The scene was set for the Chicago Fire to leapfrog multiple teams below the red line in the Eastern Conference standings Saturday night. With the Montreal Impact, New York City FC and Philadelphia Union all losing out in their respective matches, the Fire, with a win could've claimed sole possession of sixth place in the East.
After outlasting multiple weather delays and assuming a 1-0 lead at the half-hour mark, the Men in Red fell short of grasping their first road win of the season, however, instead settling for a 1-1 draw with Orlando City SC. David Accam's strike in the 30th minute - his team-leading seventh of 2015 - was followed up by an own goal from Eric Gehrig in the 37th minute, enough for the Fire (7-13-6, 27 points) to pull level on points with the Union and jump to ninth place, while Orlando City (7-12-8, 29 points) dislodged the Impact - temporarily - of the sixth and final playoff spot.
Head coach Frank Yallop trotted out the same lineup that got him a 3-2 victory over the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night. The only change was reflected on the bench, as defender Greg Cochrane returned from his loan stint with USL outfit Saint Louis FC to replace Mike Magee, who, per a coach's decision, did not travel with the team to Orlando.
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Lightning strikes and booms of thunder in and around the area pushed fans inside the Citrus Bowl from their seats to the concourses several times before the match - scheduled for a 6:30 p.m. CT kickoff - resumed at 8:20 p.m. A crafty free kick in the 15th minute orchestrated by Accam and headed toward Tally Hall's frame was all there was to speak of before another lightning strike prompted referee Baldomero Toledo to send players and coaches back into the dressing room.
Play resumed around 9:45 p.m. in the 19th minute, with both sides continuing to set the tempo. It was Accam, though, who silenced the home crowd. The Ghanaian sped to save the ball on the endline with a quarter-hour left to play in the first half, cutting inside Orlando City right back Corey Ashe before sneaking a low shot inside Hall's near post to give the Men in Red the 1-0 advantage.
The lead was quickly snuffed out.
Seven minutes later, Lewis Neal sent an enticing delivery into the box to forward Cyle Larin. The rookie's flick-on header deflected off the head of Gehrig, looped up and over Sean Johnson's outstretched arms for the hosts' equalizer, later deemed an own goal.
Heading into the halftime interval with less than 40 percent of possession, the Fire found themselves largely on the back foot throughout the second 45 and were fortunate to not concede. Adrian Heath's group spurned two golden opportunities late in the game - a Carlos Rivas shot from close range in the 82nd clanged off the post, and Darwin Cerén's stinging effort drew the save of the night from Johnson in second-half stoppage time.
With the international window looming, the Men in Red will have to cope with two dropped points and missing players for their next Eastern Conference fixture. Accam (Ghana), Matt Polster (United States; U-23s) and Joevin Jones (Trinidad and Tobago) will depart Orlando for international duty, and are set to miss the Fire's second match of their three-game road trip, a date with the Impact at Saputo Stadium on Sept. 5.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 60'), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, David Accam; Gilberto (Jason Johnson, 60'), Kennedy Igboananike.