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Fire surge to seal comeback win after turbulent second half

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — During 13 minutes of madness in the second half of Chicago’s 2-1 win over FC Dallas, two penalty kicks were saved, Fire coach Frank Klopas started seeing "a different Sean Johnson" and the Fire went ahead, sealing their first Brimstone Cup success since 2001 in the process.

GOAL: Pappa reacts first

That pivotal stretch started in the 50th minute, when Fire forward Dominic Oduro took down FC Dallas midfielder Bruno Guarda on the edge of the penalty area, causing the referee to point to the penalty spot.

Sean Johnson saved the ensuing Blas Pérez penalty kick, diving to his right for his fourth career penalty kick save in 11 attempts.

"I just tried to read it and I got a good jump," Johnson said. "It's always good to have a big save like that and turn things around and get the team going again."

Klopas thought the save transformed the way Johnson played for the rest of the game.

"I felt that after that save, you saw a different Sean," Klopas said. "He had more command in his box. For him, it was huge. It was a huge point in the game that gave the team energy, and it gave a lot of confidence to Sean."

In the 62nd minute, Marco Pappa was taken down in the penalty area by Zach Loyd and Carlos Rodríguez. Sebastián Grazzini stepped up, but his penalty kick was saved by Kevin Hartman. However, Pappa was there for the rebound, yards ahead of any FC Dallas defender.

"I just saw the ball rising, and the ball, thank God, came to me," Pappa said.

Pappa may also have a linesman to thank for his third goal of the season, as replays clearly show he took three or four steps in the penalty box before Grazzini's foot struck the ball.

The non-call caused Hartman to sprint to the linesman in protest.

"Sean Johnson made a great penalty kick save, and then I save a PK, and the guy who scored the rebound was four yards inside before the ball was struck," Hartman said. "That's obviously something the referee didn't see. It's disappointing."

Fire teammates knew Pappa committed a false start.

"I was joking with him, I told him, 'He just got there so fast because he's quick,'" midfielder Patrick Nyarko said with a smile. "We'll take our advantages. They had a PK I thought they didn't deserve. We'll take what we get."

Pappa could only shrug his shoulders and smile when asked whether Hartman's protests were warranted.

"Everybody said I was in early," Pappa said, "but that's soccer."

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