Brian Bliss received a rude welcome in his first match in charge as Fire interim head coach.
Montreal Impact forward Didier Drogba picked up where he left off on Sept. 5, when he notched a hat trick in his first-ever MLS start against the Fire. On Wednesday night, the Ivorian notched his fifth goal of the season before David Accam tallied a team-leading ninth goal to pull Bliss' group level five minutes past the halftime interval. But second-half substitute Andrés Romero's clinical finish in the 76th minute was enough to hand the Men in Red a 2-1 defeat in front of 17,832 at Stade Saputo.
The loss - a league-high 17th of 2015 - is the fourth on the bounce for the Fire (7-17-6, 27 points), who still occupy last place in the Eastern Conference. Meanwhile, the Impact (11-11-6, 39 points) have a four-point cushion over Orlando City SC in the sixth and final playoff spot with two games in hand.
Bliss made a quartet of changes following the 1-0 defeat to Orlando City four days earlier, with Lovel Palmer and Patrick Doody coming in for Daneil Cyrus and Joevin Jones at right and left back, respectively. Matt Polster and Gilberto also earned starts, deputizing for Michael Stephens and Harry Shipp.
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Both sides labored to carve out any concrete opportunities for themselves in the early stages, with Kennedy Igboananike and Gilberto trying their luck from distance before the 10-minute mark. In a flat 4-4-2 formation, the Fire back line capably blocked out Montreal's passing options and denied service in to the forwards, limiting the hosts to just one shot on target through the opening 38 minutes.
In the 16th minute, Gilberto was sent through on goal with only the goalkeeper to beat. The Brazilian elected to dribble around, but Evan Bush expertly pushed the ball away and out of his reach. Just past the half-hour mark, Gilberto found himself at the heart of the team's most clear-cut opportunity, squaring for Accam in the box, but the Ghanaian disappointingly scuffed his side-footed effort off target.
Six minutes later, the Men in Red would come to haunt those earlier misses.
Nigel Reo-Coker outmuscled and wriggled free from Razvan Cocis before delivering a pinpointed cross into the box to Drogba. The 37-year-old appeared to have unlawfully wrestled Jeff Larentowicz to the ground en route to powering home a header past a helpless Jon Busch, a contentious moment that went uncalled by the officiating crew, but was enough to send the hosts into halftime with a 1-0 advantage.
In the second stanza, the Fire were injected with a bit of life.
Doody lobbed a ball over the top of the Impact defense from his left back position. Gilberto first capitalized on a mistake by Víctor Cabrera, flicked the ball over an onrushing Bush and sent a header on goal. The effort was cleared off the line and clanged off the post before Accam followed up with a goal-line header to pull the visitors level.
Perhaps the Fire's most gilt-edged chance on the night fell to Accam, who raced into the box in the 73rd minute. The combination of the Ghanaian's pace and trickery helped him sidestep two defenders, but in the end, opted to chip the scrambling Bush, who was relieved to see the effort sail over the crossbar.
Three minutes later, Mauro Biello's side made the Fire pay via a finely executed, quick-fire attacking move. Patrice Bernier collected the ball in the Fire's defensive half and measured a splitting pass between Larentowicz and Ty Harden for Romero, who coolly dispatched past Busch less than five minutes after coming on for Johan Venegas.
Next up for the Fire is Saturday's visit to BMO Field to take on Toronto FC, while the Impact travel to the nation's capital to face D.C. United at RFK Stadium.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-2) - Jon Busch; Lovel Palmer, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Ty Harden, Patrick Doody; Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 83'), Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis, David Accam; Kennedy Igboananike (Joevin Jones, 66'), Gilberto (Mike Magee, 78').