missing a number of starters to international duty -- a seventh-minute lead, but the Earthquakes drew level in the second half before Onstad's heroics saved a share of the points. The tie gives the Fire a slim one-point lead atop the Eastern Conference while the Earthquakes now find themselves five points off the pace in the West behind joint leaders Kansas City and Los Angeles.
The contest was a rematch of MLS Cup 2003 and as occurred in last year's title game, Onstad made a critical save on a Razov spot kick. Referee Alex Prus awarded the maximum penalty in the 85th minute after a challenge by Earthquakes defender Craig Waibel on Razov in the right side of the area. Razov, who converted from the spot last week against Los Angeles, drove the ball down the middle of the goal but Onstad kicked the ball away.
The Fire took the early lead thanks to fine combination play between the club's two forwards. A Logan Pause cross from the right flank was chested down by Razov in the goalmouth into the path of his strike partner Jaqua. He received the ball between two defenders and slipped through two defenders to the edge of the six-yard box before slotting the ball past a helpless Onstad for his second goal of the year.
San Jose controlled the first-half proceedings with crisp play and a solid team effort in which every player was involved in the elaborate attacking buildups. But despite owning the greater possession the Earthquakes rarely threatened the Fire, who defended in numbers. The Earthquakes were limited to long-distance shots which either missed the target or found Fire goalkeeper Henry Ring.
In the first half the Fire rarely played through the midfield, where they gave up the ball on several occasions under the trademark Earthquakes pressure. They were missing influential midfielders DaMarcus Beasley, Chris Armas and Andy Williams, as well as strikers Damani Ralph and Dipsy Selolwane, all for World Cup qualifiers this weekend.
But Jaqua had the chance to send the home team up 2-0 just before the break. He split two Earthquakes players on a solo run into the right side of the area, but with time and space he fired well high of the goal. Moments later the Earthquakes responded through Ian Russell, who sent a shot from the left side of the box past a charging Ring but Whitfield cleared the danger after the ball had crossed the entire goalmouth.
The game continued along the same lines in the second half and Ching, who was visibly absent from the Earthquakes attack in the first half, had a clear-cut scoring chance in the 55th minute. San Jose right midfielder Brian Mullan, raced past Fire left midfielder Orlando Perez and his centering cross was redirected by Ching from close range but just wide of the right post.
Although the game grew increasingly reminiscient of a frustrating 1-0 loss in Columbus in the Earthquakes' last road game, Ching would eventually give the visitors a deserved equalizer in the 66th minute. He headed an Agoos corner kick goalward, and although the Fire's Evan Whitfield had the final touch on the ball just before it crossed the line, Ching was credited with his MLS-leading seventh goal of the year.
With the score level the Quakes first had the best chances to secure the points, through Canadian international Dwayne De Rosario and Waibel. In the 76th minute De Rosario's shot from the right of the box was stopped by Ring. That was followed by Waibel's 83rd-minute strike on which he lifted the ball just high of the target on a cross from the right.
Following the penalty kick save by Onstad, the Fire had one last opportunity when a Jaqua close-range drive from a tight angle was corraled by Onstad in the 87th minute.
The Earthquakes return to action next Saturday, June 26 at 10 p.m. ET when they host the Kansas City Wizards at Spartan Stadium (HDNet). San Jose will hope Chicago can do it a favor a day later when the Fire welcome the Western Conference-leading Los Angeles Galaxy in the second of two consecutive home games at Soldier Field (7 p.m. ET).
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Pat Onstad (San Jose Earthquakes)
San Jose Earthquakes (4-3-4) vs. Chicago Fire (4-3-5)
June 19, 2004 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- Nate Jaqua 2 (Ante Razov 2, Logan Pause 1) 7
SJ -- Brian Ching 7 (Jeff Agoos 3) 66
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Wes Hart, Jeff Agoos, Ryan Cochrane, Craig Waibel, Brian Mullan, Ramiro Corrales, Richard Mulrooney, Ian Russell (Arturo Alvarez 64), Dwayne De Rosario, Brian Ching.
Substitutes Not Used: Jon Conway, Tighe Dombrowski, Todd Dunivant, Ronnie Ekelund.
TOTAL SHOTS: 15 (Dwayne De Rosario 4); SHOTS ON GOAL: 5 (Ian Russell 3); FOULS: 15 (Arturo Alvarez 3, Brian Ching 3); OFFSIDES: 4 (Dwayne De Rosario 3); CORNER KICKS: 11 (Jeff Agoos 7); SAVES: 2 (Pat Onstad 2)
Chicago Fire -- Henry Ring, Evan Whitfield, Jim Curtin, Kelly Gray, C.J. Brown, Justin Mapp, Denny Clanton, Logan Pause, Orlando Perez (Scott Buete 59), Nate Jaqua, Ante Razov.
Substitutes Not Used: Craig Capano, D.J. Countess, Leonard Griffin, Sumed Ibrahim.
TOTAL SHOTS: 7 (Nate Jaqua 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (3 tied with 1); FOULS: 8 (Denny Clanton 2, Nate Jaqua 2); OFFSIDES: 1 (Jim Curtin 1); CORNER KICKS: 1 (Justin Mapp 1); SAVES: 4 (Henry Ring 4)
SJ -- Brian Ching (caution; Tackle from Behind) 18
CHI -- Ante Razov (caution; Reckless Foul) 56
SJ -- Richard Mulrooney (caution; Tackle from Behind) 63
SJ -- Arturo Alvarez (caution; Tackle from Behind) 79
SJ -- Jeff Agoos (caution; Dissent) 84
SJ -- Jeff Agoos (caution; Dissent) 85
SJ -- Jeff Agoos (ejection; Second Caution) 85
CHI -- Scott Buete (caution; Reckless Foul) 93+
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: -Thomas Supple; Richard Eddy
4th Official: Abiodun Okulaja
Time of Game: 1:53
All Statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.