By JOHN BOSCHINI
The Chicago Fire saw its playoff hopes diminished even further with a 1-0 loss to Real Salt Lake on Saturday afternoon at Rio Tinto Stadium. The victory made it 23 games since RSL was beaten at home, an MLS record.
The lone goal came in the 44th minute when Alvaro Saborio scored from a penalty kick after Wilman Conde, who had already been cautioned in the 30th minute, pulled Ned Grabavoy down inside the box. C.J. Brown was initially given the yellow card, but the referee corrected his mistake and Conde was shown a second yellow, leaving the Fire with 10 men. Sean Johnson guessed the right way on the ensuing penalty but Saborio beat the keeper to the left post for his ninth goal of the season.
It was mostly one-way traffic towards the Fire goal in the second half and RSL almost doubled its lead in the 77th minute when Paulo Araujo Jr.'s shot ricocheted off the woodwork. Two minutes later, Chicago almost got an equalizer against the run of play but Patrick Nyarko's shot from about 20 yards out skidded just wide of the near post.
Despite the win, it was another tough outing for Robbie Findley, who extended his goalless streak to nine games. He had a shot parried by Johnson just before halftime and put a shot over the crossbar after he was left alone in front of goal midway through the second half. The Fire ended the game with only five total shots, none of them directed on frame.
The win gives RSL a record of 13-8-4 and a temporary lead in the Western Conference. The Fire is sitting in 11th place, seven points back of eighth-place Seattle, and is running out of games to string a playoff run together.