CHARLESTON, S.C. – Chicago Fire midfielder Alex nailed a spectacular stoppage-time game-winner as the MLS side knocked off the USL's Charleston Battery 2-1 in Matchday 2 of the Carolina Challenge Cup on Wednesday night at Blackbaud Stadium.
The Fire's Brazilian attacker fired a searing blast from just outside the box that found the inside of the right post and gave Chicago their second straight win in the competition.
The Battery got on the board early on their first real chance of the match when Nicki Paterson fed a through ball to Jose Cuevas, who found a seam in the Fire back line. The diminutive Californian met the ball with a sliding shot to beat Fire 'keeper Paolo Tornaghi to the far left post.
After falling behind the Fire pressed the issue and after a wasted chance that fell to Chris Rolfe in the box in the 22nd minute, they would find the equalizer on a set piece five minutes later. Joel Lindpere's lofted ball into the box found defender Austin Berry, whose headed attempt caromed back to him for a rebound equalizer.
Fire newcomer Dilly Duka, who had a quiet first half, came to life in the 38th minute with a sudden left-footed blast from 25 yards out that nailed the left post.
However, the chances would be few and far between in the second half. Chicago manager Frank Klopas opted to switch out nearly every field player after the break, with Arne Friedrich the only player to go the full 90. The Battery would play the Fire's reserves fairly evenly throughout a scrappy second stanza during which Chicago's most dangerous attacks came when Cameroonian Yazid Atouba was on the ball down the left wing.
With the victory the Chicago Fire go into the final matchday of the competition on top of the standings with six points, followed by the Houston Dynamo and Vancouver Whitecaps with three points and the hometown Battery with none. The Fire can claim the CCC title with a draw against the Whitecaps on Saturday (5 pm ET), while the Battery take on the Dynamo in the nightcap (7:15 pm ET).
Goals: 11' Cuevas (CHA), 27' Berry (CHI), 91+ Alex (CHI)
Cautions: 54' Bardsley (CHA), 90' Jumper (CHI)
Chicago Fire (left to right, 4-4-2): Tornaghi — Pause (46' Jumper) , Friedrich, Berry (46' Kinney), Anibaba (46' Videira) — Duka (46' Atouba), Larentowicz (46' Thompson), Lindpere (46' Paladini), Nyarko (46' Bone) — Rolfe (46' Alex), MacDonald (46' Maicon Santos)
Charleston (left to right, 4-5-1): Klasila — Wilson (46' Bardsley), Ellison (71' Ferguson), Falvey (46' Mueller), Azira — Van Schaik (62' Catalano), Sanyang, Cuevas (62' Prince), Paterson, Griffith — Kelly (71' Cordoves)