Wed., Oct. 31 (9 pm ET/8 pm CT; ESPN2/Deportes; TSN2/RDS2)
CHI 4 wins, 19 goals … HOU 6 wins, 22 goals … Ties 4
CHI 1 win, 4 goals … HOU 0 wins, 2 goals … Ties 2
- Unable to hold out for a victory in the season finale, the Fire will still play host to a playoff game for the first time since 2009. The last postseason match at Toyota Park? A loss in a penalty shootout to eventual champion Real Salt Lake in the 2009 Eastern final. “It is disappointing. It stinks, especially because we had an opportunity to win this game and we’ve had opportunities to clinch it,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “But I always have that belief that, no matter where you start from, if you play well, you can win an MLS championship. It’s just one extra game.”
- The Fire have not lost to the Dynamo in two seasons, winning their last meeting this year after two draws. “I want a week to prepare for sure, it would be a lot better than a quick turnaround like this," said Fire coach Frank Klopas. "The good thing is that we are at home and don’t have to travel. We have to get ready to play a very good team. They are a very different team to the one we played today."
- Since a four-game winning streak from Sept. 2-22, the Fire have gone just 1-3-1. They've also posted a loss and a draw in their last two games in Bridgeview, since a six-game home winning streak fromm July 14-Sept. 22.
- After six games out of the lineup with a calf injury, Pavel Pardo was able to return for the final league match and played 90 minutes.
- Making his 12th consecutive start, Sherjill MacDonald collected his fourth assist in the finale. MacDonald has been involved in each of the Fire's last three goals. "I’m still positive; we have another game this week," MacDonald said. "There’s no point in being negative, we earned a draw even though we had enough chances to put it away but we have to move on and look forward the next game."
- The last time the Fire were in the playoffs, only Chris Rolfe and Logan Pause were in the starting lineup. Patrick Nyarko came on as a substitute. “I’m treating this like any other game,” rookie center back Austin Berry said. “If you start thinking about it being a playoff game, you put more unnecessary pressure on yourself. Obviously there’s a lot more on the line but I’m not preparing any differently. I’m looking forward to playing and just being myself.”
- A year ago, the Houston Dynamo traveled to Kansas City for the winner-take-all Eastern Conference Championship. They recorded a 2-0 victory, springing them into MLS Cup 2011. “I think we’re in a similar position as we were last year,” said Brad Davis. “We knew last year was going to be hard road to get where we did, but we got there. Maybe if we didn’t have that last year, you’d go in having a few questions but to know in the back of our minds this is kind of the same steps that we had to go through last year, we have that experience and confidence to know we can do this.”
- Already knowing they were headed into the knockout match before kickoff, Dynamo head coach Dominic Kinnear rang in the changes for the season finale in Colorado. Goalkeeper Tyler Deric made his first league start, and Nathan Sturgis, Alex Dixon and Giles Barnes made their first starts in a long time. "When the game is over win, lose, or draw, you look forward to Wednesday," said Kinnear. "There's nothing we could do tonight to improve our position or make it worse. We gave ourselves a chance to be in the playoffs, and now Wednesday is a very important night for us."
- The Dynamo were held without a goal for the first time since Aug. 10, a 2-0 loss at New York. They come into the knockout round match not having won on the road since a 2-0 win at Toronto FC on July 28. “We have guys who’ve been there and we believe in our team mentality and believe in what we’re doing,” said Davis. “The playoffs come down to everybody fighting for one another, stepping up that intensity a little bit and we know this is a team that’s able to that when our backs are against the wall. That’s when we start to flourish.”
- Ricardo Clark, signed by the Dynamo at midseason, returns to the team with the third-most playoff starts among active Dynamo players. “Everybody knows how good Rico is and I think he has had a seamless fit back in this group,” said Davis. “He is obviously a great player with great experience. He has been to MLS Cup a couple times with this group so he knows what to expect.”
- The match was stopped for the first time in the 13th minute by referee Geoff Gamble because of lightning and thunder. The game was halted for 70 minutes before it resumed.
- In the 24th minute, the Dynamo broke through. Brian Ching peeled off the backline and sprung Will Bruin on a through ball that split the Fire center backs, and the second-year striker coolly beat goalkeeper Sean Johnson inside the right post.
- Just three minutes later, the Fire found an equalizer. After Patrick Nyarko was taken down at the top of the box, a Pavel Pardo direct kick deflected off of the back of Logan Pause, curled over goalkeeper Tally Hall, hit the underside of the crossbar and down over the line.
- After 20 minutes in the second half, which included no shots on target, another bolt of lightning was sighted and Gamble pulled the players off the field for a final time. Under MLS rules, a match abandoned after the second half has kicked off is considered official.
SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1)
FOULS: 11 (3 tied with 2)
CORNER KICKS: 2
CAUTIONS: Pappa 49, Nyarko 60
SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Bruin 1)
FOULS: 7 (Sturgis 2)
CORNER KICKS: 0
SAVES: Hall 3
- The teams combined for just three shots on target for the evening. Chicago’s Marco Pappa tested Tally Hall in the 12th minute with a left-footed strike from outside that box -- the only chance the Dynamo 'keeper had to deal with.
- Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made two saves on the evening, both in the final 45 minutes, greatly threatened by neither.
SHOTS ON GOAL: 1 (Pappa 1)
FOULS: 9 (De Lima 3, Gargan 3)
CORNER KICKS: 6
SAVES: Johnson 2
SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Moffat 1, Ownby 1)
FOULS: 9 (3 tied with 2)
CORNER KICKS: 3
SAVES: Hall 1
CAUTIONS: Ashe 39
- The Fire took the lead before the first minute was out. Patrick Nyarko intercepted Andre Hainault’s pass across the middle in his own half, then raced 40 yards in alone on goal before poking his shot past ‘keeper Tally Hall.
- The Fire capitalized on another midfield takeaway in the 19th minute. Alvaro Fernandez took possession and found Sherjill MacDonald at the edge of the box. His attempted shot deflected off a defender and right into the path of Daniel Paladini, who slotted his shot home from inside the area.
- The Dynamo pulled a goal back in the 90th minute. Brad Davis found Brian Ching on a corner kick, and the veteran sent a header that deflected off a Fire defender and through the reach of goalkeeper Will Johnson.
- But the home side put the game out of reach in stoppage time when Fire playmaker Alex hammered a blast from distance that ricocheted in off the inside of the right post.
SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Watson 2)
FOULS: 9 (3 tied with 2)
CORNER KICKS: 7
SAVES: Hall 1
CAUTIONS: Boswell 79
SHOTS ON GOAL: 4 (4 tied with 1)
FOULS: 11 (Fernandez 2, Segares 2)
CORNER KICKS: 4
SAVES: Johnson 5