In a match with just about everything, it was the Chicago Fire that eventually benefited from a beautiful goal and a suspect call to overcome a banged-up F.C. Dallas squad, 2-1 at home.
Dallas opened the scoring in the 41st minute off of a set piece. Bryan Leyva pumped a corner kick into danger near the penalty spot, and Blas Perez put a strong header on the ball. Sean Johnson made a reaction save, but the rebound came right to defender Matt Hedges who headed it home for 1-0.
Three minutes later Chicago had leveled the score on a brilliant left-footed curler by Argentinian Sebastian Grazzini. James Marcelin was pinched off the ball by two players near the midfield stripe, and Marco Pappa ran away from the challenge with the ball. He cut inside, fed to Grazzini, and the attacking midfielder found the upper-left corner from 23 yards to equalize.
The match then took on a bit of a choppy feel after the half. Schellas Hyndman was forced to burn two substitutes at halftime, withdrawing George John and James Marcellin for Carlos Rodriguez and Bruno Guarda. The teams had difficulty maintaining much possession, but then things got out of control.
Guarda made a run from the left along the endline in the 50th minute, and Dominic Oduro was whistled for a penalty as the Brazilian entered the area. It had appeared that Oduro tripped Guarda, but replays showed that the midfielder had clearly begun his fall before Oduro ever made contact.
That decision didn’t hurt the Fire, however. Panamanian striker Blas Perez stepped up to take the penalty, and Chicago keeper Sean Johnson made a phenomenal save by diving to his right to turn it around the post.
Just after the hour mark though, Chicago would cash in on their own breaks from the officiating. Marco Pappa, while marked by both Rodriguez and Zach Loyd, took a spill of his own in the area. Hilario Grejada awarded the penalty. This was a generous call as well, but it wouldn’t be the most glaring mistake of the sequence.
Grazzini took the penalty, and keeper Kevin Hartman was good for the save on a poorly placed shot. The rebound he left, though, was deposited into the net by Pappa for the 2-1 lead. It was amazing to see Pappa get to that rebound so quickly, and the replay showed why. Pappa was 4 yards into the area by the time Grazzini made contact, and Grejada and his assistants missed this obvious infraction. Even with the protests by Hartman and the Dallas defenders, the goal stood firm as the winner.
Dallas did threaten down the stretch, with their best chance coming in the first minute of stoppage time. Perez got free on the right side of the 6-yard box, and his half-chance was blocked by defender Jalil Anibaba. The ball floated just wide, with Hedges failing to reach the ball at the back post in his bid for his second of the match.
So Chicago picks up another result after falling behind early, and Dallas continues to be bitten by the two worst bugs in soccer – the injury bug and the bad luck bug. The Hoops will head to Utah to face Real Salt Lake on the weekend, while the Fire heads east to face the Columbus Crew in an Eastern Conference showdown.