BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire did it again Saturday afternoon, spoiling a spirited 10-man performance by giving up yet another late goal – this time in the 91st minute – to tie the LA Galaxy, 1-1, in front of a sellout crowd at Toyota Park.
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Defender Omar Gonzalez scored the tying goal for the Galaxy, rising above Chicago center back Wilman Conde to bury Landon Donovan’s corner kick from the top of the six-yard-box. Gonzalez’s powerful finish – which came three minutes after substitute forward Collins John gave the Fire the lead with a well-taken free kick – is the third late, result-changing goal the Fire have conceded in their last three matches.
“Everybody’s disappointed,” John said. “I don’t think we played a great game, but to be 1-0 up at the end of the game with three, four minutes to go and then give it up [hurts]. We can’t keep slipping up. Last week was the same story. It’s just a big disappointment not to get the three points.”
Midfielder John Thorrington echoed John.
“It’s heart-wrenching,” Thorrington said. “To put in all that effort and come away with just a point is [tough].”
But though they’re certainly disappointed, the Fire can take some positives away from the tie. Rookie goalkeeper Sean Johnson’s save on Landon Donovan’s penalty kick was excellent. John’s goal – and overall performance – was encouraging. Nery Castillo looked fit in his 70 minutes of action.
Of course, the Fire’s biggest positive was earning a point. Considering they went a man down in the 21st minute after defender Gonzalo Segares appeared to elbow Leonardo, that point becomes very respectable – even if the manner in which it was earned still hurts.
“We have to take a positive away from the game,” Johnson said. “We were able to get a draw playing with 10 men, and we were even in a position to win it. In the end we need to walk away and be thankful we didn’t give up three points.”
But moral victories and small positives don’t move teams up in the standings. And Chicago need to move up. The 11th-place Fire are five points behind San Jose – who play Houston on Sunday – for the eighth and final playoff spot. Chicago could’ve gained ground had they held on against LA, but they missed yet another opportunity to edge their way into the playoff picture.
“Unfortunately, we are not learning from our mistakes,” Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos. said. “And if we don’t learn from our mistakes, we won’t improve. … We gave two points away which were very precious for our fight for the playoffs.”
The Fire continue their fight for the playoffs on Wednesday, when fellow hopefuls Toronto FC visit for a match teeming with playoff implications. It’ll be do-or-die for Chicago, who can’t afford to miss any further opportunities.
“It’s just a big disappointment not to get the three points,” John said. “We have 10 games to go, and every game now is a war. We have a big game on Wednesday, and we need the three points.”
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. Email him at email@example.com and follow him on Twitter @samstejskal.