BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – A solitary strike from Mike Magee put the Chicago Fire back in the win column Sunday with a narrow 1-0 victory over the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park.
The reigning MLS MVP found the net in the 38th minute, when he slotted home on his own rebound from the penalty spot, after Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles saved his initial effort. Magee looked almost apologetic as he passed into the net to give the hosts a deserved lead after a first half in which they trailed in the possession stakes but enjoyed the better chances.
With their first win in five games, the Fire (4-5-13) now trail fourth-place New York by just three points, with a game in hand, and sit two points out of the fifth and final playoff spot. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls’ (6-7-10) three-game unbeaten streak comes to an end.
The Fire began with three changes to their starting XI following a draw against the Columbus Crew last time out. Bakary Soumare was recalled to central defense in place of Patrick Ianni, with Razvan Cocis making his first start as he replaced Chris Ritter in midfield. Harry Shipp started for the first time in three games, with Grant Ward dropping to the bench.
Erik Alexander was the only personnel change for the Red Bulls, coming in on the left wing with Roy Miller moving to center back.
The Fire had plenty of chances on the counter, especially in early action.
Lovel Palmer found space down the right in the eighth minute, and his neat pass into Alex saw the Brazilian go down in the box following a slight touch from Miller, but referee Ted Unkel ignored his pleas for a penalty.
Soumare’s return to the starting lineup proved to be a solid decision, as he twice denied Bradley Wright-Phillips with last-ditch saving tackles to keep the visitors scoreless. Despite an open, end-to-end first half, neither ’keeper was seriously tested, with Wright-Phillips almost breaking the deadlock in the 31st minute, but he curled a shot inches high and wide of Sean Johnson’s left post.
The hosts did take the lead when Magee converted his penalty on the second attempt for the only breakthrough of the night.
Alexander tested Johnson in the 55th minute, while Magee almost put Quincy Amarikwa through a minute later as the ebb and flow of the first half continued.
Johnson, who didn’t have a shot to save in the first half despite Red Bulls’ 58 percent possession, was called into action again on the hour when he saved another Alexander attempt, while Wright-Phillips was denied a clear strike on goal by the attentive Jeff Larentowicz five minutes later.
Shipp enjoyed the Fire’s best moments late as he tested Robles with a couple of long-range efforts, while Amarikwa’s touch let him down when played through on goal six minutes from time as the hosts held on for their first win since July 13.
Next up for the Fire is a difficult road trip to Seattle for a US Open Cup semifinal against the Sounders on Wednesday, while New York don’t play again until Aug. 23, when they host the Montreal Impact at Red Bull Arena.