By Rusty Silber
It's been almost a month since the Fire's last victory, but playing at home has been a good place for the club. Mike Magee scored his team-leading seventh goal, and Bakary Soumare returned back to the starting line up with a spectacular defensive effort as Chicago held back the visiting Red Bulls, 1-0, at Toyota Park on Sunday.
"It's finally good to get a win," Fire head coach Frank Yallop said. "I'm really proud of the guys with the way they've hung in there. They haven't lost focus on the bad side and that we're still growing. It's easy to chuck the towel and get complacent. The performance was a fighting one, it really was a good growing performance that deserved the win."
The Fir extended their unbeaten run at home to seven games, and saw their first league win since July 12 at New England. Chicago moved its record to 4-5-13, 25 points, while New York dropped to 6-7-10, 28 points.
"This one was an even game," Yallop said. "I thought it looked like that we were going to win it and it looked like that from our side. Don't take anything away from the Red Bulls from what they did. Our guys showed and they were determined to win that game."
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The Red Bulls couldn't play their type of game at Toyota park.
"It was a very frustrating game," Red Bulls coach Mike Petke said. "It's one of those games that has happened to us a number of times this year. Are we a better team? Yes, we're a better team. But it doesn't matter in this league, doesn't matter in these games. The urgency of my team was for about five to seven minutes after their goal. Other than that it's just playing and going through the motions with little bit of spurts here and there. Credit to Chicago, they did what they needed to do to win."
Early, Chicago had its first good look on the offensive attack in the 10th minute when Lovel Palmer served a ball into the box. Quincy Amarikwa took it off his chest and it rolled right to Red Bulls keeper Luis Robles.
New York had a few opportunities through the first 20 minutes. They would get into the box but the connections between Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry were well marked by Jeff Larentowicz and Bakary Soumare.
"A lot of those balls to Bradley (Wright-Phillips) coming from Thierry (Henry), who's a phenomenal passer of the ball," Petke said. "When those things click, you see the best of Thierry and Bradley."
Later, Wright-Phillips tried to take down a service about eight-yards out but Soumare made a tackle and cleared the ball over the end line. In the 26th minute Wright-Phillips went on a run, unmarked into the Fire penalty area and had an opening for a shot, but Soumare made another tackle to block the ball over the end line.
"It was tough, Thierry (Henry) was like a machine," said Soumare, who made his first start in the center back position and had missed the last two games. "If you give him a second and he turns around and he can put it in the back of the net. Wright-Phillips is also very good, they are just good players and you have to stay focused. You just have to be very smart. They are the type of players that you have to stay alert or they will punish you for it."
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Chicago nearly snuck one in during the 28th minute when Razvan Cocis served a ball for Harry Shipp, which he pushed past the far post. In the 30th minute Red Bulls' Lloyd Sam beat a couple of Fire defenders and then curled a shot over the bar.
The Fire made something happen In the 37th minute. Amarikwa took a short pass in the penalty area and was brought down by Ambroise Oyongo. The referee pointed to the spot for the penalty kick. Mike Magee kicked the PK, it was saved by keeper Robles but Magee got the ball back on the rebound and calmly put it in the corner for a 1-0 lead.
The second half saw a bit more possession on both sides as each team was trying to create opportunities.
Chicago almost had its second goal in the 89th minute when Matt Watson made a sliding tackle to take a ball away at midfield and then made a run to the top of the box. He hit a shot that was saved by Robles in the 89th minute. New York couldn't mount much of an attack the rest of the way.
Chicago's next matchup will be in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinals against Seattle at Starfire Stadium on Aug, 13 and then return to MLS play in Montreal on Aug. 16. The Red Bulls host Montreal on Aug. 23.