The Colorado Rapids halted a four-game winless streak and extended the slumping Chicago Fire's poor run with a 2-0 victory at Invesco Field at Mile High on Wednesday night.
Jean-Philippe Peguero gave the Rapids a first-half lead then Mark Chung doubled it midway through the second half as the Fire saw their winless stretch extended to nine games. The Rapids leapfrogged into third place in the Western Conference, while the defending Eastern Conference champions saw the gap between them and the first-place MetroStars widen.
A sloppy opening half-hour was marked only by another injury to a Fire starter, as rookie defender Denny Clanton was involved in a clash and had to be taken off for Leonard Griffin.
But the Rapids started to seem the more dangerous of the two teams and started to find some joy on the flanks through Antonio de la Torre and Chris Henderson. In the 29th minute one such attack from Henderson put Alberto Delgado through to goal, but a great recovery and well-timed slide tackle from Orlando Perez blocked the hard shot.
The Rapids attacking efforts then bore fruit as Peguero scored off a de la Torre corner kick. The Haitian striker found himself completely unmarked at the penalty spot, and directed his header hard into the ground, bouncing it high past the outstretched hands of Henry Ring.
Immediately after the goal, the Fire went on an attacking frenzy, and Rapids 'keeper Joe Cannon was forced to make a save on a hard shot from Perez on the left.
The Rapids again had the Fire on the back foot toward the end of the first half, coming close thanks to a long throw in from Jordan Cila into the heart of the box for Mark Chung. But his header was tipped over the ball by Ring, the resulting corner headed wide by Peguero.
Fire coach Dave Sarachan brought on striker Dipsy Selolwane for wingback Logan Pause at halftime, and the Rapids took advantage of the attack-minded lineup with a quick counter in the 57th minute.
After being set free on the right, Delgado's centering pass met an unmarked Chung, who hammered a left-footed shot high past Ring into the upper corner of the goal. It was the first goal of the campaign for Chung, after missing seven games with a leg injury.
The Fire weren't done yet however, as Cannon had to make a great diving stop on a Nate Jaqua shot from the top of the box. Chicago then had their best chance when Damani Ralph was put through on goal and managed to dribble around Joe Cannon, only to see a sprawling Ritchie Kotschau clear his shot off the line. That preserved Cannon's seventh clean sheet of the season, tied for the MLS lead.
After the All-Star break, the Rapids return to action on Saturday, Aug. 7, against the Burn in Dallas (7 p.m. ET), while the Fire wait until Wed., Aug. 11, to start the second half of their league season at home against the San Jose Earthquakes (8:30 p.m. ET). First, the Fire face a quarterfinal match in the U.S. Open Cup against the Richmond Kickers on Aug. 4.
MLSnet.com Man of the Match: Antonio de la Torre (Colorado Rapids)