Chivas USA were minutes away from what would have been a gritty victory over the last unbeaten team in the league.
Instead, the bottom fell out and the Red-and-White did not even come away with a point to show for their efforts.
Patrick Nyarko scored in the 89th minute and Cuauhtemoc Blanco scored in the sixth minute of stoppage time as Chicago scored two late goals to steal a 3-2 win from Chivas USA at The Home Depot Center on Thursday, leaving the hosts to ponder the result.
"They get a bit of a break on the second goal," said Jesse Marsch, who was sent off in the 63rd minute. "And then the third goal is ... debacle doesn't describe it well enough."
With the game tied 2-2, referee Terry Vaughn called a foul on Mariano Trujillo inside the penalty area. Trujillo had apparently knocked Brian McBride down, but the diminutive right back said he could not have done so that easily.
"I'm pretty sure," Trujillo responded when asked if McBride dove. "I just touched him. It's impossible. Look at me. Even if I push him it's hard."
Trujillo is listed at 5-foot-3, 150 pounds while McBride is listed at an even 6 feet, 175 pounds.
What seemed to bother Preki just as much as the call itself was that it was the second call that went against his team.
"This is incredible," Preki said. "In our own house we get called for two penalty kicks."
Marsch picked up a yellow card in the 51st minute, then was sent off after a vicious challenge on Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Overall, Vaughn handed out 11 cards and called a total of 28 fouls.
"Some of those calls out there were so ridiculous that I don't even know what to say," Marsch said. "The referees that have been successful this year have let the game go. And the ones that have been completely unsuccessful have tried to keep it too tight. I don't know what's being told to them, I don't know how they think games should go, but the bottom line is games that have had more freedom and haven't had as many fouls called have been better games. Tonight he lost control of the game, early on. Early, early, early on."
Chivas USA and Chicago exchanged early goals as Paulo Nagamura scored in the 16th minute before Blanco's first penalty kick goal, nine minutes later. Maykel Galindo scored in the 37th minute when he converted a penalty kick.
Marsch, though, was sent off with less than a half-hour remaining and did not seem to protest the call much that saw him leave the game.
"I feel like I let the team down," Marsch said. "My red card changed the game and I firmly believe that if I don't get a red card we don't lose the game."
Instead, Chicago mounted a comeback. The Fire pelted Chivas USA's goal with shots and had four on goal in the last 20 minutes after having just two the entire game up to that point. But Chivas USA's defense ultimately collapsed. First, the backline gave up space to Nyarko, who did well to find the ball on the right side of the box and bury it past Chivas USA 'keeper Zach Thornton.
Then, the fateful play went down as Trujillo made contact with McBride and the former U.S. international fell to the turf.
"That was a normal play. If he's going to call that kind of penalty, we should have maybe four penalty kicks," Preki said.
Ultimately, Chivas USA players said they felt the match was taken away from them.
"I dont like to talk about the referee. We lost and I'm aware we lost the game but I do not think we deserved to lose," Galindo said. "A tie would have been a just result but the referee is in charge of the game and instead of letting the players decide the game, I think he decided it."
Luis Bueno is a contributor to MLSnet.com.