For about six minutes things looked pretty good for the Chicago Fire.
That changed quickly.
After earning three corner kicks in the first six minutes, the Fire allowed two goals in rapid succession in a 4-1 loss to New York City FC on Friday. Jefferson Mena kneed in the first goal on a designed short corner kick routine and David Villa doubled the lead a minute later to give the hosts a two-goal lead less than 10 minutes into the match.
Andrea Pirlo played a short corner in the eighth minute that led to Khiry Shelton centering the ball with a header. Mena was open in front to score with his knee and make it 1-0.
Almost exactly 60 seconds after Mena found the net, Villa was there to score again. The Fire turned it over soon after the kickoff and Villa didn’t miss his chance in the box.
That disastrous sequence left the Fire (6-14-9, 27 points) chasing for the rest of the match.
Arturo Alvarez sparked a number of Fire chances in the rest of the half, including assisting Luis Solignac on a goal. Alvarez picked up his seventh assist of the season with a cross that Solignac headed into the net in the 35th minute.
Alvarez later hit the post on a shot that led to a corner kick. David Villa and NYC (13-9-9, 48 points) countered that corner kick. The result was a Steven Mendoza curled shot past Sean Johnson that restored the two-goal lead just before halftime.
David Villa added NYC’s fourth and his second goal in the 83rd minute.
Fire defender Rodrigo Ramos saw his first action since the U.S. Open Cup semifinal loss on Aug. 9. Ramos started at right back after missing the previous eight MLS matches. Also on the backline, Jonathan Campbell did not start for the first time since Aug. 6. Campbell replaced Ramos in the 58th minute.
The Fire go from the East Coast to the West Coast with a match at Seattle on Wednesday.
In May the Chicago Fire faced a three-game road trip over the span of eight days involving flights to both coasts.
The Fire lost all three games. Losses at Vancouver (2-1), New England (2-0) and the New York Red Bulls (1-0) resulted in no points on the trip for Chicago.
Starting Friday at New York City FC (12-9-9, 45 points), the Fire (6-13-9, 27 points) begin a similar road trip. This time it will be three games in nine days with the opener being on a Friday in Yankee Stadium. A midweek trip to Seattle follows on Wednesday and the road trip closes at Columbus next Saturday.
The Fire had a more limited roster in May. That was before Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac or David Arshakyan arrived to add much-needed depth to the team’s attack. David Accam missed the Vancouver game due to injury and didn’t play 90 minutes for any of the three games while returning from a knee injury. Midfielder Khaly Thiam debuted in the second game of that road trip.
John Goossens missed that May road trip due to a knee injury. He will also miss Friday’s game due to a back injury.
This upcoming road trip will start against a team that the Fire have already played twice this season. New York won the season opener 4-3 at Toyota Park. Just over a month later the teams played to a scoreless draw in Yankee Stadium.
“Of course they are a very good team,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said. “They are in a very good spot in the league so it’s going to be tough. They have very important, very good players, experienced guys playing together a long time, for a couple of seasons. The momentum they are leaving is actually very good. Against all these adversities we have to work and prepare and then perform. I believe we will do that. I believe we can win the game."
NYCFC is two points behind Eastern Conference leader Toronto, but Toronto has a game in hand. Frank Lampard, who has 12 goals in 18 appearances this season, will be out with a calf injury. Lampard also missed the two previous meetings with the Fire.
“We know that everyone in this league so far we can see that everyone in this league is beatable," Paunovic said.
In addition to Goossens, goalkeeper Matt Lampson is out with a toe injury. De Leeuw is still listed as questionable due to the ankle sprain that kept him out last week against D.C.