Carr the hero, Ljungberg the maestro in Fire win

Substitute forward nets winning goal in his first match of 2010

BRIDGEVIEW Ill. – He wasn’t the likeliest of heroes, but Calen Carr doesn’t care about that.

Carr, making his first appearance of 2010 after missing three-and-a-half months with a strained left quad, scored in the 85th minute to give the Fire a 2-1 victory over the New England Revolution at Toyota Park Wednesday night.

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“It was great,” Carr said. “Right after I scored, I just kind of ran and wanted to celebrate with my teammates and then just kind of let it soak in. … To get a win and to score in my first game back after what was a really difficult road is a great feeling.”

Carr’s chance began when teammate Freddie Ljungberg found Carr in open space on the left wing. Carr received the pass and immediately took off up the field, drifting inside with every touch. The speedy forward took advantage of the space in front of him, cutting in along the top of the box to free himself up before firing a low, right-footed shot through the legs of Revolution defender Emmanuel Osei and into the back of the net.

“I just drifted out wide to the left, and [Ljungberg] played a great ball ahead of me,” Carr said. “I just tried to run at my defender, put him on his heels and cut inside. I was originally going to [shoot at] the far post but I saw [Osei] coming and I decided to come back across the face of the goal and thankfully it went in.”
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Of course, the goal wouldn’t have happened without the vision of Ljungberg, who turned in a fantastic performance Wednesday night. The Swedish veteran worked tirelessly in his third game with Chicago, providing pinpoint passes, dazzling runs and great interplay throughout the match.

Ljungberg even had a role in the Fire’s first goal, supplying some good linking play before midfielder Baggio Husidic leveled the score in the 31st minute.

“I made a run through the middle, and it was Freddie who tried to play it through,” Husidic said. “It got blocked, and it came out to McBride and he slid me in. The only options were either go through [New England goalie Matt Reis’s] legs or try to chip him, and I went for the chip and it worked out.”

Ljungberg’s performance – which was absolutely worthy of his Designated Player status – generated some of the prettiest soccer seen at Toyota Park this season—a fact that wasn’t lost on Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos, who praised the former Arsenal man in his post match press conference.

“Freddie is a player that any coach in the league would want,” de los Cobos said. “I am very happy with him and the commitment he has shown to this team.”

Unfortunately, things didn’t go so smoothly for Nery Castillo, the Fire’s other Designated Player. The Mexican attacker made his first start in a Fire uniform Wednesday night, but lasted only 45 minutes before he was subbed out.

While on the field, the 26-year-old labored, and he was ruled offside on multiple occasions.

After the match, Castillo – who joined the Fire three weeks ago after his European season ended in May – admitted that his fitness needs some work.

“I still need to work on my fitness and to find my rhythm, but I felt good playing a half,” he said. “I will admit I got tired, and so I asked to be taken out to give the opportunity to someone who was in better shape than me because we knew this was a must-win game for us.”

The victory moves the Fire to 24 points on the season, two behind Toronto FC for the eighth-and-final playoff spot. The team has another chance to improve their standing on Saturday, when they’ll take on Houston at Robertson Stadium.

Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at sam.h.stejskal@gmail.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.