The Men in Red have defied the likes of Seattle Sounders FC and FC Dallas en route to shutout victories in July and August, a gratifying feeling felt once again Wednesday night in Bridgeview as Frank Yallop's side overcame an early deficit against the high-flying New York Red Bulls to record a 3-2 win in front of an announced crowd of 11,196.
Two goals from Kennedy Igboananike and a strike by Patrick Nyarko - with two assists from Designated Player Gilberto - helped the Fire (7-13-5, 26 points) extend their home unbeaten streak against Jesse Marsch's outfit to 14 games since 2005. The result effectively ended the Red Bulls' (11-7-6, 39 points) run of six unbeaten in MLS regular season play heading into Wednesday's contest.
"Great result, that's the big thing for me," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "Good performance, too. I was very happy with all the guys tonight. We dug deep tonight, and got a great result against a good team.
"MLS is built on parity and it showed tonight. We beat Dallas, who were on a five-game winning streak. ... We beat Seattle when they were pretty hot, too. This league's even, and it's tiny little things that make the difference in games. Tonight, we got the rub of the green, or the bounce of the ball, if you like. ... That's the sort of football I like. I want to go out and attack teams, get at teams and I thought we did that."
Yallop made two changes from the side that fell, 1-0, to the Colorado Rapids Saturday night with Razvan Cocis and Gilberto making their return to the starting lineup, replacing Matt Watson and Harry Shipp, respectively.
After engaging in some back and forth during the early stages, the visitors struck first, with Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz hauling down Red Bulls defender Matt Miazga in the box, leaving referee Allen Chapman with no choice but to award a spot kick, which was coolly slotted home by Sacha Kljestan in the 10th minute.
From there, Yallop's group responded with might, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles into four, big first-half saves. Nyarko had an effort from close range forcefully palmed aside before Cocis had a header parried away in the 20th minute.
Two minutes later, the Men in Red found their equalizer. Matt Polster stepped up from his right back position to expertly dispossess New York in the midfield, allowing a composed Gilberto to find Igboananike darting into space, who dispatched past Robles.
The Fire kicked on, seeing another header by Gilberto denied before Nyarko delivered the hosts' second goal. With Gilberto at the heart of the move once more, the Brazilian pinged a driven cross to Michael Stephens, who chested down for Nyarko at the top of the box. The Ghanain spun well and fired his effort past a helpless Robles to give the Fire a deserved lead heading into the halftime interval.
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In the second stanza, the Red Bulls fired back, pulling a goal back through a cheeky restart on a corner kick, allowing Kljestan to carry out of the corner and set up defender Ronald Zubar to stab home for the equalizer in the 49th minute.
With just over 15 minutes remaining, the Men in Red's determination paid dividends. Second-half substitute Harry Shipp linked up with Stephens, whose lovely outside-of-the-boot pass found a streaking Accam down the left side in the 73rd minute. The Ghanaian slid a ball across the face of goal to Igboananike, who buried past a diving Robles to seal all three points, the Fire's first since the 2-0 victory over Dallas on Aug. 2.
"I'm forever optimistic," Yallop added when asked about the team's playoff potential. "We've got a big, big hill to climb to make the playoffs, but we've got to keep going, keep moving on. We can't worry if we're playing away or at home, but we've got to maintain our focus, and make sure that we try to play the right way.
"Tonight was a good example of a good-spirited win. ... [It's] good momentum for our tough run coming up."
Next up for the Fire is a trip to face Orlando City SC at the Citrus Bowl on Saturday - the first of a three-match road trip - which kicks off at 6:30 p.m. CT on CSN+.
Chicago Fire Starting XI (subs)
(4-4-2): Sean Johnson; Matt Polster, Eric Gehrig, Jeff Larentowicz (C), Joevin Jones (Lovel Palmer, 76'); Patrick Nyarko (Harry Shipp, 72'), Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, David Accam; Gilberto (Jason Johnson, 62'), Kennedy Igboananike.