BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – As home openers go, this one did not follow the script. A dominant second-half performance from the Vancouver Whitecaps saw the visitors leave Toyota Park with a 1-0 victory over the Chicago Fire on Saturday.
The Fire, who made four changes to the side beaten by the LA Galaxy on opening night, were much improved from their 2-0 defeat in LA. But the hosts were made to rue their lack of accuracy in front of goal as the Whitecaps eventually found the net after missing a glut of gilt-edged chances, to steal a late victory with Octavio Rivero’s 86th-minute strike.
Rivero, who has now scored in his first two MLS games, was a nuisance for the Fire backline all night as he finished with eight shots and four chances created.
Rookie Matt Polster, making his first MLS start in the center of midfield, made his presence felt immediately as he went into the referee’s book in the fourth minute for a clumsy foul right on the edge of the box near the endline.
Joevin Jones was denied in the 24th minute by the outstanding Ousted after being fed through by Amarikwa, while a rehearsed free-kick saw Harry Shipp tee Shaun Maloney up, but his goalbound effort was deflected marginally over in the 26th minute.
The impressive Shipp was again denied by Ousted after incisive build-up play from Amarikwa and Michael Stephens saw the latter’s nutmeg find Shipp on the right of the six-yard box with just Ousted to beat, but the Vancouver ’keeper stood strong and turned his near post shot behind.
The Whitecaps finished the half strongly with Kekuta Manneh forcing an excellent save from Busch, while Rivero sent Pedro Morales through in first-half injury-time, but he sent his shot carelessly wide and right with just Busch to beat.
15 minutes into the second half Polster was called ashore after a solid home debut, with the introduction of Kennedy Igboananike forcing a complete reshuffle for the Fire backline and midfield.
As a result of the ensuing changes, the Fire were significantly looser in defense and Vancouver continually found gaps and spaces to run into and threaten the home goal.
Next up for the Whitecaps is a long trip to visit Orlando City SC on March 21, while the Fire travel to San Jose to open Avaya Stadium a day later.