CHICAGO — For awhile on Saturday, it looked like the Chicago Fire might just pull off a stunner in their Herbalife World Football Challenge match against Manchester United at Soldier Field.
The Fire took a 1-0 lead into the half, but couldn’t hold on after the break, giving up three second-half goals to fall to the Premier League champions 3-1 in front of the largest crowd ever to see a Fire game.
While they didn’t get the result they were dreaming of, Chicago were happy with their solid performance against the English giants.
“We put up a very good challenge,” Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said after the match. “We made the game competitive. ... I was very, very happy, really pleased with the performance of all my players.”
Though they weren’t too upset, the Fire do know that things could’ve been a whole lot different had they finished better when they still had the lead. Chicago missed several golden opportunities that would’ve put them up 2-0, none bigger than midfielder Baggio Husidic’s blown sitter in the 52nd minute.
Winger Patrick Nyarko started the play, collecting a ball in the left corner and hitting a low cross to the near post. The cross was intended for forward Orr Barouch, but he and Man. United defender Nemanja Vidic collided at the top corner of the six-yard box and the ball snuck through to the wide-open Husidic at the back post.
The halftime substitute looked ready to double the Fire’s lead, but he somehow missed the open net, scuffing a weak left-footer wide of the near post from just five yards out.
The Fire also came close to scoring later in the second half, with winger Marco Pappa hitting the side netting in the 62nd and Barouch bouncing one off the post in the 64th.
“We had plenty of chances to go up 2-0,” Fire defender Gonzalo Segares said. “But against better teams like that you can’t let chances go and we let at least two [slip]. We missed clear opportunities and they came back and got three in a row.”
“We couldn’t finish and they came back and had their chances and they finished them,” Segares added. “That was the whole difference.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. E-mail him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.