The Fire began their 2014 season with a 3-2 loss at the hands of Chivas USA Sunday at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif. After falling behind in the second half, the Fire battled back to tie the game before conceding the late game winner to Chivas USA’s Bobby Burling.
After a quiet first half, the second half featured a scoring outburst of four goals in 14 minutes between the two sides. Erick Torres scored on a penalty kick in the 56th minute to give the Chivas a 1-0 lead, and Thomas McNamara doubled the lead, scoring in the 59th minute.
With the 2013 MLS MVP, Mike Magee, on the bench after an abbreviated preseason, the Fire rallied for two goals in short order to tie the match. Benji Joya found the back of the net in the 64th minute on the first touch of his professional career, just a minute after entering the match. The Fire acquired Joya over the offseason from Santos Laguna on a loan deal, but hold the option for a transfer after the one year loan period. With Quincy Amarikwa’s goal in the 70th minute, the team’s second goal of the season was also the second by a substitute.
The two teams would remain deadlocked until Bobby Burling beat Johnson in the 88th minute to give Chivas USA a 3-2 lead that would stand as the final score.
Joya’s goal marked the second consecutive season in which the Fire scored its first goal of the season against Chivas USA. Last season, that goal did not come until the fourth game of the season, a 4-1 loss.
Head Coach and Director of Soccer Frank Yallop had previously suggested that Magee would appear in the match, but the striker who fell a goal short of the league’s Golden Boot award in 2013 did not play in the game. Magee had been made available as a substitute.
The announced attendance for the match of 8,320 was the lowest for any of the league’s eight matches during the opening weekend. Chivas USA averaged 8,366 fans per game in 2013, the lowest in the league.
The Fire travel to Portland, Ore. for a match on March 16 against the Portland Timbers at Providence Park. The team will return to Bridgeview for a March 23 contest against the New York Red Bulls in the team’s home opener.