Playing in record heat, the Chicago Fire knew their game against the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday would be different from their 3-1 win at home over the Red Bulls four weeks ago.
For 70 minutes, the Fire stuck to the game plan of playing compact on a day in which the heat stifled any chance of a wide-open game. But in the 71st minute, Thierry Henry struck a perfect volley past Jalil Anibaba’s outstretched foot and over goalkeeper Sean Johnson, hitting the inside of the post before the back of the net.
Just like that, the game plan was ripped up.
WATCH: Full Match Highlights
“The heat was really affecting [the team],” Fire forward Dominic Oduro said. “We tried to play as a team but obviously you can’t just run 100 percent all day, so we were trying to stick with the game plan: to keep the ball and hopefully get one or two chances. But it was just unfortunate we couldn’t just come up with the offensive plays we wanted to.”
The Fire were outshot 15-8 during the early afternoon game, but their playing style was similar to games in Kansas City and Houston earlier this season, where they pulled out a combined four points.
But unlike those two games, in which a few missed chances for the opposition made all the difference, the Red Bulls capitalized.
“I think we started pretty solid,” defender Austin Berry said. “We were moving the ball well. And after 15-20 minutes I think we got a little bit away from it, and just kind of lost focus on keeping the ball and we were defending a good portion of the last bit of that first half.”
It’s safe to say a tie in enemy territory would have been a satisfactory result for the Fire.
But in a game in which one or two strikes were always going to decide the game, the Red Bulls had the world class striker. And he made the Fire pay.
“Sometimes there are goals you just have to clap and move on,” head coach Frank Klopas (above) said. “What are you going to do? They played a great ball and [Henry] showed his class. That’s why he played at Barcelona and Arsenal and those teams. It’s too bad it’s against us, but I’m sure a lot of fans enjoyed that.”