BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – Two teams with very different midweek, non-league results met on Saturday, but it was the Chicago Fire who came out on top at Toyota Park, using two first-half goals to get past the Montreal Impact 2-1.
After a heartbreaking US Open cup loss to DC United, Chicago bounced back via goals from Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka while Montreal, which knocked off San Jose in Champions League play on Wednesday, got a consolation goal from Felipe.
Each team started a slightly abridged lineup in their third game in eight days, and Chicago's took an early edge.
The Fire took a sixth-minute lead when Lindpere's shot from just outside the penalty area deflected off of forward Daniele Paponi to beat Troy Perkins to the near post.
In the 23rd minute, some suspect defending and a persistent effort from Dilly Duka gave the Fire a 2-0 lead. Duka gathered the ball 40 yards away from goal and dribbled to the corner of the box, where the ball was poked away and deflected back to Duka, who found the lower corner.
Montreal almost equalized in the 39th minute -- when Sanna Nyassi dribbled down the left side of the field and crossed to Paponi, who laid it off to a wide open Justin Mapp -- but Sean Johnson made a sprawling kick save to keep the shutout alive.
In the 55th minute, Montreal coach Marco Schallibaum rotated in Felipe and forward Marco Di Vaio, and the Impact began to show attacking life.
Felipe made his presence felt almost immediately, scoring from just outside the penalty area in the 57th minute when he placed a one-timed, left-footed shot into the lower corner.
The Brazilian nearly equalized in the 84th minute, when Paponi found him just outside the six-yard box, but defender Austin Berry was able to block his attempt.
Montreal looked to have equalized in stoppage time, but Matteo Ferrari's header off of a corner kick was cleared off the line by near-post defender Chris Rolfe.
In their 22nd game, the Fire hit the .500 mark for the first time this season. They'll head to New England next week, where they may have a chance to squeak into an Eastern Conference playoff spot.
The Impact have just one win in their last eight and slipped into fourth place in the Eastern Conference. They'll try to correct their path when they host D.C. United next weekend.
MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match
|Rank||Player||What We Saw|
|1||Sean Johnson||One-goal leads don't hold up on their own and Johnson was huge in goal all night for the Fire.|
|2||Felipe||The tempo changed when the midfielder (and Di Vaio) entered the match. Classy goal, as well.|
|3||Chris Rolfe||Sometimes one moment is all it takes to make an impact, and Rolfe's point-saving clearance was just that.|