A victory, a shutout, and smiles all around Toyota Park.
The Chicago Fire defeated the New York Red Bulls 1-0 and, at least for one night, changed the tone around its home park.
"Is it relief, or is it more, well, we should have been doing this more often?" asked Fire coach Frank Yallop, who was in a joking mood after the game. "I think it was more that we should have been celebrating more often. But that looks like relief, if you know what I mean.
"Whatever it is, it's just nice to win. Guys put a lot of effort into that game. We've put a lot of effort into the whole season and I don't think got quite what we deserved."
The Fire scored the game's lone goal in the 38th minute after Quincy Amarikwa was taken down in the New York penalty area. Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles saved Mike Magee's penalty kick, but the rebound popped right to Magee, who went the other way with his second shot.
The Fire (4-5-13, 25 points) has had a problem giving up late goals this season, but the players' focus never wavered in getting their second victory of the season against New York. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made 4 saves for his fourth shutout this year.
"It's never easy to get a shutout," Johnson said. "It shows a lot that in the past three games we've gotten two.
"The guys did a fantastic job tonight."
The game marked the lineup return of Bakary Soumare, who had sat since the Fire's 5-1 loss at San Jose on July 23. Soumare, paired for the first time with captain Jeff Larentowicz at central defense, led a back line that held tough against the leading MLS scorer, New York's Bradley Wright-Phillips, and leading assist man, Thierry Henry.
"I've been frustrated by not playing," Soumare said. "I'm a competitor. But coming into the season we knew it was going to be tough."
Soumare's performance likely will keep him in the starting lineup for a while.
"I put Baky back in and he was very solid and had a great game," Yallop said. "I told him that."
"Baky was excellent," Johnson added. "He got a lot of opportunities, got in great spots."
Soumare wasn't the only player to step up. Matt Watson worked hard in central midfield with newcomer Razvan Cocis. Outside defenders Lovel Palmer and Gonzalo Segares made key defensive plays while also getting into the attack against New York's three-man back line.
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