Fire edge short-handed Red Bulls, improve playoff stock

ByReuters ESPN logo
Sunday, October 1, 2023

The Chicago Fire boosted their chances of securing a playoff spot on Saturday night, defeating the short-handed New York Red Bulls 1-0 in Harrison, N.J.

After a strong start from the Red Bulls (8-13-10, 34 points), the match flipped in the 62nd minute when New York defender Hassan Ndam slid into Chicago's Jonathan Dean. Given his second yellow card, Ndam was sent off, giving the Fire life.

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Chicago (9-12-10, 37 points) opened the scoring on the ensuing free kick in the 64th minute, as Xherdan Shaqiri curled an inswinging ball into the box, finding Georgios Koutsias, who powered his header past New York goalkeeper Carlos Coronel.

Until the red card, the Red Bulls had dominated play, testing Chicago goalkeeper Chris Brady and holding heavy possession of the ball. It looked like New York had a breakthrough in the 16th minute when John Tolkin smashed home a punched-out cross, only to have the goal called back after a sliding challenge from Frankie Amaya resulted in a foul.

The Red Bulls continued pressing throughout the first half, getting their next strong chance in the 32nd minute as Omir Fernandez sent a looping ball in from the top of the box, which Tolkin forcefully headed just wide of the far post from the left side.

While New York could not push ahead as much when short-handed, it did well to hold the Fire from additional scoring opportunities until late, when Shaqiri had a clear chance from 10 yards out in the 87th minute but missed a gaping net.

Kacper Przybylko also had a near chance in the 87th minute, only to meet the post.

Fifteen-year-old Julian Hall, the second-youngest homegrown signing in Red Bulls history, entered the match in the 81st minute to make his MLS debut after signing a first-team contract on Sept. 7.

Amaya hit the post in the sixth minute of second-half stoppage time, unable to save any points for the home side.

With the win, Chicago vaulted itself to tenth place in the Eastern Conference, only outside the MLS Cup Playoffs on a tiebreaker with CF Montreal. Meanwhile, the Red Bulls' playoff hopes were dealt a massive blow as New York dropped to 12th place.