After a number of promising moments in the first half, the Sean Johnson-led Chicago Fire weathered a flurry of opportunities in the second half from the New York Red Bulls to hold on for a 0-0 draw at Toyota Park Sunday night.
RBNY outshot the Men in Red a startling 22-5, the majority of which came in the second half, which may even be more surprising considering that Thierry Henry was subbed off with a groin injury in the 45th minute. However, rookie goalkeeper Johnson, playing in only his second career MLS match, made highlight save after highlight save in order to preserve his first career shutout.
Johnson saved his biggest plays for last. Rookie Red Bull defender Tim Ream lined up a great shot in the 90th minute after the ball somehow found his feet, but a leaping Johnson nudged the ball over the crossbar to keep the game level. The best play of the night came a minute later, when Johnson found himself out of position on a Juan Pablo Angel header, but managed to stretch across the mouth of the goal and push the shot wide.
The only bona fide scoring chance for the Fire came right before the first half. Logan Pause laid up a great through ball to Brian McBride, who took off up the right side of the field and made a perfectly weighted cross to Freddie Ljungberg. However, the ball took an odd bounce and hit off the Swede’s shin, sending the shot off target.
Henry’s injury allowed for Mac Kandji to jump from a midfield role to the forward spot, and the lanky 25-year old made his presence known in the opening minutes of the second half. He inexplicably missed a cross inches outside of the goal in the 47th minute and also had a pair of headers just miss.
Angel led all players with nine shots, the majority of which came in the last 20 minutes as it appeared the Chicago Fire offense had run out of gas.
Earlier in the second half, former Mexican national team standout Nery Castlllo made his debut for Chicago. The 26-year old was involved in a number of plays, but proved largely ineffective in his first competitive match in a year.
Chicago, who haven’t won a home MLS match since June 5th, will next host heated rival New England on August 18.