After gaining much-needed confidence from a visit to the Lone Star State last Friday, the Fire beat their first Western Conference opponent of the season, knocking off Seattle Sounders FC, 1-0, in front of 18,528 at Toyota Park Saturday night.
It was a night of firsts, as head coach Frank Yallop made a trio of changes from the side that snatched a 1-1 draw at the Houston Dynamo last Friday.
Following his 72nd-minute equalizer at BBVA Compass Stadium - entering as a second-half substitute - Patrick Nyarko stood in for Jason Johnson, and earned his first MLS start since Oct. 10, 2014 at Sporting Kansas City and his 135th regular-season appearance. Meanwhile, a first-ever league cameo was granted to Patrick Doody, who returned from a loan stint at Saint Louis FC to deputize for Greg Cochrane. Mike Magee also reclaimed the captain's armband and slotted in alongside Kennedy Igboananike to lead the firing line for the Men in Red.
The Fire began just as Yallop preached prior to the match, on the front foot despite Magee spurning the game's first clear-cut opportunity in the third minute, heading a delightful cross from Nyarko over Perkins' goal.
Seven minutes later, a cheeky 1-2 between Harry Shipp and Nyarko had the makings of a stellar opening goal, as Shipp's low delivery found Kennedy Igboananike, whose one-time effort went wide before being flagged for offside. It was the first of three missed opportunities for the Nigerian, as he continued to put himself in positions to score all night, but failed to slot home past Perkins in the 34th minute, blazing a shot wildly off target and again in the 58th minute, with an attempted back-heel flick rolling safely into the palms of the Sounders 'keeper.
Yallop's side continued to apply pressure on the visitors, coming close to opening their account in the 19th minute. This time, it was Magee and Shipp who linked up, the latter providing an expertly weighted ball to the back post, which met the head of Nyarko, who was denied by an alert Perkins once again.
Former Fire forward Chad Barrett endeavored to get Sigi Schmid's outfit on the board in the 37th minute, as his one-timed, left-footed side volley was struck firmly at Johnson. Cristian Roldan hit the woodwork just shy of the halftime whistle, marking the visitors' best chance in an opening 45 minutes that saw tensions flare up as Barrett and Eric Gehrig tussled before walking off the field.
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Ten minutes into the second stanza, the Fire were lucky not to concede a penalty as Nyarko appeared to have brought down Thomás, but referee Allen Chapman let play go on.
The Rave Green resisted well despite the Fire continuing to inflict pressure on their counterparts, and, in the 67th minute, almost found their breakthrough. Substitute Andy Craven came close to making an instant impact after Tyrone Mears' free kick fell to the forward, whose volley was hounded down by Johnson.
In the 78th minute, substitute Guly do Prado nearly converted his headed effort past Perkins, who was up to the task yet again. Jason Johnson, a late substitute, took the Fire's last chance of the encounter with an arrow to the back post in second-half stoppage time to give the Men in Red a deserved victory, and first in league play since a 3-0 drubbing of the Montreal Impact on May 30.
Next up for the Fire is a midweek fixture against Columbus Crew SC on July 15 at Toyota Park. The Sounders host Colorado Rapids on July 18 at CenturyLink Field.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):
(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer, Eric Gehrig, Adailton, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Jason Johnson, 65'), Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Harry Shipp; Mike Magee (C) (Guly do Prado, 70'), Kennedy Igboananike (Michael Stephens, 83').