Fire surge by Revolution with home win
The Chicago Fire made a major statement within the Eastern Conference on Saturday night, handing the New England Revolution just their second loss of the season and in the process taking over sole possession of the division, getting the game's only goal in their victory at Soldier Field.
Both teams were missing a number of regulars, but the Fire had the better of the play on the night, a Gonzalo Segares goal off a corner kick was all the Fire were able to do in overcoming an outstanding effort from Revolution goalkeeper Matt Reis.
The Fire were without as many as six starters, four of whom were called in by their respective national teams for the CONCACAF Gold Cup (defender Tony Sanneh and midfielder and captain Chris Armas with the USA and Samuel Caballero and Ivan Guerrero with Honduras), and two of whom (forward Nate Jaqua and midfielder Thiago) were out with injuries.
The Revs were in a similar bind, missing starting striker Pat Noonan and midfielders Clint Dempsey and Steve Ralston to the U.S. national team and defender Avery John to Trinidad & Tobago. Additionally for the Revs, starting midfielder Shalrie Joseph was suspended for the game due to caution point accumulation.
With so many regulars missing, it was not surprising that the first 20 minutes of the game were disjointed. Neither side seemed able to connect more than two passes in a row as the unfamiliar midfield combinations lent themselves to multiple giveaways and numerous futile long balls that were not particularly directed to an attacking forward.
The Fire appeared to jell quicker than the Revs, and they began to assert themselves and press forward, Reis was active throughout the remainder of the half, as he was called on to make impressive saves in the 27th and 36th minutes on similar plays.
First, midfielder Scott Buete unleashed a left-footed blast from directly in front of the New England goal off a poor clearance, and Reis was called on to stretch to his left to make an impressive diving save. In the 36th minute, Fire forward Chris Rolfe received a deft backheel pass from fellow forward Lubos Reiter and he also let go with a left-footed rocket from the same spot, Reis again making an impressive save.
New England's first-half output was generally anemic, as forward Taylor Twellman, still not at 100 percent in his return from injury, had a difficult time shaking loose from the shadow of Fire central defender Jim Curtin.
The Fire began the second half on the attack, and finally broke through in the 58th minute. Jesse Marsch sent a corner kick to the back post, where defender C.J. Brown headed the ball back into the center of the box to Segares. Finding himself alone, the rookie fullback settled the ball, made a quick move, and let go a hard shot to the back of the Revolution goal past a diving Reis and two defenders on the line.
It was an MLS record-setting effort, as it was the 11th consecutive game in which the Fire scored the first goal of the match.
The Fire continued to press, and three minutes later a penalty kick was called on Revolution midfielder Marshall Leonard for interfering with a Justin Mapp run deep into the Revs box. Reiter stepped into the spot kick and was denied on a fabulous diving right-handed save at the right post by Reis. As the ball went out of bounds, Reis drew a yellow card for excessive celebration, apparently an attempt to jumpstart his lethargic comrades.
Unfortunately for the Revs, the momentum only swung their way momentarily, as they simply could not find a way to generate any type of consistent passing game to get the ball near Twellman.
The Revs put forth a last gasp effort, challenging the Fire in the 88th minute, but Chicago 'keeper Zach Thornton just tipped a shot over the crossbar off a scrum in front of the goal -- the only save credited to the veteran shot-stopper on the night.
With the three points, the Fire assumed sole possession of first place in the East with 35 points, while the Revs sit three points back, though they still do have three games in hand. The Revolution now return home to New England to regroup and welcome FC Dallas at 7 p.m. ET next Saturday. The Fire's next league match is also July 16, at home to Columbus, but on Wednesday they face the third-tier Western Mass Pioneers in the third round of the U.S. Open Cup.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Matt Reis (New England Revolution)
Toby True is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
New England Revolution (9-2-5) vs. Chicago Fire (11-6-2)
July 09, 2005 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- Gonzalo Segares 3 (C.J. Brown 2, Jesse Marsch 2) 58
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, James Riley, Ryan Latham (Luke Vercollone 66), Jose Cancela (Connally Edozien 66), Andy Dorman, Joe Franchino, Marshall Leonard, Taylor Twellman, Khano Smith.
Substitutes Not Used: Jamie Holmes, Jeff Larentowicz, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Khano Smith 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Connally Edozien 1); FOULS: 10 (Marshall Leonard 3); OFFSIDES: 3 (Khano Smith 2); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Jose Cancela 1, Andy Dorman 1); SAVES: 8 (Matt Reis 6)
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton, Logan Pause, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Gonzalo Segares, Justin Mapp (Will John 89), Scott Buete, Jesse Marsch, Leonard Griffin, Chris Rolfe (Andy Herron 70), Lubos Reiter (Chad Barrett 80).
Substitutes Not Used: Will Johnson, David Mahoney, Jared Montz, Jack Stewart.
TOTAL SHOTS: 13 (Justin Mapp 3, Lubos Reiter 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 9 (Lubos Reiter 3); FOULS: 17 (3 tied with 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Lubos Reiter 2); CORNER KICKS: 5 (Jesse Marsch 3); SAVES: 1 (Zach Thornton 1)
NE -- Matt Reis (caution; Dissent) 62
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: Craig Lowry; Anthony Vasoli
4th Official: Mark Geiger
Time of Game: 1:50
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.