The Fire extended their winning streak against FC Dallas to four consecutive games Sunday night, topping Óscar Pareja's side, 2-0, in front of 14,209 at Toyota Park.
David Accam's sixth goal in his 13th regular season appearance for the Men in Red and Shaun Maloney's 85th minute penalty kick proved to be the difference on the night, as Frank Yallop's men claimed their first league victory since a 1-0 triumph over then-Western Conference leaders Seattle Sounders FC, leaving Dallas winless against the Fire since October 13, 2011.
"Fantastic win for us," Yallop told reporters after the match. "To get a clean sheet in the end was important, under a bit of pressure at the end. I thought we did enough to win the game. We were dangerous on the break and could've scored more.
"We rolled with the punches tonight against a good team that is going to attack us and open us up, but I thought we could've scored five goals on the break. ... It proved tonight that we're not a bad side against a very, very good team in Dallas. We deserved to win."
Following last week’s 2-2 draw against the New England Revolution, the Fire showed three changes. Adaílton, whose blunder resulted in the Revolution’s second and game-tying goal, made way for Jeff Larentowicz to reclaim a starting position at center back alongside Eric Gehrig. After missing the last three matches to regain fitness, Lovel Palmer made his return to the side to replace Matt Watson, meaning Matt Polster was restored to the center of the midfield to partner with Razvan Cocis. Jason Johnson rounded out the alterations, standing in for Kennedy Igboananike up top.
The hosts got off to a dream start, seeing Jason Johnson and Accam combine in the fourth minute to give Yallop's outfit a fourth-minute lead. Johnson released the Ghanaian into space, who beat defender Matt Hedges to the ball and slotted a low shot through the legs of Dallas 'keeper Dan Kennedy and into the back of the net for a team-leading sixth strike of the campaign.
Despite gaining early momentum, the tide appeared to have shifted as the visitors reclaimed a majority of possession. In the 27th minute, Dallas nearly caught the Men in Red sleeping. A free-kick delivery fell to Victor Ulloa, who hooked his shot from the top of the 18 narrowly wide of Sean Johnson's right post, the most worrying of a string of half chances that Yallop's group was able to safely fend off going into the halftime interval.
Emerging from the opening 45 with just 38 percent of possession, the Fire continued to be pinned back by Dallas, but saw the better chances fall their way. Three minutes either side of the hour mark, it was the presence of Johnson, the nifty footwork from Maloney and the unrelenting play of Accam that unnerved the visitors.
[NBC SHOP: Buy a Fire jersey here]
Accam wrestled the ball off a Dallas defender in the box and found himself with only Kennedy to beat, but fired a tame effort into the palms of the Dallas netminder. Maloney dribbled a ball toward the endline six minutes later, cutting back for Johnson, who blasted an effort off Kennedy's chest.
In the 77th minute, Cocis slammed a one-time shot from distance that forced another save from Kennedy, before the Fire were reduced to 10 men following a studs-up challenge from second-half substitute Matt Watson on Rolando Escobar at midfield.
The shorthanded Men in Red displayed a different level of fight from games past, however, getting the most out of substitute Kennedy Igboananike, who, five minutes from time, was brought down in the penalty area by Kellyn Acosta. The Nigerian's tenacious work rate allowed Maloney to step up to convert his second spot kick in as many matches to help the Fire top a Western Conference foe for the second time in three weeks, and climb out of last place in the Eastern Conference.
"The back four and four midfielders in front of them were excellent," Yallop added. "We worked a lot on shape, getting in the right spots and staying with runners, especially against a team like Dallas who have tons of pace and ability. ... We defended very well tonight as a group."
Next up is a trip to the Pacific Northwest to take on the Portland Timbers on Aug 12. The match is slated for a 10 p.m. CT kickoff from Providence Park.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-1-1): Sean Johnson; Lovel Palmer (Matt Watson, 68'), Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones; Harry Shipp, Razvan Cocis, Matt Polster, Shaun Maloney; David Accam (Patrick Nyarko, 88'); Jason Johnson (Kennedy Igboananike, 66').