In a key Eastern Conference matchup, a first-half goal by rookie Stephen King gave the Chicago Fire a 1-0 win against the visiting New York Red Bulls Saturday at Toyota Park.
The victory lifted the Fire to a tie with the New England Revolution for second place in the East, both teams on 38 points. The Revolution lost to first-place Columbus 4-0 Saturday.
The loss was the first in the last seven games for the Red Bulls, who remain just three points behind the Fire.
The shutout was the 10th of the season for Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch, who faced two shots on goal.
With three starters missing due to national team commitments (Cuauhtemoc Blanco, Mexico; Gonzalo Segares, Costa Rica; and Marco Pappa, Guatemala), Fire coach Denis Hamlett put veteran Diego Gutierrez back on defense and used rookie Stephen King in the midfield along with second-year player Mike Banner, who was making the first start of his MLS career.
For the second time in the last three games, Hamlett had veteran midfielder Justin Mapp as a reserve. Mapp, a six-year veteran, signed a four-year contract extension with the Fire Saturday.
The Fire had the run of play through the first 10 minutes, and had their first scoring opportunity in the eight minute on a corner kick by John Thorrington. Red Bulls goalkeeper Jon Conway punched out the kick, but it went directly to Banner standing just outside the box. He volleyed the ball out of the air directly at goal, and this time defender Diego Jimenez headed it off the line and away to safety.
In the 13th minute, midfielder Logan Pause found Thorrington alone wide on the right, and Thorrington dribbled to the end line. He tried to slot a shot in front of Conway, but the Red Bulls 'keeper made the save.
In the 18th minute, the Red Bulls had their best chance to score in the first half, but Hunter Freeman's long blast bounced off the crossbar.
Brian McBride had a scoring opportunity in the 34th minute from right of goal but didn't get a good contact on the ball.
The Fire got the game's only goal in the 36th minute when Chris Rolfe dribbled in on Jimenez on the left side. Jimenez tackled the ball away, but his clearance squirted out to the center of the box, where King was alone in front of Conway to easily slot the ball into the right side of the goal.
The Fire had four shots on goal in the first half, while the Red Bulls were credited with one.
The Fire made no changes to start the second half, and in the 60th minute, defender Brandon Prideaux pushed a New York player off the ball then executed a give-and-go with John Thorrington. Prideaux ended up with the ball on the right side and dribbled into the box, but sent his shot left of goal.
In the 67th minute, defender Wilman Conde sent a long ball over the defense to McBride, who dribbled from the left outside the box and had a clear shot but put the ball over the net.
Soumare did it again in the 75th minute, sending the ball over the defense to Banner, who could not have been more open on the left side. But Banner dribbled in too close, and when he finally shot the ball, Conway was able to throw his right arm out to block it.
In the 77th minute, Hamlett sent Mapp into the game for Banner. In the 80th minute, Andy Herron entered the game in place of Chris Rolfe.
Mapp had the game's best late opportunity, when McBride picked him out with a cross from the right flank that Mapp met with a full-blooded volley, but it sailed high and wide of the upper right corner.
Kent McDill is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.