’s all about the Open Cup now. If the Fire lose to the NASL’s Ft. Lauderdale Strikers, much of the good will Paunovic has built up will be hurt. Fire fans have become used to limiting their expectations and not putting much stock into one game. Wednesday though is an absolute must win. There will be no moral victory or anything else in a loss.
Make Saturday’s sacrifice count.