The Fire seemed destined for another draw, and failure to pick up a full three points at home, when Alex scored in the eighty-sixth minute to vault the Fire to a three to two victory over the rival New England Revolution in Bridgeview. Having only entered the match the the eighty-third minute, the Brazilian midfielder became the unlikely hero of not just this match, but possibly the entire season. The Fire finally made the leap into a playoff position despite a Houston Dynamo win, as the club passed both the place New England Revolution and the Philadelphia Union, moving into the fifth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. With just six games to go, the team has both first place New York and second place Montreal on the schedule, but also matches against the bottom-dwelling D.C. United and Toronto FC, as well as the resurgent Columbus Crew and FC Dallas.
While Alex’s goal was the most dramatic, the Fire had to fight back hard just to be in such a position, trailing their road adversaries twice in the match.
New England scored first when Kelyn Rowe beat Johnson just minutes after New England had buried a ball into the net, but were called for off-sides. Fortunately for the Revolution, the second one was onside and stood as a good goal to give the Revolution a very early ninth minute lead.
Recently acquired designated player Juan Luis Anangono, who started alongside Mike Magee at the striker position, scored the first goal of his Major League Soccer career in the thirtieth minute to level the match at a goal each.
The Fire had new life in the match and began to dominate the possession game as the first half’s end drew near, showing signs that they could win the match, but New England’s Saer Sene had other things in mind, scoring a controversial goal in the first minute of first half stoppage time to reclaim the one-goal lead.
Fire head coach Frank Klopas made no secret of his frustration with the officiating on the play. “I didn’t like the second goal because it was a hand ball… You look at the tape, I saw it from there. I don’t know how they miss a play like that, but in a corner where the guy’s fifty yards away, he sees the ball out of bounds. He traps it, and it hits both hands, and then they go… they get a play out of nothing. So that’s why I was frustrated”, Klopas told reporters after the match.
Regardless of how the go-ahead goal was scored, the Fire were still trailing and would be forced to come from behind yet again to keep the team’s playoff aspirations realistic. Three goals away from the league lead coming into action on Saturday, Chicago striker Mike Magee was up to the task, scoring in the fifty-fifth minute as the Fire tied the score for the second time in the match.
It seemed as though a tie would not be enough after the Dynamo won their match, but thanks to Alex’s late match heroics, the Fire walked away victors of a well-fought 3-2 match at Toyota Park. Now tied in points with the Union, the Fire are ahead on the tie-breaker and have one more match left to play than Philadelphia, and sit two points ahead of the seventh place Revolution.
There was apparently some confusion after Alex’s goal, as Magee told reporters, “My reaction was at first I was about to go nuts, but then I looked at him and thought it didn’t go in because he didn’t celebrate. I was in extreme disappointment and then went nuts again. It was amazing. We’ve been trying to get that type of goal at the end of a game for a while now, and now that it’s finally come at such an important time feels massive.”
The Fire travel to Columbus on Saturday, September 21, where they will look to strengthen its position among the conference’s top five teams. The game will be broadcast on My50 Chicago in England and on La Ley 107.9 FM in Spanish and is set for a 6:30 PM CDT start time.