Stung Vancouver Whitecaps and Hassli roll over hapless Chicago Fire 4-2 in MLS action
One week after having their noses rubbed in Empire Stadium’s artificial turf by the Los Angeles Galaxy 4-0, the Vancouver Whitecaps, powered by Eric Hassli's two goals, sprang back to roll over the equally dismal Chicago Fire 4-2 and notch only their third win of the season.
Perhaps more importantly for new head coach Tom Soehn, he finally picked up his second win in more than a dozen games since replacing the MLS Whitecaps’ first head coach, Teitur Thordarson, who was fired after his first 12 games also yielded only one win.
The Fire, with just two victories themselves coming into the game at Empire Field, hold down last place in the Eastern Conference, a position shared by the Caps in the West. Chicago, however, had allowed only seven goals in their past 10 games.
Under blue skies, 18,714 fans watched an exciting first half that started promisingly. Chicago defender Yamith Cuesta blew a clearance on a high ball from Caps defender Jordan Harvey to Hassli. The towering forward strolled in and beat Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson easily with a long shot to the top right in only the game’s first minute.
The Caps’ Gershon Koffie later had a long strike saved in the 16th minute.
Chicago got that one back in the 23rd minute after forward Dominic Oduro solved Caps defender Alain Rochat with a through ball from midfielder Sebastian Grazzini, then fooled goalkeeper Jay Nolly to the top left corner.
Empire’s Southsiders had barely recovered from that shock when midfielder Koffie, less than a minute later, decided to crack one from well outside the penalty area. Johnson, perhaps taken by surprise, dove to his right a bit early and too far, with the strike skipping off the turf in front of and over the outstretched keeper to give the home side a 2-1 lead.
Nolly saved a long left-footed attempt by Chicago defender Gonzalo Segares at the 25-minute mark, then handled an Oduro strike from directly in front five minutes later.
Just before the half, after Nolly turned away a low Dan Paladini effort, the Whitecaps had a great chance at a three-goal lead handed to them when referee Chris Penso awarded a penalty after forward Camilo Sanvezzo got tangled with Cuesta in the area in the 43rd minute. Hassli fired to his left and Johnson dove to make an easy-looking save on the Caps' designated player.
Three minutes into the second half, Camilo made it 3-1 after he took a Shea Salinas ball, spun past defender Josip Mikulic, and put one past Johnson low to the far post.
In the 52nd minute, midfielder Salinas made a good run down the left side, sending a ball across the face of the net that was headed away just short of connecting with Davide Chiumiento, who came on at the start of the half to replace midfielder John Thorrington
A quick parry by Nolly of a backward shot by 19-year-old Israeli forward Orr Barouch directly in front of the net preserved the two-goal margin, and then the Caps earned the team’s first ever MLS three-goal lead when Hassli put in an easy one at 72 minutes after Johnson made a diving save on a Camilo free kick and Koffie put the rebound off the left post from in close.
His second goal on the afternoon gave Hassli 10 on the season, just one off the league lead.
That historic margin lasted all of eight minutes until Chicago’s Patrick Nyarko delivered a through pass to Barouch that Harvey was unable to contain, with the Fire winger then outracing the defender and depositing the ball at a sharp angle low inside the post to make it a 4-2 match.
Barouch missed a header from in close at the 87-minute mark, but that was as much as Chicago could muster on the day.