BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – On a night of goodbyes, the Chicago Fire closed out the season with a 2-1 comeback win against a Houston Dynamo side that will wonder how they lost a game they had dominated for long spells.
With Houston coach Dominic Kinnear leading his side out for the final time and Fire legendLogan Pause hanging up his boots after 12 years with the Men in Red, there was plenty of emotion on show on a warm evening at Toyota Park.
The visitors (11-7-6, 39 pts) dominated the first half and deservedly lead 1-0 at halftime thanks to Omar Cummings’ 18th minute header. However, the Fire (6-10-18, 36 pts) rallied in the second half, and a Jeff Larentowicz penalty and a late Florent Sinama-Pongolle header saw Frank Yallop's men score just their sixth victory of the season.
Indeed, but for Sean Johnson and his heroics between the posts, the Fire could have trailing by many more than the solitary strike which separated the two at the break. In fact, the US goalkeeper made a personal-record seven saves in a one-sided half in which his opposite number Tyler Deric made just one save.
Matt Watson almost toe-poked himself in on goal in the sixth minute, but Deric raced off his line and came out on top in what was a robust 50-50 between the two on the edge of the area.
In the tenth minute, Cummings raced away from Lovel Palmer on the left, cut inside on Larentowicz and was denied at the near post by the irrepressible Johnson low to his right.
Section 8 supporters then unfurled a tifo in tribute to Pause in the 12th minute, in recognition of his final jersey number, before Houston took the lead in 18th minute when Cummings headed home Davis’ right-wing corner after escaping the attentions of Watson.
Johnson then saved twice from the marauding Barnes as a rampant Houston attacked at every opportunity, while centerback A.J. Cochran was also denied by Johnson in the 35th minute as Kinnear’s men looked to double their advantage.
In a much more even second period, Quincy Amarikwa had a shot blocked early as the hosts pressed forward, with Palmer also trying his luck from distance in the 57th minute.
Substitute Grant Ward then made an immediate impact after coming on for Gonzalo Segares, when he was brought down in the box by Deric after a searching ball from Watson in the 65th minute. Larentowicz slotted home the penalty low to Deric’s left to restore parity for the Fire.
Cumming and Barnes continued to combine to good effect for the Dynamo, but the latter saw another header saved by Johnson.
In the 78th minute, Pause was taken out of the game for the final time to a standing ovation and rapturous applause from the appreciative 18,776 inside Toyota Park to give the Chicago Fire legend a fitting send-off.
The Fire closed out the game with vigor, and almost went in front in the 88th minute when Amarikwa teed up substitute Chris Ritter, but his driving shot came back off the bar.
The hosts did, however, have time for one last effort and they made it count when the industrious Ward crossed from the right to allow Sinama-Pongolle to head home at the near post on the stroke of full-time.