FOXBOROUGH, Mass. - There were encouraging signs and chances created, but in the end the New England Revolution were forced to settle for a disappointing home draw against the Chicago Fire at Gillette Stadium tonight. The rivals played out a typically chippy and physical affair, despite waiting nearly twelve minutes for the first foul call.
Rajko Lekic broke his extended scoring slump by putting away his second MLS goal with a calm finish in the second half. His tally equaled the scoreline after Dominic Oduro showed a cutting edge before goal and capped off a first-half counter-attack from the Fire. The Revs created a lot of chances, but must make do with only two points from this recent home stand where they targeted six.
The Revolution created the first two chances of the match rather quickly. Shalrie Joseph fired off a shot from distance that was deflected wide for a corner. The ensuing delivery is deflected to Kenny Mansally in the D, who knocks a toe poke on frame that is smothered by Johnson despite some tricky bounces.
The Fire managed to keep them honest a minute later when Jalil Anibaba roped a half-volley from well outside the area that Matt Reis had to tip over the bar. In the tenth minute, Kenny Mansally played a fantastic cross-field ball to Sainey Nyassi in full flight down the right flank. The Gambian took it down, cut in to the right and fired a low angled shot that Sean Johnson very nearly fumbled but was able to keep.
In the 16th minute Chicago had what was certainly the prettiest chance of the night so far. Cristian Nazarit received the ball just outside the area and absolutely shredded Franco Coria, leaving him for dead before skipping into the area and firing an outward-bending shot that just clipped the corner of the goal before skewing out.
Mansally nearly played creator again in the 22nd minute, springing Nyassi down the right yet again. Nyassi's far-post cross was chested down by Lekic, who ripped a half-volley straight at Johnson, forcing a save. Just moments later, Nyassi was clear down the right again but this time he took the shot himself and put it narrowly over. Two minutes after that, Pat Phelan capped off a decent passing move by smashing one from just outside the box, but Johnson smothered it.
Rajko Lekic had another good chance in the 28th minute. A Darrius Barnes long ball reached the head of Kevin Alston making a sneaky late run into the box. His flick was back to Lekic, and the Dane slapped a volley to the lower far post that Sean Johnson is just barely able to stop. Chicago responded at that point, with Nyarko thundering a half volley on frame and forcing a save before Dominic Oduro nearly had a goal - and indeed put the ball in the back of the net - but was called for offside.
The Fire would find their goal against the run of play in the 32nd minute. A Revolution corner was cleared out to Sainey Nyassi who lost out to Nyarko. The speedy winger picked his head up and played the ball out wide to a rushing Oduro. The African took on Darrius Barnes and then fired off his shot a bit early, managing to wrong-foot Reis and find net at the far post.
New England should have equalized in the 38th minute when Nyassi's good work on the right side created space for him to put a phenomenal cross in toward goal. Mansally rose to meet it almost point-blank, but contrived to head it over the bar.
Rumors of the Revs' demise proved greatly exaggerated in the 48th minute as they found their equalizer through the one man they want to see score the most. Pat Phelan blasted a half-volley at goal that was deflected, but instead of going wide or out it trickled forward, finding Rajko Lekic in the area all alone. He was onside with time, picked his spot at the far post, and made no mistake.
With renewed vigor the Revs began to create more chances. Kevin Alston launched the ever-active Nyassi down the right side, where he played a fantastic little shoulder-leg fake and got space to put in a cross that just went over the head of Chris Tierney. That ball resulted in a corner, which found the feet of Soares for a deft little flick that was cleared off the line.
An interesting mix-up occurred in the 66th minute. Gonzalo Segares saw yellow for pulling down Lekic just outside the box. Shalrie Joseph took the free-kick quickly, which isn't usually permissible in that spot, and Kenny Mansally was free in the box with several defenders chasing him. The whole scene looked straight out of a game in an under-10 league, complete with Mansally's shot from six yards that careened well over the bar.
The Fire started to get back into it in the 73rd minute when Orr Barouch rose up to meet a corner. Substitute and Revolution debutant Ryan Guy was on hand at the near post to head away, however. A small scrum ensued in the box in front of Reis after that, but no shots were registered. Oduro again had a good shot on goal in the 80th minute from a tight angle, but Reis tipped it over. That chance was quickly followed by another save from Reis, this time on a curling Daniel Paladini shot after he was teed up by Nazarit.
Gabriel Ferrari also found himself bearing down on the Revolution goal after a mistake in defense, but again Reis was equal to it. Oduro then had a shot blocked in stoppage time before Lekic had a chance to put the game away for the Revs in dramatic fashion. With the last kick of the game, Lekic controlled the ball, tipped it up to himself, juggled twice in traffic and then ripped a left-footed half-volley towards goal that had Johnson beaten. Unfortunately, it also beat the far post and flashed just wide.