Freddie Ljungberg grabbed a goal and two assists as Chicago took three points from a listless Earthquakes side.SANTA CLARA, Calif. -- You'd be be forgiven for misreading the scoreline. The Earthquakes hadn't conceded at home in four games and the Chicago hadn't scored in four. However, the Fire tore up the form books and put three past a San Jose side that had no answer to Chicago's stout defending and speedy counterattacks.
Freddie Ljungberg was the star of the match for the Fire, grabbing a goal in between his two assists. Patrick Nyarko and Bratislav Ristic shone on the wings, while Sean Johnson had a solid game in goal for the suddenly lethal Fire.
The Earthquakes came out of the gates firing against a Chicago team in poor form. Within one minute of the opening whistle, Chris Wondolowski whipped in a a cross that nearly connected with Ryan Johnson, only for Kwame Watson-Siriboe to clear it behind.
San Jose continued to pressure the Fire throughout the early stages of the half, maintaining a fairly high defensive line and affording the visitors very few looks at goal. However, giveaways would continue to hurt San Jose's ability to be truly effective with possession.
In the 23rd minute, Bobby Convey served a dangerous ball to the far post and Wondolowski connected. On initial glance, it looked as though Sean Johnson got down to turn the ball behind, but shouts for handball by a Fire defender went unanswered by referee Abbey Okulaja.
Chicago had a few promising attacks as the half wore on and Marco Pappa flashed a dangerous ball across the San Jose area, but the Fire's forward pair of Freddie Ljungberg and Calen Carr were nowhere to be found.
Chicago went on to take the lead in the 39th minute almost totally against the run of play. Jon Busch had tipped over one corner from Ljungberg, but on the second try Ljungberg served up a ball that found Steve Kinney completely unmarked to head past a diving Busch.
San Jose looked shocked by the goal and Pappa wasted a good chance to add a second from the edge of the area, but the home side managed to get into the locker room with just a one goal deficit to overcome.
The Earthquakes started the second half looking for an equalizer, and Wondolowski served in two balls less than a minute after the half started that couldn't find their intended targets.
The Chicago players had been playing a fairly physical game throughout most of the evening and in the 50th minute, Krzysztof Krol received the first booking of the match for a hard body check on Wondolowski.
The Earthquakes continued to press throughout the half, but the Chicago defense remained strong, turning back almost everything that was thrown at them, with Sean Johnson cleaning up anything that got through.
Wondolowski had a good chance to equalize in the 57th minute as Geovanni went on a storming run down the left flank before crossing, though Sean Johnson comfortably turned behind Wondolowski's side-footed shot.
With the offense not combining well, Frank Yallop opted to replaced the below-par Khari Stephenson with Arturo Alvarez, moving Wondolowski to the central midfield position. Carlos de los Cobos responded by adding more pace to the Chicago attack, replacing Marco Pappa with Patrick Nyarko.
While Yallop's offensive substitutions faltered - Eduardo also entered the game for Tim Ward in the 64th minute - the move by de los Cobos paid off as the Fire doubled their lead in the 72nd minute. Nyarko sped down the left flank before slotting in a through ball for Ljungberg, who comfortable curled it past Busch and into the net.
With a two goal deficit to overcome, the Earthquakes became more and more frustrated. Geovanni saw yellow after fouling Nyarko during a hard midfield battle while Cornell Glen replaced Ryan Johnson in Yallop's last roll of the dice.
Still, the Earthquakes showed little creativity in attack with the exception of some promising runs from Eduardo and Alvarez that never materialized into anything more.
Chicago put the game to bed in the 92nd minute when substitute Brian McBride threaded through for Ljungberg on the left side. The Swede, who gave the San Jose defense fits all evening, calmly crossed low for Nyarko, who took a few touches before burying the ball in the back of the net, capping a ruthless offensive showing for the Fire.
Nick Rosano is a NorCal-based contributor for Goal.com. Follow him on Twitter @nicholasrosano for more MLS insight and the occasional moment of hilarity.
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