HARRISON, N.J. – The Chicago Fire leaned on some luck to take the early lead in Harrison, but the New York Red Bulls reserved their rabbit’s foot for the decisive goal.
Down two goals, the Red Bulls answered back with three, capped off by a dubious penalty call to gift New York a 3-2 victory in front of 17,984 fans at Red Bull Arena.
Jeff Larentowicz and David Accam put the Fire ahead early, but first half goals from Bradley Wright-Phillips and Mike Grella set the table for a decisive second half Kljestan PK to tip this match in New York’s favor.
“That’s an important moment when you go down two, especially to get one right back because the game is still up for grabs,” Red Bulls boss Jesse Marsch noted. “We’ve talked about how no matter what situation we’re in as a team we continue to have belief on the field and we continue to push.
“Certainly going down two wasn’t how we planned it and we don’t want to do that too often but the response was fantastic.”
In typical fashion, the Red Bulls took an offensive footing against the visiting Fire, but it was Chicago that found net first. Damien Perrinelle fell victim to a questionable call from referee Armando Villarreal at the edge of Chicago’s area. Larentowicz beat a diving Luis Robles on the ensuing penalty to gift Chicago the lead in the 13th minute.
“I will say this – not an easy game to ref,” Marsch noted. “It was so explosive, a lot of explosive players, and a lot of explosive moments of transition. A lot of plays in the box. I’m not going to sit here and critique the [refereeing]. It’s a hard game to deal with and he did his best.”
Despite increased pressure from New York, Chicago managed a second goal 12 minutes later. Accam put Connor Lade on his back, dragging the diminutive defender into the box, shaking him loose and cutting past Robles for an easy walk-in goal in the 25th.
But the Red Bulls would not succumb to the scoreline. Sacha Kljestan beat his marker and poked a feed towards Bradley Wright-Phillips. With his defenders split, the English striker took a low, guided shot to Johnson’s right, cutting Chicago’s lead in half.
Nine minutes later, Mike Grella brought the match level, settling a hopeful Lloyd Sam feed in the area and blasting a shot past Johnson to send the teams tied at the half.
New York’s pressure game continued in the second stanza. Half chances from Sam, Grella and Bradley Wright-Phillips failed to break the match open, but another penalty call changed the complexion of the match. Like Perrinelle before him, Michael Stephens earned a whistle on a phantom foul in the box. A diving Sam gift wrapped New York a penalty kick — which Sacha Kljestan converted with gusto.
“Going two-nil down, we had to keep going and believe that we could get the result,” Sam said after the match. “It’s great to see it happen.”
The victory propels New York to the top of the Eastern Conference, leading D.C. United (12-7-6, 42 pts.) by a single point (13-7-6, 45 pts.). The result also leaves Chicago dead last in the Eastern Conference (7-14-6, 27 pts.) for yet another week.
New York now put their focus on a midweek clash at Foxborough where they meet fourth place New England Revolution (11-9-7, 40 pts.) at Gillette Stadium.