Wednesday night saw old rivals FC Dallas and the Chicago Fire renew ancient hostilities with the aim of taking home the Brimstone Cup. With Dallas near the bottom of the table, any kind of result would have been acceptable.
During the majority of first half FC Dallas conducted themselves admirably. The defensive backline pressured well, and yet they didn't lose their marks. The midfield converged quickly on whichever Fire player held the ball while Jackson Gonçalves and Zach Loyd combined frequently along the right side of the field. The Fire's chances were fairly limited throughout the first 40 minutes.
The Toros had a few well-created chances including a near-miss by Blas Perez, but it wasn't until Brian Leyva stepped up to take a corner kick that things came together. Leyva's confidence had been improving as the game went on, and by the end of the second half he had taken a few very well-placed free kicks and had threaded a solid pass or two to create a chance on net.
In the 41st minute Leyva curled a corner kick and directed it perfectly to Perez, who jumped on the service and directed it on net. Sean Johnson made a great save on the line and palmed it out, and this time it found FCD rookie centerback Matt Hedges. Hedges directed the ball perfectly onto the net and a sprawled Johnson could do nothing but look at the ball fly into his own net.
Sadly the lead would last a measly 3 minutes, as in the 44th minute an awful James Marcelin turnover in the FCD half led to Marco Pappa stealing the ball. Pappa ran up the field and his pass found a wide open Sebastian Grazzini in the top of the 18 yard box and, despite Hedges closing down on him, Grazzini fired a missle right onto the top right corner of the net. It was an incredibly well-placed shot that Dallas goalkeeper Kevin Hartman could do nothing about, and the Fire were back on level terms before the first half whistle blew.
A few substitutions were made to start the second half, with George John coming off with Carlos Rodriguez replacing him for an apparent injury, and Marcelin being replaced by Bruno Guarda.
Guarda made an instant impact, as early in the second half he made a run inside the fire box and was clipped by Dominic Oduro and the referee whistled and pointed to the spot for a penalty kick. Unfortunately, Sean Johnson made a great save on Blas Perez's effort to the low left post and the score remained tied.
Then, a takedown of Grazzini in the Dallas box saw the referee whistle for a PK on Dallas, Grazzini took the shot and Hartman saved it but an encroaching Pappa slotted the goal home for the Fire. The goal should have never counted as Pappa was well inside the box for the PK which is against the rules, but the referee did not see it and the goal stood. Shaky refereeing is sadly a staple of MLS, but this error is so egregious it merits special mention.
Dallas' second half troubles are becoming quite predictable now as they seem incapable of defending a lead. Some fans may complain about the refereeing, and it deserves criticism, but the tying goal was the result of a defensive turnover, and FCD has no one to blame but themselves.
The game ended without much fanfare, and Dallas now needs to regroup for Real Salt Lake on Saturday.