Up 3-0 early in the second half against FC Dallas on Saturday, the Chicago Fire looked like they'd coast to a crucial win.
But that just hasn't been the way of this topsy-turvy Chicago Fire season.
Dallas scored in the 63rd and 75th minutes, and had a few chances to find a third as they looked to keep their season alive. Chicago, though, did just enough to hold possession during the dying minutes to pull out a 3-2 win on the road.
“We just needed to close out the game,” Jeff Larentowicz told MLSsoccer.com. “They get a penalty kick call which was a close one, but we were still in the driver’s seat I thought. If we dealt with their runners coming forward – Jackson was probably the most dangerous guy for them tonight – if we kept them under control and stayed with them in the box, I thought we would do alright, and I thought we did that.”
Determined not to let another late lead slip away after losing five points after the 85th minute last month, coach Frank Klopas threw his best defensive midfield options onto the field over the last 20 minutes of the game. Wells Thompson came on instead of Chris Rolfe in the 68th minute. Holding midfielder Daniel Paladini then entered, followed by destroyer Logan Pause.
A few nervy moves followed, but the Fire were able to hold 57 percent of possession after the 85th minute to close out the win.
“[The three subs] really helped solidify things,” Larentowicz said. “We relied on Wells toward the end to get the ball and go forward, and try to get us up the field, because that's kind of what he's good at, that's what he does … We just needed [Pause and Paladini] to be smart, to kill off the game, and I thought they did that. Logan's composed on the ball, and Daniel had a lot of energy.”
Of course, the Fire did plenty right to jump out to their second 3-0 lead in two weeks. Juan Luis Anangono scored his second goal of the season on a header off of a corner kick before a Mike Magee deflection ended up in the back of the net.
Jalil Anibaba then struck a hard, curling shot from outside the penalty area on a corner kick play that found the upper corner in the 52nd.
The lead proved to be just enough, and the Fire continued their game of playoff-line hop-scotch by jumping back into the fifth post-season spot.
“We didn't make it easy on ourselves,” Larentowicz said, “but three points is three points.”