Chicago Fire enjoys a winning ride
The Fire's Patrick Nyarko, from left, Marco Pappa, Orr Barouch and Logan Pause celebrate Pappa's goal against FC Dallas during the second half Wednesday night at Toyota Park.
Courtesy of Chicago Fire
This is the part of the roller coaster the Fire enjoys.
On Wednesday night, the host Fire defeated an injury-plagued, slumping FC Dallas club 2-1, restarting its attempt to climb into the upper echelons of Major League Soccer's Eastern Conference.
"I feel like we've been on a roller coaster all season," Fire defender Dan Gargan said. "Now it's important for us to take that next step forward and put together a string of wins."
The Fire (5-3-3, 18 points) seemed headed in the right direction a week ago after earning a tie and a victory against top competition, but Sunday's loss at Portland was a dip in the ride. On Saturday at Columbus, the Fire hopes to make it two consecutive upward loops.
The Fire historically hasn't had much luck against FC Dallas, but it did Wednesday, sending the Hoops' winless streak to eight games.
The first half lacked action until the final five minutes. FC Dallas (3-7-4, 13 points) struck first, taking advantage of the Fire's newfound weakness on set pieces by scoring following a corner kick. Matt Hedges put back a rebound of a Sean Johnson save in the 41st minute.
The Fire bounced back with a Sebastian Grazzini left-footed rocket from 25 yards in the 45th minute, Marco Pappa credited with the assist.
It looked like FC Dallas might take the lead back just after halftime when Dominic Oduro tripped FC Dallas' Bruno Guarda in the penalty area, but Johnson dove hard to his right to save the Blas Perez penalty kick in the 52nd minute.
"It was huge for us at that point and also for him because I felt after that point we saw a different Sean, more confident," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "An important moment in the game obviously."
The stop gave the Fire — seemingly tired in the first half from its West Coast trip and short turnaround — a much-needed shot of energy.
"It was most important for the team," Johnson said. "We needed a save at that point in the game to turn things around."
Ten minutes later a pair of FC Dallas defenders knocked Pappa to the ground, and again the goalkeeper came up big, Kevin Hartman stopping Grazzini's penalty kick. But Hartman gave up a rebound, and Pappa, who appeared to run into the penalty area early, was on the spot to clean it up, giving the Fire a 2-1 lead.
It was a fun way to end a roller coaster of a game, but the Fire still wants to get off its roller-coaster theme for the season. A little more consistency from everyone is the key, Gargan said, and not giving up the first goal and having to come from behind would be nice too.
"It changes the game in our favor," he said.
Follow Orrin on Twitter @orrinsoccer.
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