the first time in club history they'd gone that long without a loss -- while the Fire had finally reached the end of their long and winding road, a six-game unbeaten streak coming to an end the weekend before at Chivas.
Jeff Cunningham had four goals in his past three games -- all as a substitute -- but he was given the start with the suspension to Atiba Harris. In the 57th minute he showed it didn't matter, gathering a pass from Carey Talley curled in behind the Fire back four and turning home a low drive inside the far post from the left side of the area to give RSL the lead.
The Fire pulled level just five minutes later, Brian Plotkin running onto a loose ball every bit of 30 yards from the RSL goal and lashing a screaming drive inside Scott Garlick's left-hand post.
Cunningham created the go-ahead goal for the home side when he put a low rolling cross into the goalmouth that Fire rookie Dasan Robinson could only turn into his own goal (69). Then in the 77th minute he did complete his double, deftly chipping Zach Thornton from outside the right corner of the box to move into a tie atop the MLS Golden Boot standings.
Fire head coach Dave Sarachan made four changes to the team that lost 1-0 to Chivas USA the weekend before. Tony Sanneh was out to injury, but C.J. Brown and Gonzalo Segares both returned to the lineup, as Jack Stewart and Leonard Griffin also returned to the substitutes' bench. Rookie Brian Plotkin made his first MLS start and Andy Herron made his first start of the season, with Nate Jaqua also returning to the sub list.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-4-2): Zach Thornton - Logan Pause, C.J. Brown, Dasan Robinson (Nate Jaqua 76), Gonzalo Segares - Thiago (John Thorrington 80), Chris Armas, Brian Plotkin (Chad Barrett 80), Ivan Guerrero - Andy Herron, Chris Rolfe. [Substitutes Not Used: Leonard Griffin, Jared Montz, Matt Pickens, Jack Stewart]
"[Tonight was] very frustrating because we were in the game tonight," said Fire captain Chris Armas. "We had some chances, and when we don't do the little things right - passing balls, just the little things around the field - sooner or later it's going to get you. Tonight it did. It's been a long stretch, but I dare some of these guys to use that as an excuse."
After dropping their first game of the season to Dallas, the Fire went on a six-game unbeaten streak before losing to Chivas 1-0 last week, and now to Real before beginning their Bridgeview history.
"We've shown a pattern these last few games that we had our moments of good possession and good passing and we've had chances to put games in our favor," said Sarachan. "Just like tonight ... it's ... opportunities missed that have cost us points on the road."
The goal from rookie Brian Plotkin was a wonder strike - in fact, he had a similar attempt just miss a scant few minutes earlier - but his other contributions to the center of the park were also a plus.
"He did well," said Armas. "He scores a great goal. More importantly [he's] a guy tuned in at the center of the field, making a lot of passes and poking away a lot of balls. Winning a lot of little balls makes a difference at the center of the field."
Armas said it was the little things, the little lapses, that led to the Fire's second consecutive loss.
"We had a few chances, we don't score," said Armas. "Take two of the goals - lapses. [Cunningham] hits the one chip - credit him, it's a nice goal. A nice touch. But the other ones, we had the numbers there, we have everyone there. One's an own goal and the other we had guys there. It just comes down to executing. We've been trying to get our soccer better. Not losing easy balls. We have made, once again, our life too difficult. Some matches you don't pay for it - today we did."
NEW ENGLAND REVOLUTION
The New England Revolution saw their winless streak extended to three matches, an early goal giving D.C. United a 1-0 victory on Saturday evening at RFK Stadium. The Revolution are in fourth place in the Eastern Conference with 11 points from nine games, one ahead of the Chicago Fire, three behind Columbus and Kansas City and 13 behind pace-setting United.
United extended their unbeaten streak to five games - winning their third game in a row - while also increasing their lead atop the Eastern Conference with the victory against the Revolution.
Moreno hit for the game's only goal in the 14th minute, although it had a whisper of controversy. Christian Gomez looped a ball over the Revolution defense and while they held their line, the flag stayed down and Moreno raced in alone on New England 'keeper Matt Reis, rounding the netminder and rolling the ball into the open goal as center back Michael Parkhurst just failed to keep it from crossing the line.
An already injury-ravaged Revolution were struck a blow very early on, when Pat Noonan was forced off the field after again suffering a hamstring injury.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol made one change to the team that played to a 1-1 draw against Houston Dynamo the weekend before. Tony Lochhead returned to the lineup, coming in on the left side of midfield in place of the injured James Riley, Joe Franchino moving to the back three.
Here's Nicol's team (3-4-1-2): Matt Reis - Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Joe Franchino - Steve Ralston, Andy Dorman, Shalrie Joseph, Tony Lochhead - Jose Cancela - Pat Noonan (Jeff Larentowicz 13), Taylor Twellman. [Substitutes Not Used: Kyle Brown, Pat Haggerty, T.J. Tomasso, Doug Warren, Adam Williamson, Danny Wynn]
"Let's face it," said Nicol. "The linesman was the difference between the two teams tonight. It's hard enough coming to D.C. without the officials making a decision like they did. It's a tough place to come to. Then for them to be given a goal, basically, I think we stood up."
It meant another three-game winless run for the Revolution, after a pair of wins ended a previous three-game downward spin following a season-opening victory against the Los Angeles Galaxy. A year ago, the Revolution opened their campaign without a loss in the first 12 games.
"(T)he effort and the commitment from the players in the second half was great. And you know, you can't ask for any more than that," Nicol said. "Sure would have liked to have taken a couple of the chances we did have. No complaints really about the players. It does seem that we can't really get a break at the moment."
A major turning point in the game came when Noonan was forced off with the early injury. "He was feeling it," said Nicol. "He was feeling the hamstring. It was tough. Two minutes later, they score the goal." Said defender Joe Franchino: "It was frustrating," said defender Joe Franchino. "When Pat Noonan went out with the hamstring, that changed the game as well. He and Taylor had been playing well together and doing well. After that, Taylor was up there by himself."
That moved José Cancela into a deep-lying role with Twellman as Jeff Larentowicz slotted into the midfield. Noonan is listed as questionable for this weekend's game. "We haven't had our team together. We've had a different lineup every single game, but we are not panicking. We still have a good team ... we'll get through this," Steve Ralston said.
Ralston too was concerned to see Twellman lose his long-time running mate. Noonan had returned to the lineup just the week before against Houston, his last previous start coming on April 15.
"I think him and Taylor [Twellman] were doing well and combining quite a bit and doing well. As soon as he left the game I think we lost something there," Ralston said. "He was in the midfield possessing the ball and just had nobody at the top. We were just trying to dump balls over the top too. It's just frustrating to give up a goal like that."