For nearly 40 minutes, the Chicago Fire nearly suffocated the New England Revolution with possession and dangerous changes, looking nothing like a team that hasn’t won on the road in more than two years.
But an inability to finish and a critical mistake by goalkeeper Sean Johnson in the dying minutes Saturday night sealed yet another 1-0 defeat.
Just days after it was announced the Revolution would host the Fire Aug. 9 in the semi-finals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, the teams provided a generally entertaining match that acted as mini-preview for the match in two-plus weeks.
Compared to their last trip to New England, the Chicago Fire looked damn near a dominant soccer team. Sadly, that last trip resulted in one of the Fire’s worst performances of their league-worst 35-road-winless streak, so it didn’t take much for the team to look better.
But for the first 45 minutes, the Revolution generally were the more dangerous team. Midfielder Kelyn Rowe almost put the home team ahead in the 10th minute as his high drive from outside the box forced Johnson to parry it away. The Revs had another chance ten minutes later when midfielder Chris Tierney put a cross over the bar.
The tides shifted early in the second half, as the Fire suddenly turned into a dangerous team, as the pairing of David Accam and Michael De Leeuw gave fits to the Revs back line. That pressure led to the Fire’s best moment of the night, when a hard David Accam cross into the box was nearly put into the net by Revs defender Jose Goncalves. Only a quick reaction and solid placement allowed goalkeeper Bobby Shuttleworth to keep the score level.
Despite their energy levels, the Fire never actually placed any of their 14 shots on goal and the Revs soon shook off the Fire’s counter-punch and began to reestablish control in the final 20 minutes.
It looked during this time as the Fire would escape Walhberghland with a point, thanks to Sean Johnson doing Milkman things and making 10 saves left and right on the night.
But in the 85th minute, Johnson went from MOTM candidate to goat. Johnson left his box to punch away a Tierney’s corner kick, but the ball sailed past him and went right to Je-Vaugh Watson, who headed it into the net for the game-winner.
At least in the Fire’s 2-0 loss in New England two months ago, the club was never actually in the match and let fans fatalistically accept their fate. Saturday’s match was especially rough as the club looked like they were on the verge of taking the lead and finally killing off the tired narrative of their road woes.
Thankfully for the team, they can get some rest as they will not play again until next Sunday, July 31, at home against the New York Red Bulls.