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A key late-season battle ends with Chicago Fire winning and nabbing second place in the Eastern Conference.
A pair of goals by Dutch forward Sherjill MacDonald powered the Chicago Fire past the New York Red Bulls 2-0 Saturday afternoon at Red Bull Arena. The result moves Chicago into second place in the Eastern Conference with just two matches left in their regular season.
Both teams showed bright spots in the first half, but neither could get a goal. Chris Rolfe started with a tricky shot that bounced off the turf in the 6th minute, forcing Red Bulls goalkeeper Luis Robles to block the knuckling shot. Perhaps Chicago's best chance of the first half came in the 44th minute, when Alvaro Fernandez headed a Jalil Anibaba cross that went just over the crossbar.
New York had its share of chances as well, with the best of the bunch coming from Dax McCarty in the 33rd minute. He had an audacious shot on a half-volley that swerved just wide of goal. Thierry Henry, who gave the referee a piece of his mind coming off the field at halftime, had a shot blocked in the box by Arne Friedrich after a nice build-up by the Red Bulls in the 27th minute.
The match remained tight to start the 2nd half, and while both sides had good chances, Chicago had the better opportunities, including a nice shot by Friedrich in the 54th minute which forced a save from Robles. But MacDonald got the breakthrough in the 65th minute, when he made a well-timed run to beat an offside call, received a very good pass from Rolfe, and raced towards goal. Although Heath Pearce tried to cut off the breakaway, MacDonald's speed was too great, and he slotted a shot over Robles rather easily for the opener.
MacDonald then got his second to give Chicago a 2-0 cushion in the 79th minute, when he made another timed run and on a stretch poked the ball past an onrushing Robles. Red Bulls players complained that MacDonald was offside, but no call was given, and the replays showed it was a very close call.
The loss leaves New York in 4th place in the East at the moment. Although they've shown signs of finally rounding into a championship contender this season, they appear to be limping to the finish line, and questions must be asked once more of coach Hans Backe's lineups and tactics.