The Chicago Fire got a welcome return home and a desperately needed three points on Saturday.
The Fire snapped a three-game losing streak, all of which came on the road, and a six-match winless streak in a 1-0 win against Houston at Toyota Park.
Arturo Alvarez's goal in the third minute, which was his first for the Fire (2-5-4, 10 points), was the difference.
It didn't take long for the fireworks to start. Will Bruin nearly scored for Houston (3-7-2, 11 points) in the second minute, but a clear handball by Giles Barnes waved off the goal. Soon after Gilberto lofted a ball into the box towards Arturo Alvarez, who got behind DaMarcus Beasley and redirected it past Tyler Deric with one touch.
“I knew he was ready to make a cross," Alvarez said of Gilberto. "I felt like maybe if I can sneak in there maybe the ball would bounce and beat Beasley. It did. Sometimes you just guess and it kind of falls through.”
Beasley, a former member of the Fire, made a couple uncharacteristic mistakes early was subbed off in the 13th minute. He was trying to play through an illness, but was unable to continue.
The win came at the end of a stretch of four games in 11 days for the Fire. The first three were all losses on the road.
"It hasn’t been an easy two weeks," Alvarez said. "Four games in two weeks, a lot of traveling, but I think the group showed good character."
In addition to the assist Gilberto totaled eight shots, including two on goal that forced impressive saves by Houston goalkeeper Tyler Deric. Even in the absence of David Accam, who was suspended, this was one of the Fire's best games of the season in terms of generating chances and shots on goal. Gilberto, who has yet to score this season, has been a part of the problem, but contributed to the Fire's win on Saturday.
"I think he deserved to score today, not only because he had those chances, but he played for the team," Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said of Gilberto. "He was generous with teammates and he was close. We just encourage him to keep on working hard and keep on working for the team, supporting and leading the team into attack and in defense.”
The Fire still had just 37 percent of the possession against a Houston team which prefers to play longball. The Dynamo are just one spot ahead of the Fire in the league in terms of possession, 19th out of 20 teams. However, the Fire held the edge in shots at 20-10 and 7-3 in terms of shots on target.
Houston is now 0-6 on the road this season.
Paunovic made five changes to the Fire's lineup from Wednesday's loss at the New York Red Bulls, including the entire midfield. Matt Polster returned after being rested Wednesday and played alongside Michael Stephens and Nick LaBrocca. Alvarez also returned in place of Joey Calistri and Gilberto took Accam's spot.
The Fire are home again next Saturday when they take on the defending MLS Cup champion Portland Timbers.