Final: Fire 1-1 Revolution
Rajko Lekic scored three minutes after halftime to give New England a 1-1 draw against Chicago at Gillette Stadium on Saturday.
Lekic's cool finish canceled out Dominic Oduro's first-half opener to hand each side a point in a match filled with chances at both ends. The wide-open game forced Sean Johnson and Matt Reis to make several key saves, but neither side could grab the winner despite several opportunities to do so.
The draw extended Chicago's unbeaten run to five games and New England's winless streak to six matches.
New England coach Steve Nicol made two enforced changes to the side that drew 0-0 with Toronto FC on Wednesday. Franco Coria returned in central defense after Ryan Cochrane sustained a left hamstring strain against the Reds, while Sainey Nyassi made his fourth start of the season on the right flank with Zak Boggs (right MCL strain) ruled out for Saturday's match. A second medical opinion precluded Benny Feilhaber (sprained right ankle) from a place on the substitutes' bench after Nicol suggested he would feature in the squad on Friday morning.
Cristian Nazarit earned a recall to the starting XI after he scored the late winner to give Chicago a 1-0 victory at Columbus on Sunday. Nazarit replaced Gaston Puerari – sold in midweek to Mexican side Club Atlas – up front as Frank Klopas' squad looked to extend its unbeaten run to five matches.
Both sides relied on a heavy dose of longballs to fuel their attack in a wide-open first half with plenty of chances at either end.
Jalil Anibaba and Sainey Nyassi traded early efforts for the two Eastern Conference rivals, but Nazarit registered the first menacing chance after 16 minutes. The Colombian striker collected a clever diagonal pass from Patrick Nyarko and dipped around Coria to carve out some space on the edge of the Revolution penalty area. Nazarit skimmed the upper right corner of the crossbar with the effort with the outside of his right foot.
Lekic tested Chicago goalkeeper Johnson twice in short order as the Revs searched for the crucial opening goal. Johnson came out ahead both times as he coped with Lekic's volley from Nyassi's cross after 21 minutes and pushed another Lekic attempt around the far post seven minutes later.
Oduro opened the scoring just moments after seeing an effort ruled out for offside. Chicago countered quickly through Nyarko after clearing the remnants of a Revolution corner kick. Nyarko's diagonal ball located Oduro as he stormed through midfield. Oduro surged toward the penalty area and unleashed a quick shot inside the far post to notch his fourth goal of the season.
Mansally spurned a glorious chance to restore level terms seven minutes before halftime as he pushed his header from Nyassi's inch-perfect cross over the frame, but the Revs instead entered halftime down a goal.
Lekic restored parity three minutes after play resumed after Pat Phelan shot a ball into Lekic's feet inside the penalty area. The offside flag stayed down as Chicago's back four did not pull out in unison and left the Serbian striker onside. The unmarked Lekic then easily poked home into the far side of the net for his second goal of the campaign. Lekic's goal marked the first goal conceded by Chicago in 324 minutes.
A quick free kick handed Mansally another chance on 66 minutes. Lekic won a foul just outside the Fire's penalty area after Phelan's clever ball into the middle placed him into a good position. Shalrie Joseph decided to play Mansally quickly, but a gaggle of Fire defenders responded to the play and watched as Mansally pushed his effort wide.
All three Chicago substitutes nearly gave the Fire a late winner in the late stages. Revolution substitute Ryan Guy cleared Barouch's header off the line in the 73rd minute to mark his MLS debut, while Daniel Paladini forced Matt Reis to push his drive over the bar eight minutes later. Gabriel Ferrari's touch let him down as he streaked into the penalty area with two minutes left to play, but Reis made a smart save at the near post.
Lekic nearly grabbed a stunning winner at the death with a neat sequence at the edge of the Fire penalty area, but his volley flashed wide to condemn the Revs to a second consecutive home draw.
CHI -- Dominic Oduro 4 (Patrick Nyarko 2) 32
NE -- Rajko Lekic 2 (Pat Phelan 2) 48
Chicago Fire -- Sean Johnson, Jalil Anibaba, Yamith Cuesta, Gonzalo Segares, Cory Gibbs, Dominic Oduro, Baggio Husidic (Daniel Paladini 74), Logan Pause, Patrick Nyarko, Cristian Nazarit (Gabriel Ferrari 85), Diego Chaves (Orr Barouch 63).
New England Revolution -- Matt Reis, Kevin Alston, Franco Coria, A.J. Soares, Darrius Barnes, Sainey Nyassi, Shalrie Joseph, Pat Phelan, Chris Tierney (Ryan Guy 71), Kenny Mansally (Zack Schilawski 81), Rajko Lekic.
CHI -- Cristian Nazarit (caution; Reckless Foul) 59
CHI -- Gonzalo Segares (caution; Reckless Foul) 66
CHI -- Dominic Oduro (caution; Dissent) 77
NE -- Shalrie Joseph (caution; Tactical Foul) 78
CHI -- Daniel Paladini (caution; Delaying a Restart) 90
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Referee's Assistants: -Daniel Belleau; Eric Proctor
4th Official: Drew Fischer
Time of Game: 1:54
Weather: Partly Cloudy-and-78-degrees