By DAVE GUBALA
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill – After watching a two-goal lead in the second half disappear in the span of two minutes, the Chicago Fire looked destined for yet another late-game disappointment. Dominic Oduro had other plans however, as he and Patrick Nyarko combined to give Chicago a sorely-needed win and the Fire continued hope of an improbable run at the playoffs.
The Fire jumped out to a 2-0 lead on Chivas USA, but a Cory Gibbs red card threatened to undo the home team at Toyota Park. When Chivas USA rattled off goals less than two minutes apart in the second half to tie the score, Chicago seemed destined to lose. At least until Oduro raced onto a Nyarko pass to fire home the game-winning goal in a 3-2 Fire victory.
"I told Patrick before the game that if we're on a breakaway, and you don't pass to me, I'm going to hit you," said a joyful Dominic Oduro after the match.
It was a memorable day for the Ghanaian forward for a number of reasons. Oduro became the first player since 2004 (Damani Ralph) to score double-digits for the club in a single season and scored the game-winning goal in the 85th minute on the day as well.
It was a wild finish. After initially receiving a pass from Diego Chaves in the box, Patrick Nyarko, according to plan, found an open Dominic Oduro and saw his teammate slot the pass home to put the Fire up 3-2 in the 85th minute.
"I had two options," explained Nyarko. The first option was passing it to Oduro and the second option was to shoot. It was a clear chance where I could pass it to the onside Dom (Oduro) and he's a finisher. It's not about a player scoring a goal only about a team winning a game.”
A familiar face headed in another goal for the Fire in the second minute of the first half. Cory Gibbs knocked in his third league goal, fourth in all competitions in 2011 and gave his side a brilliant start to the match.
The Fire's lead increased in the 26th minute when Pavel Pardo's free kick from about 25 yards was redirected into the goal by a Chivas USA player. It was Juan Pablo Angel who paid the costs and had dug an even bigger burden for Chivas to climb out of.
Cory Gibbs was once again put on the spotlight just ten minutes later, however it was nothing in the sorts that would lead him to cheer about. Gibbs missed the ball and tackled down Michael Lahoud for which he received a rather dubious red card.
"I don't really want to talk about it, said Gibbs. "It was the referee's decision and it was unprofessional of me at the time. The call was made, it was a red and I ended the day."
Starting off the second half with ten men is never easy and Chivas USA made sure of that. In the 61st minute, a sprinting Mariano Trujillo found an unmarked Juan Pablo Angel eight at the edge of the penalty spot. The Columbian redeemed himself and clinically finished it off to cut the deficit in half.
Just two minutes later, Chivas struck again. This time, Zarek Valentin was found at the end of the corner kick and had played it quickly to Nick Labrocca at the top of the 6-yard box. Labrocca then chipped it over Sean Johnson and managed to equalize the score line.
Chivas USA continued pushing, however was unable to find the third goal despite controlling the rest of the game. Plenty of legitimate goal opportunities came about for Chivas but nothing came out of it.
"We were just trying to score the third goal at that moment, said Juan Pablo Angel. "We were pretty much in control of the rest of the game but we just couldn't find the equalizer. We had some really good chances in the end but it just wasn't enough."
Chicago add another three points to their season for a total of 30 as of right now. They host the New England Revolution Sun. Sept. 25 and will look for another victory as the playoff hopefuls continue chasing.
Chivas USA travel Wednesday to RFK Stadium for a clash with D.C. United Wed. Sept. 21. They play Toronto FC and Philadelphia the following weekend before closing down their Eastern road trip to play the LA Galaxy Sun. Oct. 16 at the Home Depot Center.