By TYLER DAY
Representatives of the Chicago Fire are adamant that Mike Magee is not “the savior” of their season.
After two games, it sure looks like he is.
Magee did not disappoint in his home debut, following up his U.S. Open Cup winner midweek with a late goal to seal a must-win for the Fire, 2-0, over the visiting D.C. United.
The game was in doubt for much of the second half, with both teams trading opportunities in an otherwise sloppy game. But Magee put his mark on his homecoming when in the 85th minute Patrick Nyarko provided a touch pass into space in front of goal.
Magee had a similar opportunity in the 83rd minute, but D.C. goalkeeper Joe Willis managed to get a hand on the shot. The second time around Magee chipped the ball over the outstretched arms of Willis and into the back of the net.
“I just tried to get in a good spot and he played a great ball,” Magee said after the game. “Unlike the first good chance I had I put this one in the goal. He laid me a great ball and I would have been dumb not to finish it.” The former Galaxy player now has seven MLS goals, which ties his personal best from 2003.
The Fire held a lead from the early stages thanks to a fortunate bounce in the 9th minute. Midfielder Joel Lindpere served a free kick from the left corner of the box that bounced off two D.C. players, the last one being Nick DeLeon, and popped over Willis and into the net for an own goal to make it 1-0.
“I think the biggest thing sometimes when you’re not scoring is just to get chances, which we did tonight,” Magee said. “It’s obviously good to get two goals, if we’re a little better we have four, but just creating chances gives you all the more confidence.”
Asked after the game about his new star forward, Fire head coach Frank Klopas let out a sigh of relief before answering: “What can you say? You saw the quality he has, his leadership that he brings on the field. He’s very smart the way he moves. He wants the ball in difficult spots and he always seems to be in the right moment at the right time.”
D.C. did create a number of chances, including a header in the first half from Perry Kitchen and a long-range shot from Dwayne De Rosario that went close. They also held a 63 percent possession advantage, but the team with the league’s worst record could not manage to challenge Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson with a shot on target.
In the 85th minute, the Fire put the match away when Magee was on hand to score the team’s second goal, taking a perfect feed from Nyarko and finishing past Willis to send the crowd to their feet and round off Magee’s home debut in style.
The revamped back line of Chicago, which includes the return of Bakary Soumare to partner with Austin Berry in the back line, have now allowed only one goal in their last three games. D.C. United’s winless streak extends to 11 games dating back to a March 9 victory over Real Salt Lake.
“I obviously love playing here, this is home for me,” Soumare said after making his home debut. “We’re getting comfortable with each other and we’re getting used to playing with each other. I’ve known Austin for a while and watched a lot of the games, so for me it was easy transition.”
Fire captain Logan Pause was a late scratch with a groin injury, so head coach Frank Klopas partnered Alex with Jeff Larentowicz in the midfield, just like in the mid-week match. Alex played in more advanced position, allowing Larentowicz to provide defensive cover and more distribution from the back. The win pushes Chicago to 3-7-1, eight points behind playoff position with two games in hand.
“Both teams were in a situation where they needed points,” Klopas said. “It was an important victory for us, we’re feeling good. Now we have to put this game behind us, enjoy tonight, and then regroup and get ready for the whole week we have in front of us. Another difficult match against Portland.”
Chicago hosts a Timbers side next Saturday night that will be looking to extend its 11-game unbeaten streak. D.C., now 1-10-2, will try to snap its consecutive loss streak when they travel to New England Saturday to face a confident Revs group fresh off a 5-0 trouncing of the defending champion L.A. Galaxy.
Here are the match highlights: