It seemed only a matter of time before Chivas USA would break down the Chicago Fire. And after having Fire goalkeeper Matt Pickens on his heels for nearly the entire contest, Paulo Nagamura's 79th-minute goal gave Chivas a 1-0 victory Saturday night at Toyota Park.
Chivas finished with 11 shots on the night and defensively held Chicago to just three attempts, with Chivas goalkeeper Brad Guzan called upon to make just one save.
The two teams came into the game on a high note, playing in front of a sellout crowd in Bridgeview. Chivas had snapped a four-game winless streak with a victory against FC Dallas, while the Fire had broken a five-game winless streak with a recent win against Columbus.
Chicago defender Jim Curtin returned to the starting lineup for Chicago after being sat in favor of his brother, Jeff. The younger Curtin was suspended Saturday after he was sent off in the win against the Crew.
Chad Barrett did not waste time trying to spark the Fire attack as he beat Chivas defender Claudio Suarez near the right touchline in the third minute. The Chicago forward chipped a pass toward fellow forward Calen Carr in the middle of the area but Guzan put a hand on it to break up the potential threat.
After Chicago midfielder Bakary Soumare was taken down by a Chivas defender, Willian Oliveira lined up for a free kick toward the right touchline in the 11th minute. Oliveira, who scored on a similar play in the win against Columbus for his first MLS goal, this time was not successful as his shot was deflected by Suarez.
It took 12 minutes before Chivas registered its first shot of the game. Chivas midfielder Jesse Marsch's attempt did not have much of a chance as it was wide left of the Chicago goal.
Chivas had an opportunity from a free kick in the 18th minute when defender Orlando Perez dropped one into the Fire box from just inside the midfield stripe. Barrett was able to get a head to it first, then the chance was broken up by Chicago 'keeper Matt Pickens.
Within the span of three minutes, both teams picked up a yellow card. Chivas collected one when Sacha Kljestan was called for tackling Barrett from behind at midfield while Soumare received one in the 24th minute for a professional foul when he put Chivas midfielder Francisco Mendoza to the turf.
Both teams had good looks at goal over the final portion of the half, but neither 'keeper was tested. Kljestan got off a shot in the 34th minute, but it was deflected. For the Fire, Carr won a corner kick, but Oliveira's service sailed over the goalmouth and out of play.
Chivas received a free kick in a dangerous spot in the 49th minute. Chivas striker Ante Razov lined up his chance outside the right edge of the Chicago area, but his try at goal was deflected away for an ultimately unsuccessful corner kick.
The Fire continued to press forward, but without getting anything on goal. Carr received a pass from Oliveira and as the ball hit his chest, Guzan stepped up to claim the poor touch in the 51st minute.
Then in the 55th minute Diego Gutierrez drove toward the Chivas goal and instead of attempting a shot, gave up the ball to midfielder Brian Plotkin. But his shot from just outside the corner of the area was deflected.
In the 67th minute, Razov went one-on-one at Chicago defender Dasan Robinson as he made his way toward the Fire box. Razov used his powerful left foot to drill a fierce shot toward goal, but Pickens had no problem as he snared the attempt for his first save on the night.
Chivas finally broke through in the 79th minute. Nagamura was able to get the ball after Razov passed it to fellow forward Maykel Galindo. Galindo and Fire defender Robinson fought for the ball and as the two competed, it squirted toward the left of the box. Nagamura darted toward the loose ball and drilled it past Pickens on the 'keeper's right from just inside the penalty area for his first goal of the season.
The Fire made one final push to draw level when, in the 82nd minute, Gutierrez attempted a shot. But it was saved by Guzan -- his only one on the night -- and Chivas held out the rest of the way for their second consecutive victory to keep pace with FC Dallas in the Western Conference.
Tim Hilton is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.