In their first two games of the 2005 MLS season, the San Jose Earthquakes had jumped to early leads -- only to surrender the leads and settle for disappointing draws. Saturday night at Soldier Field was even more disheartening, as the Quakes allowed a stoppage-time goal and lost 2-1 to the Chicago Fire.
Nate Jaqua had given the Fire a lead midway through the second half, but this time it looked like the Earthquakes would provide the late-game heroics as substitute Alejandro Moreno provided an equalizer. But after the full 90 minutes were complete, Thiago turned home a cross to give the Fire the victory in their home opener.
Unlike in their prior matches, the Quakes did not come out of the gate strongly. Both teams were tentative in the opening minutes, until the Quakes had their first and only quality opportunity of the first half in the ninth minute.
Brad Davis, who has been an offensive force so far after joining San Jose, lofted a left-footed cross from the left side to a hard-charging Ronald Cerritos at the back post. But Cerritos was unable to control the ball and put his effort over the crossbar.
The remaining 30-plus minutes of the first half were dominated by the Fire. They had numerous scoring opportunities, including a header by midfielder Jesse Marsch in the 12th minute off a corner kick scramble that caught the left post, and another header by Jaqua that was stopped on a strong diving save by Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad in the 25th minute.
The San Jose midfield possession was virtually non-existent throughout the half. Other than an occasional attempt at a long-ball connection to forwards Brian Ching or Cerritos, the Quakes were back on their heels as the Fire pressed consistently, leading to a seven to zero advantage in corner kicks favoring the Fire.
In the 58th minute the Fire finally broke through San Jose's defense on a header by Jaqua, his first of the year. Quakes 'keeper Pat Onstad came rushing out to challenge for a cross into the box from the left side by Fire forward Justin Mapp. Unfortunately for the Quakes, Jaqua beat Onstad to the ball and deflected it over the 'keeper and into the goal.
San Jose finally flashed the offensive flair that had been so prevalent in their first two matches. In the 82nd minute Cerritos drove a ball deep into the center of the box to Ching. Ching was immediately bundled to the turf by Fire defender Jim Curtin, but Ching popped right back up while retaining possession, and touched a soft pass to substitute Moreno. With the hard work having been done by Ching and Davis, Moreno drove the ball underneath Fire 'keeper Matt Pickens to tie the game.
Unfortunately for the Quakes, they allowed a stoppage-time goal as Fire newcomer Thiago ran onto a perfectly placed cross coming from the right hand side from Fire substitute Chad Barrett. Thiago slid in and sent a slight touch past Onstad to give the Fire their first victory of the season and keep the Quakes still winless on the campaign.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Thiago (Chicago Fire)
San Jose Earthquakes (0-1-2) vs. Chicago Fire (1-1-1)
April 16, 2005 -- Soldier Field
CHI -- own goal (Craig Waibel) 58
SJ -- Alejandro Moreno 1 (Brian Ching 1, Ronald Cerritos 1) 82
CHI -- Thiago 1 (Chad Barrett 1) 91+
San Jose Earthquakes -- Pat Onstad, Craig Waibel (Alejandro Moreno 77), Troy Dayak, Eddie Robinson, Wade Barrett, Brian Mullan, Ricardo Clark (Dwayne De Rosario 70), Danny O'Rourke, Brad Davis, Brian Ching, Ronald Cerritos.
Substitutes Not Used: Chris Aloisi, Jon Conway, Ian Russell.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Ronald Cerritos 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 2 (Alejandro Moreno 1, Brian Mullan 1); FOULS: 20 (Brian Ching 5); OFFSIDES: 5 (Ronald Cerritos 2, Brian Ching 2); CORNER KICKS: 2 (Ronald Cerritos 1, Brad Davis 1); SAVES: 1 (Pat Onstad 1)
Chicago Fire -- Matt Pickens, Kelly Gray, C.J. Brown, Jim Curtin, Samuel Caballero, Thiago (Logan Pause 89), Chris Armas, Jesse Marsch, Ivan Guerrero, Nate Jaqua, Justin Mapp (Chad Barrett 86).
Substitutes Not Used: Scott Buete, Leonard Griffin, Will John, Will Johnson, David Mahoney, Gonzalo Segares, Jack Stewart.
TOTAL SHOTS: 10 (Thiago 3); SHOTS ON GOAL: 3 (Nate Jaqua 2); FOULS: 25 (Jim Curtin 6); OFFSIDES: 3 (Justin Mapp 2); CORNER KICKS: 9 (Justin Mapp 8); SAVES: 1 (Matt Pickens 1)
SJ -- Brian Ching (caution; Tackle from Behind) 63
CHI -- Thiago (caution; Reckless Foul) 67
CHI -- Kelly Gray (caution; Pushing, Holding) 81
Referee: Alex Prus
Referee's Assistants: -Robert Fereday; Richard Eddy
4th Official: Hilario Grajeda
Time of Game: 1:51
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-63-degrees
All statistics contained in this boxscore are unofficial.