CHICAGO, Ill. (Oct. 31, 2012) – The Chicago Fire received an 83rd minute goal from Alex to rally late but it wasn’t enough to erase a two-goal deficit, eventually falling 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo in the 2012 MLS Eastern Conference Knockout Match Wednesday night at Toyota Park. With the defeat, the Fire are eliminated from the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs.
The visitors would have the first chance in the sixth minute when former Dynamo striker Calen Carr corralled a ball at midfield before hitting a low blast that knuckled, giving Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson some trouble on the stop before Austin Berry cleared away.
The Fire responded in the ninth minute when Houston defender Jermaine Taylor’s failed clearance fell for Arne Friedrich at the top of the box. The German defender laid off for Jalil Anibaba on the right before the second-year Fire defender cut inside and curled his left-footed effort just past the far post.
The home side would come close one minute later when Sherjill MacDonald won the ball at midfield before laying off for Pavel Pardo in the center circle. The Mexican midfielder sprung Alvaro Fernandez into the box on the left, twisting Kofi Sarkodie before seeing his close shot stuffed by Tally Hall.
Despite the back-to-back chances, the Dynamo would take the lead three minutes later. Brad Davis’ in-swinging corner kick picked out Bruin at the near post and the Dynamo forward squeezed his header past Johnson and inside the post for the 1-0 advantage on 13 minutes.
The Fire nearly equalized in the 18th minute when Pardo sent in a free kick from 30 yards away that found Friedrich but the veteran defender’s flicked on header came straight to Hall.
Houston came close to doubling their lead in the 42nd minute when Brad Davis’ corner kick picked out Bobby Boswell at the near post but the Dynamo defender nodded his header over Johnson’s goal taking the teams into the half with the Dynamo up 1-0.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas made a signal for more in the attack with Alex’s entrance for Logan Pause at the half but the Fire would dig themselves a deeper hole less than 20 seconds in. Carr intercepted a ball on the right and slid it through for Bruin in stride as the Dynamo striker charged between the Fire backline and tucked his low shot inside the back post in the 46th minute.
The Fire looked to cut into the lead in the 54th minute when Alex found Nyarko on the left. The Ghanaian winger penetrated forward, cutting back for the Brazilian at the top of the box before seeing his effort dip wide right of goal.
Johnson would be called into action in the 62nd minute when a combination Davis took a pass from Corey Ashe on the left and centered for Ricardo Clark. The veteran Dynamo midfielder collected before hitting a low ball that Johnson did well to get down to.
Seven minutes later, a looping ball over the top from Kofi Sarkodie saw Carr into space on the right but the former Fire striker saw his tight angle shot turned away by Johnson in the 69th minute.
The Fire came close in the 71st when a cleared corner kick fell for Nyarko 25 yards from goal. The Fire’s 2012 assist leader chipped back in to the far post and saw the ball fall for MacDonald but his shot was deflected out from close range by Dynamo midfielder Adam Moffat.
Nyarko would provide the danger again three minutes later when Alex found him at the top left corner of the box. The Ghanaian winger stepped inside before measuring a looping effort towards the far post but a completely outstretched Hall turned the effort out for a corner kick.
The Fire would finally get on the board in the 83rd minute when Friedrich hit a long ball over the top for Nyarko on the left side. The Fire veteran held up before finding Alex in stride and the Brazilian rolled towards the end line before hitting a pinpoint shot to the back post and over the line.
The Fire would find one last chance in the 94th minute when substitute forward Dominic Oduro was hauled down 25 yards from goal on the right. With nothing to lose, Johnson came forward before Midfielder Daniel Paladini swung in a whipping free kick to the penalty spot and saw his take headed away. The ball fell for Chris Rolfe just outside the penalty area but the team’s 2012 leading goal scorer’s follow-up deflected off a Fire player and out for a goal kick, effectively ending the match.
- With the defeat, the Fire fall to 21-16-6 overall in postseason play.
- The loss marks the first home regulation defeat in Chicago Fire playoff history, moving the team’s all-time home postseason record to 16-2-3 and 4-1-1 at Toyota Park.
- Alex scored his first MLS Cup playoff goal, adding to the two strikes he supplied during the regular season.
- Patrick Nyarko tallied his second career assist in the MLS Cup playoffs on Alex’s 83rd minute strike.
- Goalkeeper Sean Johnson made four saves in his first MLS postseason appearance.
- The Chicago Fire’s 17-win, 57-point season is the best since 2000.
Chicago Fire 1 – 2 Houston Dynamo
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Jalil Anibaba (Daniel Paladini 75’), Arne Friedrich, Austin Berry, Gonzalo Segares; Alvaro Fernandez, Logan Pause © (Alex 46’), Pavel Pardo (Dominic Oduro 60’), Patrick Nyarko; Chris Rolfe, Sherjill MacDonald
Substitutes not used: Paolo Tornaghi, Dan Gargan, Wells Thompson, Michael Videira
Houston Dynamo: Tally Hall; Kofie Sarkodie, Bobby Boswell, Jermaine Taylor, Corey Ashe; Boniek Garcia, Ricardo Clark, Adam Moffat, Brad Davis ©; Will Bruin (Brian Ching 78’), Calen Carr (Macoumba Kandji 78’)
Substitutes not used: Tyler Deric, Andre Hainault, Giles Barnes, Luiz Camargo, Cam Weaver
HOU – Will Bruin (Brad Davis) 12’
HOU – Will Bruin (Calen Carr) 46’
CHI – Alex (Patrick Nyarko) 83’
HOU – Brad Davis (caution) 67’
HOU – Tally Hall (caution) 91+’
Referee: Baldomero Toledo
Assistants: Frank Anderson, Ian Anderson
Fourth Official: Juan Guzman