Its season-opening slump had made the Chicago Fire the butt of jokes and ridicule, so Sunday's 3-1 victory against the New York Red Bulls lifted a ton of pressure from those who work at Toyota Park.
From Chris Rolfe, who sent a 24th minute penalty kick wide left when the Fire trailed by a goal, to Daniel Paladini and Maicon Santos, who combined to score the home team's 3 goals, the sense of relief in the Fire's postgame locker room was obvious.
"I feel good because when you win a lot of things are solved," Fire coach Frank Klopas said. "More than anything just the pressure, because you try too hard and everything and I can see the guys up to this point, because they care a lot. Sometimes I think just keeping it simple is the most important thing."
Klopas might benefit more than anybody, because the first victory of the season should stop thoughts on Twitter that he should be fired. Those calls for Klopas' job were ridiculous if you consider:
•Just four games had been played.
•And the team has been riddled with injuries.
Klopas should keep his job, and not just because of one win or because he is the face of Chicago soccer.
"For me, this organization has been fantastic to me," Klopas said, "from the owner, the fans, so more than anything when I leave I'm always thinking what more could I do ... so yeah, it feels great, but we have a long way to go. It's a little steppingstone."
The Fire (1-3-1, 4 points) will go to Houston next week, probably with the injured Gonzalo Segares and Patrick Nyarko returning to the starting lineup, possibly Arne Friedrich too, after getting Logan Pause back from injury Sunday.
Jamison Olave gave New York a lead in the 17th minute with a volley into the net despite having his back partially turned toward the goal.
The Fire evened the score just before halftime when left back Hunter Jumper, a late replacement for Segares, sent a cross toward the far post of the New York goal. While goalkeeper Luis Robles waited for it to come down, Paladini jumped in front of Robles and headed the ball into the net.
The Fire could have been talking about another loss after substitute Thierry Henry took a wicked shot from 20 yards out, but Henry hit the left post, and the game stayed even.
Santos entered the match in the 63rd minute and 20 minutes later made his mark on it with Paladini's help, beating a defender and then Robles for a 2-1 lead. He made it 3-1 in the 89th minute after Jeff Larentowicz headed a Paladini free kick across the goalmouth. Santos got to it just in time to tuck it inside the far post.
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