It wasn’t for the faint of heart, but the Chicago Fire finally claimed their first win of the season on the ninth attempt on Saturday by a 5-4 margin over the New York Red Bulls, thanks largely to a spectacular hat trick from rookie Harry Shipp.
Though Shipp will take the plaudits after becoming just the fourth rookie in MLS history to score three in a game, the Notre Dame graduate was quick to salute the heroic efforts of his teammates.
“It was all about the team bonding together, as 11 guys defending the box and I think we showed that in the last 10 minutes there were some great head clearances and it was a rollercoaster, but it was a good rollercoaster,” Shipp said in a postgame interview on My50.
"I’m just happy, if I score three goals and we don’t win the game it doesn’t really matter. So, that’s what’s important," he told reporters after the match.
The Fire, who move up to eighth in the Eastern Conference with a record of 1-6-2, were outplayed during an open first half in which they took the lead in the fourth minute through Shipp, before trailing 2-1 at the break as the Red Bulls hit back through Tim Cahill and Bradley Wright-Phillips.
Trailing 62 percent to 38 percent in the possession stakes, Fire head coach Frank Yallop’s halftime instructions were to press higher and put the Red Bulls defense under more pressure, a ploy that worked to perfection as the visitors raced out of the blocks and into a commanding 5-2 lead.
Fire head coach Frank Yallop noted the rookie's improvement so far in his young MLS career.
"Harry’s been playing really well. Each game he’s gotten better, and better, and better," Yallop said after the game.
Despite a late rally and a second hat trick of the game from Wright-Phillips, the first time two hat tricks have been scored in an MLS game, the visitors rallied and held on for a hard-fought victory.
The Fire’s first win of the season has been a long time coming, and Shipp is now looking forward to playing without that winless shadow hanging over the team, especially after last week’s dramatic 3-2 defeat to Real Salt Lake.
“To get that first win is a weight off our shoulders, now we can focus on just playing and not worrying about getting the first win,” he said. “We know we can get on a roll, we can beat any team in this league if we play well as we showed with this win on the road and a huge three points.
“I think coming off the collapse against RSL this was a great way to end the game with the three points and it just feels real good to win.”
Despite Shipp's modesty, Yallop was full of praise for the player after his breakthrough night.
"I can’t say enough about Harry," he said."He’s really working hard at his game, he looks like a real player, and I think he’s got a great chance at going all the way."