For the first time since The Free Header was started last month, the Chicago Fire fell in an MLS match to the Houston Dynamo 4-3 in what was undoubtedly the best match of the week.
The Fire fought back from a 2-0 and a 3-1 deficit to tie late in the match, but U.S. international Brian Ching scored his third goal of the match to pull ahead for good in the 85th minute.
Houston, who dominated possession in the opening half, started the scoring in the 31st minute. Fire keeper Sean Johnson came out to catch a ball, but CJ Brown ended up colliding with him in midair to send the keeper tumbling to the ground and dropping the ball. With an empty net, Brian Ching slotted home the ball for his first score.
Lovel Palmer doubled the lead with a nifty play off a free kick just outside the penalty area in the 50th minute. Richard Mulrooney laid off a pass for Palmer, who sent a low rocket to the near post from the right corner of the box. It appeared Johnson got a finger on it, but not enough to parry the score.
Chicago would finally respond as Freddie Ljungberg led a ferocious Fire comeback in the second half. The Swede released second half sub Calen Carr on a run into the penalty area in the 55th minute. Carr, who returned to competitive play earlier this week after nursing a serious injury for over 10 months, turned his defender around and scored his second goal in as many matches to bring the Fire within one.
Just four minutes later, Mulrooney set up another impressive series for the Dynamo off a corner kick. The 33-year old found the feet of Bobby Boswell on the far post, but Boswell’s shot hit the underside of the crossbar and came back out. Ching notched his second score of the match with a bicycle kick to the near post from six yards out to go up 3-1.
Patrick Nyarko made his return to the pitch in the 59th minute, and made a real impact 10 minutes later. For the second time this season, the Ghanaian saw his defender struggle to keep up and score an own goal. Ljungberg fed the ball into the box with a brilliant through ball, and Bobby Boswell tapped it into his own goal. Previously, Frankie Hejduk of Columbus Crew scored an own goal while attempting to defend the speedy Nyarko.
In the 81st minute, Chicago would drain Robertson Stadium of energy with another truly unexpected goal. Once again, Ljungberg sent the ball into a dangerous area, this time off a corner kick. He found defender Wilman Conde, who equalized with a header.
Ching’s winner would come four minutes later off another Mulrooney corner. Veteran Chicago defender CJ Brown inexplicably allowed a free header on the far post to the former national team star, who easily buried the score.
The Fire will look to rebound next Saturday when they travel to Seattle. It will mark the return of Ljungberg to his former club.