BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire scored a sensational first victory over the Seattle Sounders as a stunning late strike from substitute Jason Johnson gave them a 1-0 win over the Western Conference leaders at Toyota Park Saturday.
Cristian Roldan went closest for the visitors (10-8-2, 32 points) when his 45th-minute volley came back off the crossbar, while goalkeeper Troy Perkins, in his first MLS start for the Sounders, produced a man-of-the-match performance to thwart the Fire (5-9-3, 18 points) on several occasions.
However, Johnson stepped up for his second goal for the Men in Red when he was put through on goal by fellow sub Michael Stephens in the 92nd minute, calmly turning inside a defender to stroke the ball past Perkins to secure the Fire’s first win over the Sounders on the tenth attempt.
The Fire showed three changes from the side that tied 1-1 at the Houston Dynamo last week, with debutant Patrick Doody coming in at left back for Greg Cochrane and Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko coming in for Guly do Prado and Johnson.
Seattle, meanwhile, were forced into just one change from their 1-0 victory over D.C. United, with Perkins starting in goal in place of Stefan Frei.
The Fire could have stolen a third minute lead when Nyarko’s beautifully flighted cross from the right found Magee unmarked, but the usually composed striker sent his header high above Perkins’ crossbar.
The quartet of Magee, Nyarko, Harry Shipp and Kennedy Igboananike caused the visiting defense several anxious moments in the opening quarter, with Perkins denying the latter’s close-range header after superb build-up play from Magee and Shipp on the left in the 19th minute.
Shipp showed considerable skill and precision to send Igboananike through on goal nine minutes later, but similar to most chances created in the opening half, the Nigerian failed to hit the target from a good position.
Former Fire forward Chad Barrett tested Sean Johnson with a stinging volley from Dylan Remick’s cross in the 37th minute as the visitors finished the half strongly.
The second half began in disjointed fashion with neither team stamping their authority on the game, but Nyarko was lucky not to concede a penalty in the 55th minute when he appeared to take Thomas down as he raced towards goal.
Sounders substitute Andy Craven almost broke the deadlock in the 67th minute when his close range volley was bravely blocked by Johnson. Fire substitute Do Prado forced a point-blank save from Perkins with a towering header in the 78th minute, while Johnson had a shot saved by Perkins two minutes from time.
The night ended on a high for Frank Yallop’s men when subs Stephens and Johnson combined superbly to secure all three points and consign the visitors to their fifth loss in six games. It was the Fire’s first regular season win since the May 30 victory over the Montreal Impact.
Next up for the Fire is the visit of Columbus Crew SC to Toyota Park on Wednesday, while the Sounders host the Colorado Rapids three days later.