HARRISON, N.J. – The buildup to the match was oddly similar to their previous encounter, and indeed the score line was identical to their meeting in Toyota Park. But this time, it was the New York Red Bulls on the right side of a 3-2 result as they erased a two-goal deficit to top the Chicago Fire at home on Friday night.
The win takes the Red Bulls into first place in the Eastern Conference, pending the outcome of D.C. United's game against Colorado on Saturday, while Chicago remain in last place in the East.
After a lengthy layoff leading up to their match-up with the Fire, the Red Bulls said all the right things as they looked to atone for their poor performance in Chicago back on Aug. 26, but it looked to be more of the same as Chicago’s pace and individual skilled looked destined to burn New York once more.
A wild first half saw both sides trade jabs with the Fire striking first thanks to goals from captain Jeff Larentowicz and forward David Accam. A controversial penalty gave the Fire the lead in the 14th minute, after Kennedy Igboananike went down at the edge of the box following a challenge from Damien Perrinelle, while Accam blazed by the New York defense on a one-man counterattack, beating the likes of Connor Lade and Luis Robles in the process, to double their advantage in the 26th minute.
The Red Bulls managed a quick response as the home side cut into the deficit just two minutes later. Midfielder Sacha Kljestan collected the ball near the top of the 18 amongst a throng of Chicago defenders before slipping a clever pass to Bradley Wright-Phillips. The Englishman’s toe poke found its way past goalkeeper Sean Johnson to start the New York comeback effort.
The equalizer would come soon after as midfielder Mike Grella leveled the affair at two. After a slow start, the Red Bulls continued to pile on the pressure and found their reward in the 38th minute. Winger Lloyd Sam squared up Fire defender Joevin Jones before centering a feed to the top of the six. A quick trap, turn and finish by Grella put both sides on even terms heading into the break.
The second half saw both sides clawing for an edge as the Red Bulls continued to dominate possession while the Fire looked dangerous on the counter throughout. As the clock ticked down, New York became visibly frustrated as chance after chance went begging.
Their frustration boiled over after a Sam penalty shout went unanswered by referee Armando Villareal. But minutes later, Sam would once again go down in the area, this time earning a controversial spot kick after an arm to the shoulder from Michael Stephens. It would be Kljestan to step up for New York and the former USMNT midfielder slotted it home with ease, giving the Red Bulls their first lead of the match, and one they would not relinquish.
The Red Bulls face a quick turnaround as they hit the road to take on the New England Revolution on Wednesday night, while Chicago will return home to take on Orlando City SC on Saturday night.