BRIDGEVIEW, ILL. – Saturday night’s game at Chicago looked more like a hockey game in the first half. Then, after the dust settled, the Sounders held on for a 3-2 win before 16,416 fans at Toyota Park.
Lamar Neagle gave the Sounders a 3-1 lead in the 78th minute, sailing a shot into the upper-right corner of the net as Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson was screened by a defender. The Fire pulled to within a goal at 3-2 in the 82nd minute on Harry Shipp’s second goal of the night.
“I was trying not to panic,” Neagle said of the goal that proved to be the difference. “It (the ball) took a long time to come down and it bounced weird and then I just took it off my knee and tried to settle it as much as I could before I took a shot.”
Chicago had a chance to tie in the 88th minute when Juan Luis Anangono took a shot from directly in front of the Sounders; goal, but goaltender Stefan Frei made the save.
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The Sounders (10-3-2) improved to 6-0-3 in the all-time series against the Fire (2-4-8). Now Seattle gets a break for the World Cup.
“We’ve had a good run, we’ve played well,” Sounders coach Sigi Schmid said. “We have a few guys who are a little banged up and now we get a break so maybe they were thinking about that.”
The game was physical in the first half, with a scuffle in the sixth minute, and red-card ejections for Chicago defender Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, a former Sounder, and Sounders forward Obafemi Martins just before halftime.
Martins, who enjoyed a two-goal first-half, was ejected in the 42nd minute after his involvement in a fight following a Fire goal.
“It got a little chippy but that’s just how these games are going now,” Neagle said.
Martins, who came into the game with six goals, missed an opportunity in the fifth minute. Martins streaked toward the Fire net, and Johnson came out of the goal box, sliding to attempt to knock the ball away. But Johnson missed and Martins had an empty net to shoot at from the left side. Martins’ attempt rolled wide right.
However, Martins got Seattle on the board in the 31st minute, drilling a shot past Johnson from right of the goal box for a 1-0 lead. Following Hurtado’s red card, Martins took the penalty kick, which he neatly deposited into the right side of the Chicago goal as Johnson dove the opposite direction. That made it 2-0 in the 38th minute.
Sounders defender Chad Marshall helped keep the Fire off the board early by kicking out one corner kick from the goal box and heading out another .
But Chicago refused to be shut out for long. Shipp sent a kick past Frei from the left side in the 41st minute, trimming Seattle’s lead to 2-1. Then came the fireworks.
A fight broke out at midfield following the Fire goal. Martins lost his composure, picked up the ball and held it before booting it out near the Fire bench. He was ejected, leveling each side to 10 players.
“I thought Oba played well,” Schmid said. “I thought he was a little upset with himself for missing the first breakaway that he had, and maybe that carried over into a boiling point. It was probably a pretty emotional day for him, watching Nigeria play without him being there, and that impacted him.”