San Jose spoils Fire home opener in front of a record crowd at Toyota Park
Carlos de los Cobos’ home debut was a bust as the stingy Earthquakes somehow found a way to come away with the win.
Despite the great atmosphere, both teams started the game as if shy of attacking. While neither team seemed overly interested in putting pressure on the other, it was the Fire who owned the lion’s share of the possession and opportunities.
For the first 15 minutes of the game, everyone looked as if they were playing in slow motion - with the exception of Patrick Nyarko. The young Ghanaian torched Corrales twice in the first ten minutes, but neither McBride nor Collins John could finish off superb efforts on the wing by Nyarko.
John in particular missed the golden opportunity of the first half in the 10th minute when Nyarko took the ball to the end line and waited until the last second to cut the ball back to John inside the six yard box after drawing Cannon out of his net. Inexplicably, John was unable to get a strong foot on the ball and pardoned the visitors despite having the open net from just a few yards out.
At the midway point of the first half, Marco Pappa finally started to look like his 2009 version and created a few dangerous opportunities for the Fire. The most noteworthy being an early cross to the streaking Baggio Husidic after he beat two Earthquake defenders on the wing, but rookie Ike Opara was up to the challenge and beat Husidic to the ball.
San Jose had a couple of chances late in the half, but rookie goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra was able to thwart both Joey Gjertsen and Ryan Johnson’s shots on goal.
Both teams must have received similarly inspiring half time speeches, because the two sides played with urgency right from the start of the second half. Each produced a goal within the first 10 minutes.
Shortly after Ike Opara nearly put one in his own goal on a back pass to Cannon, Arturo Alvarez put the Earthquakes up 1-0 after Dykstra and Brown collided, leaving the net open for Alvarez, who calmly chipped it in to the dismay of the home crowd.
However, the Fire answered quickly, with a brilliant goal from Marco Pappa that seemingly relieved much of the pent-up tension in the stadium. Nyarko once again created the opportunity on the right wing and found John with his back to the goal at the top of the box. John then laid the ball off to Pappa, who blasted a shot into the top corner of the net.
The Fire then had an excellent opportunity to take the lead. With 20 minutes to go in the match, Nyarko stole the ball off of Ramiro Corrales’ foot and went in free on goal. After drawing Cannon out of net, he laid the ball off for Collins John at the top of the box for what appeared to be a certain goal, but John’s attempt was miraculously saved off the line by a diving Jason Hernandez.
With just under 10 minutes left in the game San Jose had a flurry of corner kicks and that ultimately led to their second goal. The Fire were unable to successfully clear the ball after the second corner kick and Bobby Convey found Ike Opara in front of the net on a beautifully chipped cross. The rookie defender headed the ball past a helpless Andrew Dykstra.
Not wanting their home opener to end in defeat, the Fire pressed frantically for the equalizer the final 10 minutes, sending in cross after cross into the San Jose box. In the end, Chicago was unable to salvage a draw, and an unimpressive, albeit efficient San Jose team went home with the victory.
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