Extinguished: Late Chicago goals dampen RSL chance for first road win

After a spirited effort for the first 69 minutes of play, Real Salt Lake remains winless on the road Sunday, dropping a 3-1 decision to the Chicago Fire at Soldier Field.

RSL (3-9-3) pulled level at 1-1 against the Chicago Fire (8-6-2) via a brilliant Jason Kreis free kick forcing its way through the wall and into the net. But the Fire responded with a top-class goal and added one more late to win the match 3-1.

Thanks to a newly Mohawked D.J. Countess and a competent RSL midfield stringing together scoring chances, Real Salt Lake kept itself in the game.

The action got started when Fire forward Justin Mapp got free of his marker for the first of many times on the left flank, finding Nate Jaqua, Chicago’s leading scorer and his head.

But Countess leapt into the air and parried Jaqua’s chance wide.

The RSL goalkeeper made several great saves on the match.

One in particular came in the 27th minute, when Fire midfielder Chris Armas took a one-touch pass from a streaking Mapp on the right of the penalty box and blasted it at the goal.

But Countess again was up to the task, flailing his body in front of the ball and taking one more for the team, after which it took him some time to regain his composure.

The game went scoreless to the halftime whistle. The second half, however, brought more entertainment than most RSL fans are accustomed to.

In the 53rd minute, Brazilian playmaker Thiago, the Fire’s leading assist man, got free of his marker on the left side as a cross was played into the penalty box. Jaqua had a chance, but instead left the ball for Thiago, who cut the ball back, thundering it into the near post and net for a 1-0 Chicago lead.

Real Salt Lake answered in the 62nd minute on perhaps the best goal of the year for the team. Jason Kreis lambasted the ball through the Fire wall outside of the penalty box and into the net to level the match at 1-1. It was Kreis’ fifth of the year and his 96th career MLS goal. But the Fire, who were able to get free of RSL defenders all night, cocked back in the 69th minute.

Jaqua took a high ball and flicked it on toward fellow forward Scott Rolfe, who pulled it down, cut back outside the box and fired a point-blank shot to the far post, finding the net and what proved to be the game-winner.

Chicago punctuated the victory with a questionable goal in the 88th minute. Costa Rica international Andy Herron, a late-minute sub, found himself onside while RSL defender Brian Kamler raised his hand to signal offside.

Herron had only Countess to beat and did so, dribbling around the RSL keeper before tapping it into the net. The referee did not agree with Kamler’s view and the goal stood.

RSL now has an eight-day break before their next MLS match, a July 4 tilt against the New York/New Jersey MetroStars at Rice-Eccles Stadium at 7:30 p.m.

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