Not a perfect game, but Fire prevails
If Saturday's Chicago Fire home opener is any indication, it could be a very interesting season at Toyota Park.
In the first March home game in club history, 12,157 fans watched in 32-degree weather as the Fire held on for a 3-2 victory against 10-man Sporting Kansas City.
"Three points, first (home) game of the year, I think we're happy about that," said captain Logan Pause, who played in his 200th MLS game. "Obviously, we made it pretty interesting. I think we're disappointed with the goals that we let up, obviously, but the priority is first game at home, setting the tone with 3 points, crucial. We're happy with that. We're learning from the mistakes and move on."
"We had a very good start in the game," Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos added, "but in the second half we had some problems."
Gaston Puerari nearly scored on a breakaway in the 31st minute, his shot sailing high. But referee Jasen Anno awarded the Fire a penalty kick and sent off Sporting forward Omar Bravo for a push in the back as Puerari shot.
Diego Chaves stepped up and drilled the penalty kick into the net.
In the 40th minute Puerari was sprung loose behind the Sporting back line by a Michael Videira pass, and he slipped an 18-yard shot past Sporting goalkeeper Jimmy Nielsen for a 2-0 lead.
But the Fire got sloppy defensively after halftime, giving up unassisted goals to Matt Besler, off a 51st-minute corner kick, and to Teal Bunbury in the 72nd minute following a bad Fire back pass.
"The second goal, obviously, a little bit of an unfortunate bounce or a lack of concentration," Pause said. "Took our foot off the pedal a little bit. Those are things that at this point in the year we're kind of wiping our brow that -- phew! -- that we got away with one and we'll take the 3 points because it's crucial, especially at home."
The Sporting goals were sandwiched around Marco Pappa's amazing goal in which he dribbled about 13 yards past four defenders just into the top of the penalty area to beat Nielsen.
"I think it was a lucky goal because the goal rebounded to my foot about seven times," said Pappa, not eager to talk about his first goal of the young season. "I saw the ball was in front of me and I shoot, you know?"
It's a strong start for the Fire (1-0-1, 4 points), which was just 4-4-7 at home in 2010.
"It's one thing that we'll definitely try to change," Pause said. "Other teams love to come in here and upset the Chicago Fire. It's a reality.
"We've got the best fan base in the league, and we need to do our part and be responsible for our actions on the field and hopefully create an environment and a mentality that we refuse to lose."