BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- With the pressure mounting on the Chicago Fire to produce a positive result following three straight defeats, the home side held a late lead but could not hang on en route to a 1-1 draw against the Houston Dynamo on Saturday in front of 12,473 at Toyota Park.
Dynamo defender Bobby Boswell scored in the 83rd minute off of a corner kick to tie the score late at 1-1. Chicago did end its losing streak, but the Fire (1-3-2) missed out on a good opportunity to grab three points against a fellow Eastern Conference side that is known for capitalizing on its set pieces.
"We knew that one of the things that makes that team successful is set pieces," Fire captain Logan Pause said. "Giving up a goal on a set piece, it's just a bummer. We worked on it. It was actually my man who scored."
"They have big guys, big players," Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said of Houston (2-1-3). "It's a shame, because it was one of the last minutes of the game again."
Diego Chaves tallied his team-leading fourth goal for the Fire for a 1-0 lead in the 18th minute. The Fire took advantage of Houston defender Corey Ashe coughing up the ball to Chicago midfielder Marco Pappa. Pappa took the Fire the other way and found Chaves inside the box, as Chaves slotted the ball past Dynamo goalkeeper Tally Hall.
De los Cobos made some significant roster adjustments, whether it was by choice or because of injury. As expected, Yamith Cuesta took the place of the injured Cory Gibbs (hamstring). Midfielder Baggio Husidic started instead of Michael Videira. And forward Dominic Oduro started against his former Dynamo squad, replacing Uruguayan Gaston Puerari.
Of that grouping, Cuesta had the most notable performance. He had the defensive stop of the match in the 23rd minute when he cleared a likely Will Bruin goal near the goal line. Fire defender Josip Mikulic was out-muscled by Bruin, and Bruin shot the ball over Fire goalkeeper Jon Conway and toward the goal. But Cuesta converged and cleared the ball away for a Dynamo corner kick.
The Fire defense held the Dynamo offense at bay until the 83rd, when Boswell rose up above a flurry of players and headed the ball toward the inside of the right frame past Conway to salvage a road point.
"We had that 1-0 lead, and we just kind of played not to give away a goal instead of just continuing to play the way we did," Husidic said. "Unfortunately that's what happens. They got a goal late off of a corner kick. We are very disappointed that we didn't get three points today."
For the most part, the Fire produced better scoring opportunities than the Dynamo. One of the most glaring was in the 66th minute, when Oduro was one-on-one against Hall and hit the crossbar. Patrick Nyarko had a stellar pass from the left side, stretching for the ball to beat his defender on the left side to get the ball to Oduro. A few minutes earlier in the 62nd, Husidic missed a great chance in the middle of the box as his shot sailed well over the crossbar.
"My options opened up, and I think I just got too excited," Husidic said. "I couldn't believe it and whiffed on it. I wish I could have it back again."
Analysis: It was not a pretty game for either side on Saturday. The Fire and Dynamo both lacked fluidity in their passing and movement. Chicago escaping with only one point when the team had a lead and potentially three points for most of the match completely soured the opportunity.
Cuesta had a positive match, whether it was the clutch first-half clearance on Bruin or a multitude of other clearances in the box. But as far as De los Cobos' lineup changes, he really was the only addition who had an impact on the pitch.
Giving the nod to Oduro over Gaston Puerari was a surprising move. Oduro did have the lone goal in the Fire's 2-1 loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy the previous week, while Puerari missed a big scoring chance in that match. But the Puerari and Chaves pairing felt much more in sync. Nyarko, on the other hand, seemed to mesh with Oduro's movement, but the finishing has been an issue for Oduro.
A point is better than nothing, and the Fire climbed out of the cellar and moved into eighth place in the East. But the Fire's choppy play on the pitch will not cut it next week against the defending MLS champion Colorado Rapids.