Instead of escaping Seattle's Qwest Field with a respectable point, the Chicago Fire once again allowed a late goal.
Seattle Sounders FC's Fredy Montero tallied two goals, including the game-winner in second-half stoppage time, as Seattle topped Chicago, 2-1, in front of a crowd of 36,386.
Montero was unmarked at the far left post for the game-winning header, while Chicago's defense was drawn toward the middle of the box. The Sounders' Nathan Sturgis delivered a crisp cross from the right side of the pitch and Montero headed the ball down by Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson's feet and into the net for the winner.
For a second straight match, the Fire (6-7-6) saw a potential road draw evaporate late. The Fire lost 4-3 to the Houston Dynamo on Aug. 21. Seattle (9-8-5) extended its unbeaten streak to seven matches.
Fire designated player Freddie Ljungberg returned to Seattle for the first time since his trade to Chicago. But Ljungberg left without a win and also departed knowing that he will miss the Fire's next match Saturday against the Los Angeles Galaxy.
With an 83rd-minute yellow card for bumping into Seattle defender Jeff Parke, Ljungberg will miss the upcoming match due to yellow-card accumulation. Fire defender Wilman Conde missed the Seattle match because of the same infraction.
The Fire defense had some positive moments without Conde in the mix, but both goals allowed Saturday consisted of failing to tightly mark Seattle's best goal scorer.
Montero's first goal tied the score at 1-1 in the 36th minute. Tyson Wahl delivered the ball in from the left side, curving the ball past Fire defensive midfielder Logan Pause. Montero snuck in behind Fire defender Gonzalo Segares, who was playing as a center back in Conde's absence. As Montero tried to control the ball in the box, Fire defender Krzysztof Krol tried to help. But Montero eluded the defense and shot to the far left post for the goal.
Fire midfielder John Thorrington made his long-awaited return, starting and and netting a first-half goal. Thorrington had missed the entire season because of a left quad injury, and he made an immediate impact with a 28th-minute penalty-kick goal.
In the 27th minute, the Fire's Patrick Nyarko held the ball at the left side of box against Sounders defender James Riley. Nyarko sent the ball toward the middle of the box, and when Parke converged to try and help out Riley, Parke's arm made contact with the ball. His arm was not intentionally extended away from his body to stop the trajectory of the pass.
Nevertheless, the Fire were awarded the penalty kick, and Thorrington capitalized. Thorrington had a small hesitation that did not cause Sounders goalkeeper Kasey Keller to flinch. But Keller's guess was incorrect when he dove one way and Thorrington shot the ball to his right and into the back of the net for a 1-0 lead.
Analysis: Montero is an incredibly talented player and a difficult man to mark. But the Fire defense dropped the ball in its effort against the Colombian forward. Any team's leading goal scorer will welcome the type of space he was given to work with leading up to his two goals.
Chicago's defense did have a different look with Steven Kinney on the right side (the space where Montero got his second goal), Segares moved to left-center and Krol at left back (Montero got between Segares and Krol, leading to the first goal). That still is no excuse for the Fire's lapses against Montero.
A positive for the Fire was the return of Thorrington. As expected, a healthy Thorrington can cover a lot of ground on the pitch and bring some beneficial energy. Capitalizing on the penalty kick to get the early lead was huge. The last time Thorrington took a penalty shot, he was denied by Real Salt Lake's Nick Rimando in last year's Eastern Conference final loss to the eventual MLS champs.
There were a few times where Thorrington and Pause looked like they wanted to occupy the same space on the field, but it was nothing drastic that changed the flow or led to some sort of turnover. Thorrington looked good out there and he made some strong runs. On several occasions, Thorrington's Fire teammates should have been looking in his direction because he was finding some open spaces.
The Fire have a busy two months on the docket, and while they do have time to make up some ground in the Eastern Conference, they will look back on these back-to-back road matches as big opportunities missed to salvage points on the road.