The Chicago Fire used something old and something new to claim a 2-0 victory against the New England Revolution on Saturday night at Soldier Field, and in doing so gained a little breathing room in their battle for the fourth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference.
Newly-acquired Andy Herron scored two goals for the Fire, both assisted by stalwart Chris Armas, and Chicago moved to 32 points on the season, now five ahead of the Revolution with four games remaining for both teams.
Chicago coach Dave Sarachan wisely decided to give newcomer Herron his first start at forward, and with Armas making only his second appearance after returning from knee surgery, he didn't have to wait long to see his choice pay off with the first of Herron's two goals in the seventh minute.
The first Fire goal was ignited by a strong run down the right touchline by midfielder Nate Jaqua, who was able to thread a pass through to Armas, who had deftly slipped between the Revolution defense with a clear run to the New England goal.
As New England goalkeeper Matt Reis raced out to play the onrushing Armas, he was left helpless as Armas slid a perfect pass to the streaking Herron, who was able to redirect the pass into a wide-open Revolution goal, the first Fire goal for the Costa Rican international.
New England picked up the pace on the attack in the opening minutes of the second half. In the 57th minute, forward Taylor Twellman, left briefly unmarked by the central Fire defense, blasted a hard drive at Ring, but he was perfectly positioned to make the difficult save.
Revolution midfielder Clint Dempsey had another golden opportunity with a left-footed drive from about 20 yards out in the 61st minute, but once again the ball was hit directly at a well-positioned Ring. New England continued to press the attack throughout the half, but Ring was up to the challenge each time, making several quality saves from in close.
The Fire added an important insurance goal in the 77th minute, once again relying their old and new combination. After being set free on the right flank by Andy Williams, Armas directed a beautiful cross to the back post, where Herron was perfectly placed to deftly redirect the cross past Reis.
Unfortunately for the Fire and Armas, the evening was not all good news. He picked up a yellow card early in the second half, putting him over the caution-point limit, meaning he will be suspended for next Saturday's away match against the first-place Columbus Crew.
New England will attempt to salvage its playoff hopes next Saturday when they welcome Dallas to Gillette Stadium in Foxborough, Mass. (7:30 p.m. ET), while the Fire will continue their drive to ensure that they remain one of only two teams (along with L.A.) to make the playoffs in each year of their MLS existence as they travel to Columbus on Oct. 2 to face the Crew (7:30 pm. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Andy Herron (Chicago Fire)
New England Revolution (6-11-9) vs. Chicago Fire (7-11-8)
September 25, 2004 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- Andy Herron 1 (Chris Armas 6, Nate Jaqua 4) 7
CHI -- Andy Herron 2 (Chris Armas 7, Andy Williams 8) 77
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Steve Ralston, Jay Heaps, Rusty Pierce, Marshall Leonard, Richie Baker (Felix Brillant 66), Clint Dempsey, Shalrie Joseph, Brian Kamler, Pat Noonan, Taylor Twellman.
Substitutes Not Used: Jose Cancela, Andy Dorman, Avery John, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Taylor Twellman 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 8 (Taylor Twellman 4); FOULS: 17 (Clint Dempsey 5); OFFSIDES: 4 (Richie Baker 2); CORNER KICKS: 4 (Richie Baker 4); SAVES: 1 (Matt Reis 1)
Chicago Fire -- Henry Ring, Evan Whitfield, Jim Curtin, C.J. Brown, Nate Jaqua, Chris Armas (Craig Capano 83), Jesse Marsch (Scott Buete 69), Andy Williams, Kelly Gray, Damani Ralph, Andy Herron (Dipsy Selolwane 86).
Substitutes Not Used: Alexandre Boucicaut, Denny Clanton, D.J. Countess, Leonard Griffin, Orlando Perez.
TOTAL SHOTS: 8 (Damani Ralph 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Andy Herron 2); FOULS: 21 (Chris Armas 4); OFFSIDES: 3 (3 tied with 1); CORNER KICKS: 6 (Andy Williams 6); SAVES: 8 (Henry Ring 8)
NE -- Jay Heaps (caution; Pushing, Holding) 54
CHI -- Chris Armas (caution; Professional Foul) 55
NE -- Clint Dempsey (caution; Reckless Foul) 68
CHI -- Andy Williams (caution; Reckless Foul) 80
Referee: Kevin Stott
Referee's Assistants: Nathan Clement; Richard Eddy
4th Official: Michael Kennedy
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-64-degrees
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.