BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Chicago Fire forward Calen Carr made his return a memorable one.
Carr netted a game-winning goal in the 85th minute as the Fire defeated the New England Revolution, 2-1, on Thursday in front of 14,056 at Toyota Park. The match was Carr's first since a scoreless draw between the host Revs and the Fire on Oct. 17, 2009.
Carr injured his quad at the end of this year's preseason when the team was in Mexico. But he slowly but surely has battled his way back, and Carr's goal gave the Fire (6-5-6) three well-deserved points against Eastern Conference foe New England (6-10-3).
"It's been a tough road where my quad would feel better, then it would feel worse, and then better, then worse," Carr said. "I finally broke through the barrier and I've been training for some weeks now. I feel great."
The front line made an aggressive run upfield during Carr's goal. Freddie Ljungberg fueled the attack and fed to Carr who surged ahead and cut to his right toward the middle of the pitch. He hit a low shot from just outside of the box and drove the ball past Revs goalkeeper Matt Reis, finding the left side of the goal for the game-winner.
"[Ljungberg] got the ball and I just drifted out wide to the left," Carr said. "I cut inside, and was originally going to go to the far post and saw the defender coming. So I decided to come back across the face of the goal. The rest ... thankfully it went in."
Carr's goal capped off a strong Fire comeback, after falling behind early because of a defensive mishap. It was Chicago's first win this season after conceding the match's first goal.
Fire midfielder Baggio Husidic tallied his fourth goal of the season in the 32nd minute to tie score at 1-1. Husidic's goal was typical of his other tallies -- right place at the right time when he faced Reis one-on-one, following Brian McBride's pass from the top of the box.
"Brian slid me in and I think the only option was either to go through the legs or chip it," Husidic said. "I went for the chip and it worked."
The win erased a blunder from Fire defender Wilman Conde, who has been prone to a few big mistakes during the season. He slipped when trying to change direction with the ball in the 16th. That parted the sea for Revs forward Marko Perovic, who dribbled around Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson and found the inside of the far left post for a 1-0 lead.
It marked the first goal allowed from Johnson in the run of play in the rookie's three MLS starts. Needless to say, Johnson could not do much to avoid the Perovic goal.
For the first time this season, the Fire's designated player duo of Ljungberg and Nery Castillo started together. It marked Castillo's first MLS start, but it was a mostly forgettable outing that included some unusual reads on some crosses from the right side. Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos decided to take him out after 45 minutes, going with Mike Banner in the second half.
Analysis: The mantra of Fire soccer over the past couple of seasons had been some positive advantages, but many times coming up short of a win or making a costly mistake.
It nearly held true until Carr completed Chicago's comeback. And while Carr and Husidic did get the glory on the scoreboard, it was Ljungberg who basically energized this team from whistle to whistle.
It is refreshing to watch the 33-year-old Ljungberg -- the amount of ground he covers from side to side and his energy level. Ljungberg played a big role in both goals. And then there were moments where Ljungberg generated some applause for simply his continual drive, such as the 49th minute. He had a good 15- to 20-second stint where he tried to get through several Revs defenders. And even when it seemed hopeless, Ljungberg somehow managed to get a corner kick out of it.
The Fire still are without a couple pieces of the roster, particularly midfielder Patrick Nyarko. Chicago compensated for Nyarko's absence, and Ljungberg is the man to thank for fueling the squad.