The Chicago Fire shrugged off a sluggish first half Saturday to run Chivas USA out of Soldier Field in their inaugural visit behind three goals from Nate Jaqua in a 5-2 victory.
Chivas USA entered the match with numerous questions to be answered, ranging from how the players would respond to new head coach Hans Westerhof, to their ability to build any momentum upon their midweek tie with the Kansas City Wizards, their first positive result since May 7.
After a second minute goal by Jacqua, the situation looked rather bleak for the last place club. Midfielders Logan Pause and Thiago executed a brilliant give-and-go just outside the Chivas USA box, springing Thiago for a run at goal from the right touchline. At the last second, he threaded a pass to Jaqua, who had slipped inside of Chivas USA defender Ryan Suarez on the play for a deft one touch behind Chivas USA 'keeper Martin Zuniga, who committed to the onrushing Thiago.
However, to their credit, Chivas USA rebounded later in the half, getting goals from Antonio Martinez and Ezra Hendrickson to head to the locker room with the only half time lead in the expansion franchise's history.
Instead of panicking after surrendering a potentially devastating early goal, Chivas USA settled into a deliberate game pace, not the attacking style that owner Jorge Vergara swore the team would play at the season's beginning, and this approach was successful. In the fifth minute, new starter Martinez stepped into a left-footed bomb from about 25 yards that was deflected by a Fire defender. The slight deflection and pace of the ball carried the shot over Chicago 'keeper, Zach Thornton, tying the game at 1. Isaac Romo and Hector Cuadros assisted on the play.
It was more of the same for Chivas USA in the 42nd, as their slow pace and deliberate attacking style allowed them to score on a set piece. Midfielder Francisco Gomez delivered a perfect strike to midfielder Ezra Hendrickson on a corner from the right of the Fire goal. With Thornton holding his line, Hendrickson elevated and directed a strong header past the frozen Fire 'keeper, allowing Chivas USA to head to the locker room with a 2-1 lead.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan obviously recognized Chivas USA's attempt to slow down the speed of play, so he directed his troops to pick up the pace. The club obliged, exploding for three goals in a seven-minute span within the first 15 minutes of the second half.
Jesse Marsch scored in the 53rd minute on a header assisted by Samuel Caballero, Ivan Guerrero in the 57th minute assisted by Thiago and Gonzalo Segares, and Jacqua tallied his second in the 60th minute assisted by Segares and Justin Mapp. Chivas USA looked overwhelmed and incapable of responding to the increased speed of play, as the back line was consistently late to every challenge ball and the midfield showed no ability to retain even momentary possession.
The Fire had at least two other quality chances that they should have converted in the ensuing minutes, as the game got away from Chivas very quickly in the second half. Jaqua finished off his hat trick in the 73rd minute, putting away the rebound of a shot from striker Chris Rolfe, who had broken in alone on Martin Zuniga. The Chivas USA 'keeper had made a tremendous left-handed save on the initial shot but he was helpless on Jaqua's rebound attempt.
Westerhof has seven days before his team takes the field again back home in L.A. on June 12 against the San Jose Earthquakes (8 p.m. ET), while the Fire hope to continue the offensive fireworks the same day as they welcome FC Dallas to Soldier Field (7 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Nate Jaqua (Chicago Fire)
Toby True is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
CD Chivas USA (1-9-2) vs. Chicago Fire (6-5-1)
June 04, 2005 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- Nate Jaqua 2 (Thiago 3, Logan Pause 1) 2
CHV -- Antonio Martinez 1 (Isaac Romo 1, Hector Cuadros 2) 5
CHV -- Ezra Hendrickson 1 (Francisco Gomez 1) 42
CHI -- Jesse Marsch 2 (Samuel Caballero 1) 53
CHI -- Ivan Guerrero 1 (Thiago 4, Gonzalo Segares 1) 57
CHI -- Nate Jaqua 3 (Gonzalo Segares 2, Justin Mapp 1) 60
CHI -- Nate Jaqua 4 (unassisted) 74
CD Chivas USA -- Martin Zuniga, Ezra Hendrickson, Alfonso Loera, Ryan Suarez, Armando Begines, Francisco Gomez (Aaron Lopez 67), Ramon Ramirez, Antonio Martinez, Hector Cuadros (Arturo Torres 61), Isaac Romo, Thiago Martins.
Substitutes Not Used: Brad Guzan, Francisco Mendoza, Matt Taylor.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (3 tied with 2); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Ezra Hendrickson 2); FOULS: 17 (3 tied with 3); OFFSIDES: 5 (Isaac Romo 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Francisco Gomez 2); SAVES: 5 (Martin Zuniga 4)
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton, Logan Pause, Samuel Caballero, Tony Sanneh, Gonzalo Segares, Justin Mapp (Scott Buete 75), Thiago, Jesse Marsch (Jim Curtin 86), Ivan Guerrero (Leonard Griffin 79), Nate Jaqua, Chris Rolfe.
Substitutes Not Used: Kelly Gray, David Mahoney, Jared Montz, Jack Stewart, John Thorrington.
TOTAL SHOTS: 23 (Chris Rolfe 8); SHOTS ON GOAL: 10 (Nate Jaqua 3, Chris Rolfe 3); FOULS: 15 (Jesse Marsch 4); OFFSIDES: 2 (Nate Jaqua 1, Justin Mapp 1); CORNER KICKS: 12 (Thiago 7); SAVES: 3 (Zach Thornton 3)
CHV -- Ramon Ramirez (caution; Reckless Foul) 34
CHV -- Hector Cuadros (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
Referee: Kevin Terry
Referee's Assistants: -Anthony Vasoli; C.J. Morgante
4th Official: Marcel Yonan
Time of Game: 1:55
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.