The New England Revolution came out on top in the battle for the lead in the Eastern Conference against the Chicago Fire, goals from Clint Dempsey, Pat Noonan and Taylor Twellman sending the visitors to a 3-0 victory at Soldier Field on Wednesday night.
The Fire began slowly and never really got going as New England dominated the run of play throughout the first half before taking a two-goal lead into the locker room at halftime. The Revolution's strike pair of Noonan and Twellman and the driving midfield force of Dempsey were consistently dangerous and tormented the Fire's defense throughout the match.
The warning signs from the Revolution came early. In the sixth minute, Noonan hit the outside of the post with a redirection from a free kick taken just outside the box. In the 13th minute he again came within a hair of opening the scoring, latching onto another a free kick that bounced through only to mishit his shot and see it easily cleared. Three minutes later he was once again put through on goal, but this time the referee's assistant raised his flag for offside.
The only real Fire action in the first half-hour was a yellow card on Jesse Marsch in the 29th minute for a nasty looking foul on Twellman. The yellow card seemed to inspire the Revolution even further as just three minutes later they took the lead.
Dempsey was the recipient of a slick one-two between Shalrie Joseph and Twellman in midfield. He received an angled pass from Joseph, popped it up to himself to slip between a pair of Fire defenders and then slammed it past Chicago goalkeeper Thornton on the full volley.
The Fire tried to counter New England but were continuously thwarted by the Revolution's defense. The Fire's best opportunity of the first half was by Mapp, who worked himself open to the right of goal but shot into the side netting.
The first half ended as it had began, with Dempsey as the lead protagonist. He latched onto a Fire corner and raced up the right sideline before sliding the ball to midfielder James Riley. The rookie then hit a low cross through the penalty area that found Noonan, who briefly controlled the ball and then drove a low shot past Thornton's left to double the lead in the 43rd minute.
While the Fire had only four shots on goal in the first half -- and just one on goal -- the second half began in a more promising fashion for the home side. They came out more aggressively while the Revolution seemed content to sit back and defend.
In the 49th minute, the Fire's Nate Jaqua was beautifully put through on goal but scuffed his shot and despite sitting on the turf, Reis easily grabbed it. Then in the 51st minute Justin Mapp was brought down just outside the box. Samuel Caballero stepped up to take the free kick, but shot directly at Reis.
Just after the hour, Mapp and Thiago each had chances that neither was able to convert. Mapp freed himself on the right side of the box but instead of centering it to his on-rushing teammates, elected to take the shot himself and put it harmlessly into the side of the net. Moments later, Thiago hit a swerving shot from distance that sailed just wide to the right of goal.
The Fire finally began to create some real danger over the final 20 minutes, as Chicago coach Dave Sarachan made three changes in order to bolster their attack. Chris Rolfe was brought on for Jesse Marsch, while Chad Barrett replaced the ineffective Jaqua and Andy Herron also returned to first-team action.
Two minutes after coming on, Barrett got a clear look at goal from the top of the box -- unloading a missle that just missed. Five minutes later, Rolfe, also from the top of the box, fired another rocket that went just over the top of the bar.
Moments later, Mapp sent a dangerous cross in front of Reis's goal that just narrowly missed a speeding Herron. Herron, who came on for C.J. Brown, is coming off an injury and still not 100 percent.
Then the Revolution delivered the final blow five minutes into second half stoppage time. Taylor Twellman intercepted the ball near midfield and raced in on goal from the right before driving a rising blast past an irritated Thornton for his 50th MLS goal.
The Fire travel to Columbus on Saturday night where they will take on the Crew (7:30 p.m. ET), while the Revolution return to Gillette Stadium for the first of four home games over the next five when they take on Chivas USA on Saturday at 7:30 p.m. ET (FSC).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Clint Dempsey (New England Revolution)
Nathan Nebbe is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
Toby True is a contributor to MLSnet.com. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Soccer or its clubs.
New England Revolution (2-0-1) vs. Chicago Fire (2-1-1)
April 27, 2005 -- Soldier Field
NE -- Clint Dempsey 3 (Shalrie Joseph 1, Taylor Twellman 2) 32
NE -- Pat Noonan 3 (James Riley 3, Clint Dempsey 3) 43
NE -- Taylor Twellman 3 (unassisted) 95+
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Jay Heaps, Michael Parkhurst, Avery John, James Riley (Luke Vercollone 86), Clint Dempsey, Andy Dorman, Shalrie Joseph, Marshall Leonard, Taylor Twellman, Pat Noonan.
Substitutes Not Used: Connally Edozien, Ryan Latham, Doug Warren.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Pat Noonan 3, Taylor Twellman 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 6 (Pat Noonan 2, Taylor Twellman 2); FOULS: 8 (Shalrie Joseph 3); OFFSIDES: 6 (Pat Noonan 3, Taylor Twellman 3); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Andy Dorman 3); SAVES: 3 (Matt Reis 3)
Chicago Fire -- Zach Thornton, C.J. Brown (Andy Herron 78), Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero, Kelly Gray, Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch (Chris Rolfe 69), Ivan Guerrero, Thiago, Nate Jaqua (Chad Barrett 72), Justin Mapp.
Substitutes Not Used: Scott Buete, Leonard Griffin, Will John, Logan Pause, Matt Pickens, Jack Stewart.
TOTAL SHOTS: 17 (Justin Mapp 5); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 10 (Samuel Caballero 3, Thiago 3); OFFSIDES: 6 (Nate Jaqua 2); CORNER KICKS: 3 (Justin Mapp 2); SAVES: 3 (Zach Thornton 3)
CHI -- Samuel Caballero (caution; Professional Foul) 14
CHI -- Jesse Marsch (caution; Reckless Foul) 28
NE -- Jay Heaps (caution; Professional Foul) 48
NE -- Shalrie Joseph (caution; Tackle from Behind) 70
CHI -- C.J. Brown (caution; Game Disrepute) 72
Referee: Abiodun Okulaja
Referee's Assistants: -Chris Strickland; Anthony Vasoli
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-48-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.