six days shy of his 42nd birthday -- raced onto the end of a fine ball from Chris Klein as the Wizards broke on the counter, and after setting up both defender and goalkeeper in the area coolly slotted home inside the left-hand post for his first goal since the 2003 season.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan made two changes to the team that lost to D.C. United 4-3 at RFK Stadium just nights earlier. Samuel Caballero and Jesse Marsch returned to the substitutes' bench, while Jim Curtin made his first start in five matches and Chris Armas his first start in four as both returned to the lineup.
Here's Sarachan's team (4-3-1-2): Zach Thornton - Tony Sanneh, Jim Curtin, Gonzalo Segares, Ivan Guerrero - Logan Pause (John Thorrington 80), Chris Armas, Justin Mapp - Thiago - Nate Jaqua (Lubos Reiter 85), Chris Rolfe (Jesse Marsch 71).
"Teams that are behind put in fresh players to make a push. Here's Kansas City with a week of rest. They've got fresh legs and they're coming at us a little bit," Sarachan said. "It's a management issue. The reality was we did lose our legs a bit. But no excuses on that end; we've still got to find a way to keep the ball better, hold the ball better and manage the game better."
The Fire were disappointed to have lost track of the dangerous Preki for the leveler. "We got a little distracted (before Preki's goal)," said defender Ivan Guerrero. "There [were 10] minutes left in the game, and we weren't very concentrated. We were attacking more than we were defending at the point. That was a mistake."
Said Sarachan: "I think what our backs decided to do was step him offside, because he was so far forward up the flank. And one or two passes found him, so I'm not sure what the decisions were that resulted in him being open, because to be honest, I'd have to see the replay. They know we can't allow that to happen off an attacking corner. We usually have the numbers back."
The Fire saw a late lead evaporate for the second time in four days. At midweek in Washington, they twice held lead before losing 4-3 to D.C. United.
"It's a tired locker room," Sarachan said. "We don't make excuses, but the reality is, it's the third game in seven days. The second half, that caught up with us. Again, we had the lead 1-0 and you hope to protect it and maybe get the second goal. That didn't happen. For the most part, we have no real issues with Kansas City and it's disappointing on an attacking corner that they come down on a counter and equalize. We're a little frustrated, a little disappointed and certainly tired."
But defender Jim Curtin said: "You can say three games in a week (is an excuse), but we're all young, professional soccer players. You have to be able to deal with it. It is a little tiring physically and mentally
for the guys but that's not an excuse."
Curtin became the 13th different Fire player to score this year. Sanneh was credited with his first assist of the year, becoming the 14th Chicago player to record at least one this season. Curtin hadn't started since May 28, but returned to the team with his first goal since the 2002 season.
"Any time you can contribute, it's big," said Curtin. "Tony did a nice job of knocking the header down and luckily, it was just kind of the right place at the right time and I was able to get a foot on it and it went in. All for nothing really, we wanted to get three points today in a big division rival game. It's kind of disappointing."
REAL SALT LAKE
On the FieldTurf surface in Utah, the Galaxy sent out a relatively young lineup, and took just 17 minutes to open their account. Peter Vagenas played a long ball out of the back for Naldo da Conceicao to make a long run onto, and he powered his shot through the legs of RSL 'keeper D.J. Countess for his first MLS goal.
But after passing D.C. United record goalless mark of 536 minutes late in the first half, Real finally found the back of the net. Andy Williams collected the ball and found rookie Jamie Watson to his left, and the young striker hit home for his first professional goal (56). It was Real's first goal in 557 minutes.
"The record's there," said Real head coach John Ellinger. "For us we'll use it as motivation. At the end of the year, hopefully we can look back and say this was our low point."
Ellinger made four changes to the team that lost 3-0 to the San Jose Earthquakes the previous Saturday at Spartan Stadium. Clint Mathis was suspended, and Matt Behncke, Leighton O'Brien and Dante Washington returned to the substitutes' bench.
In their place Nelson Akwari and Seth Trembly returned to the lineup while a pair of rookies - defender Cameron Knowles and forward Jamie Watson - were given their first professional starts as the Real boss returned to a flat back four.
Here's Ellinger's team (4-3-1-2): D.J. Countess - Nelson Akwari, Cameron Knowles, Eddie Pope, Brian Kamler - Chris Brown (Jordan Cila 73), Kenny Cutler, Seth Trembly (Leslie Fitzpatrick 79) - Andy Williams - Jamie Watson, Jason Kreis
"Effort-wise there's no complaints," said coach John Ellinger. "We probably created more chances tonight than we had in the last four games."
"I think we can look at each other and at ourselves and say 'We knew what it took.' After today if we don't put in the effort it's our own fault," Pope said to The Salt Lake Tribune. "I think some guys had the wrong idea of what it took to be successful in this league and now, there's no more excuses."
Real Salt Lake saw their goalless streak reach record proportions, but still continued the difficulties for the Los Angeles Galaxy on the road, coming back to claim a 1-1 draw at Rice-Eccles Stadium on Wednesday evening. Though their winless run still hit six games, Real are in fifth place in the Western Conference with 12 points from 14 matches, two behind the Colorado Rapids and 18 adrift of West leader FC Dallas.
Andy Williams played his best game for Real Salt Lake, a worthy recipient of an assist on the Real goal that snapped the record streak. "He certainly played very well," Ellinger said. "Obviously, he played at a different class. He created things out of nothing. It was what we needed."
The other talking points after the match were the play of the two rookies, given their first professional starts. After his play and his goal, Ellinger said that Watson has likely earned a regular place in the lineup.
"Jamie is obviously an individual with a very high work rate," said Ellinger. "We knew when we drafted him what we were getting. It took him a while to get to this point, but he's certainly established himself as someone who will be in the league for a long time."
Watson knew he would be starting earlier in the day on Wednesday, and relaxed and took care of errands - before completing his dream debut with a goal. "It is good to get that off our back," Watson said. "It was my dad's birthday tonight and I can't think of a better present to give him than my first start and goal."
Ellinger also had praise for Cameron Knowles, inserted into central defense alongside Pope. "Cameron Knowles stepped in and did an outstanding job tonight," Ellinger said. "He has a bit of a bite in him."
Kenny Cutler started a third consecutive game in a holding midfield role, after winning a chance to start with a performance in a friendly against Universidad Catolica on June 8. "Kenny is getting better every game," said defender Brian Kamler. "He did a good job of keeping Landon from getting into the game. He is really becoming Mr. Consistent in there for us."
The Loyalists - the Real supporters club - and others "celebrated" the record-setting minute by throwing black streamers on the field and sitting down for a minute of silence.