The Chicago Fire returned to Toyota Park on Saturday night for their second home game of the season. Two was the lucky number for the Fire as for the second week in a row they won 2-0, winning their second game of the season to go with two defeats and one draw and achieve their second clean sheet in two weeks for their young goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, and second MLS win for new coach Carlos de los Cobos.
The weather and a heavy sports schedule in Chicago held the crowd size down but the Fire never seemed to be affected by the high winds and rain at all. Chicago dominated the possession of the ball especially in the first forty five minutes but by the end of regulation time they had nothing to show for it. Local hero Brain McBride had more than one good chance to score but he, as well as the rest of the team, sent the ball high or wide for most of the first half. Finally in extra time the Fire broke through with another local hero Baggio Hudsidic putting in a rebound shot with a great effort past legendary Dynamo keeper Pat Onstad giving the home team a 1-0 halftime lead.
Onstad was under assault all night from the Fire who continued to control the ball into the second half. Patrick Nyarko and Polish defender Krzysztof Krol did a good job all night in controlling the ball and keeping Onstad and his Houston team on the defensive. Nyarko set up midfielder Peter Lowery with a cross in the 67th minute to give the Fire the second and final score. It was Lowery’s first score in his short MLS tenure. Houston has been hurt by injuries namely Brian Ching and has not been able to replace the players that have moved on to overseas leagues from last year’s team. The Fire were bigger and faster all night to the ball and when they could not get to the ball first they knocked Houston off the ball.
As I said at the top change is good and the Fire for the first time beat the Dynamo at Toyota Park. When the season started the Fire had started both Collins John and Brian McBride up front in the hope of the former Fulham FC players repeating their success from their time together in the EPL. Last week Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos started John and replaced him with McBride late in the game. This week McBride started and it was Collins who came on in the second half. Both players have seemed effective in this rotation and it seems to make sense to save wear and tear on McBride who is the oldest field player in the MLS.
All Fire fans and it seemed the team where shocked when the Fire released keep Jon Busch before the start of the season. Andrew Dykstra was an unknown to any but the most devoted fan and he seemed a bit uneasy in the net in his first few starts. Last night he saved 6 shots for his second clean sheet in a row. Houston had limited chances all night but Dykstra stepped up when they had their shots on him. While Dykstra may not be the team leader that Busch was, he appears to be in charge in the net with great results to show for it.
With a winning streak on the line the Fire will host Chivas USA at Toyota Park next week. The Fire are now tied for second in the Eastern Conference and are playing the kind of football that seems destined to bring them to the top spot in the conference. With the Fire likely to add an impact player after the World Cup they may be more than just a team that can contend for a title this year and become a favorite to wear the crown.
Note: The Patio burger was the food choice of the night. Basic but good.