In front of a standing-room only crowd of 19,124 at Toyota Park on Friday night, the Chicago Fire held on against a 10-man New York City FC side to win 1-0 and claim their third consecutive victory.
David Accam pulverized Jason Kreis' side all night and got his reward in the 20th minute, capitalizing on some lackadaisical play from goalkeeper Ryan Meara to give the Fire all they needed to climb to fourth place in the Eastern Conference standings.
"It feels great to be on the scoresheet," Accam said. "For me, I know I should've scored maybe two or three, but we got three points today so that's what we'll keep working on."
Behind another sharp-witted performance from Harry Shipp in the midfield, the Men in Red took Frank Yallop's message of getting on the front foot early to heart, with Accam spearheading the Fire attack.
The Homegrown midfielder threaded the needle and ignited most of the running in the early stages, while interchanging with the Ghanaian international on the flanks.
"For me, I love just showing up anywhere on the field and I think he's the same," Shipp said. "He likes testing both outside backs and it forces the defense to always be on their toes because they never know when either of us is going pop up. It's something we'll hopefully continue to do."
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A slick surface gave way to some misplaced passes, leading to lapses in possession for both sides, one of which nearly gifted Accam his first MLS goal. In the 20th minute, after dazzling and dangling his way past stranded NYCFC defenders, his shot from inside the box clanked off the post, the Fire's first clear-cut chance of the match.
Four minutes later, Accam used his speed to carve through the City defense and run clean through on goal, leaving midfielder Andrew Jacobson no option but to take the Designated Player down from behind, earning a straight red card in the process.
Despite being reduced to 10 men before the half hour mark, Kreis' outfit didn't go into the halftime break quietly. After skipping through the Fire midfield and evading a few challenges, Mix Diskerud unleashed a knuckling shot in the 41st minute that stung the fingertips of Sean Johnson.
The halftime talk from Frank Yallop paid dividends as the Men in Red came out flying at the start of the second half, with Shipp belting a shot off the post in the 51st minute. For Yallop, a monumental aspect of the Fire's second half success was getting Shaun Maloney to retreat from his position higher up the field to cope with NYCFC's midfield setup.
"New York played well till the end of the half," Yallop said in his post-match press conference. "I just said, 'We've got the extra guy, we can't be sitting back.'
"I wanted Shaun to drop underneath a little bit more to get an extra guy in midfield because they do overload the midfield. They play a diamond, they play tight. I think Shaun did a good job in the second half of dropping in and creating a lot of play in possession for us to break on them.
"A halftime talk is always good when you're winning, but you're always looking for that extra goal to make a difference in the game to make it 2-0. Credit to New York, they kept going and didn't buckle under, but we were on our game tonight and that was pleasing to see."
With Guly do Prado playing his part despite a lack of playing time this season, an injection of pace and energy beckoned with the introduction of Quincy Amarikwa, who was released in behind the City defense, keeping the visitors on their toes.
"I thought he [do Prado] did well tonight," Yallop said. "He held the ball up and played a good role in our attack. Quincy had an ankle injury and missed 12 days of training.
"We're on top of that now where if guys don't train, they won't be able to last 90 minutes. Our fitness coach Adrian Lamb has done a fantastic job and it showed tonight."
By the 83rd minute, Meara continued to make strides toward atoning for his costly mistake in setting up the lone goal of the match, parrying a diving header from Accam on the line and following up with a string of saves shortly after.
The Men in Red persisted in applying pressure as the rain poured down on the Toyota Park pitch in the waning moments, but Accam's 20th-minute tally proved to be the difference as Yallop's side ran out winners against the visiting expansion side.
The Fire return to action on Sunday, May 3 as they take on Sporting Kansas City at Sporting Park. Kickoff is slated for 4 p.m.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs):