BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire have had moments this year where the bounces have not gone their way. But on Sunday, a beneficial bounce on a Marco Pappa goal paved the way for a 1-1 draw against the New York Red Bulls in front of 16,961 at Toyota Park.
Pappa's team-leading fifth goal in the 58th minute helped Chicago overcome a halftime deficit. Pappa wound up with the ball about 30 yards away from the goal and he decided to take a deep strike toward the left side of the net. Red Bulls goalkeeper Bouna Coundoul dove to his right, but the ball actually bounced over Coundoul and into the back of the net to tie the match at 1-1.
"Sometimes he tries things and they don't come through, but there are times where he can make some magic," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said of Pappa. "You know what you're going to get from him. He's always going to be in situations where he can create and he can score. He always finds himself around the goal. It's amazing that he's got that ability. Some players have it, some don't."
The Fire posted their league-leading 11th draw of the season, moving to 2-4-11 on the year and still waiting for a moment where they can start posting some victories.
"We felt that against Columbus, we would finally be over that hump," said defender Gonzalo Segares, who was referencing the Fire's 1-0 road victory over the Crew on June 12. "But we're still not over it. We're still looking to get on a good run."
The Red Bulls had the momentum in the first half on Sunday, tallying the game's first goal in the 40th minute. New York midfielder Joel Lindpere gave the Red Bulls a 1-0 lead with a goal inside the far left post. Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry set up Lindpere, who took an initial attempt against Fire defender Yamith Cuesta. But Cuesta could not clear the ball out of harm's way, and Lindpere earned a second crack at the goal. He shot toward the far left and put the ball out of reach of Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson.
Johnson made all three of his saves in the first half and kept the Red Bulls off the board for most of the first 45 minutes. In the 21st minute, Johnson deflected a Dane Richards shot over the crossbar, shortly after Dwayne De Rosario set Richards up with a crafty move to avoid Fire defender Cory Gibbs. Then in the 26th, Johnson dove to his right to save an attempt from Lindpere, who had space in the middle of the pitch to take the shot.
The Fire put only one shot on goal in the first half -- a weak, rolling effort from Pappa in the 11th minute. Chicago's best scoring opportunity in the first half came from rookie forward Orr Barouch in the 32nd minute, when his header bounced wide left of the goal. Barouch crouched over in frustration.
Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini, who picked up a yellow card after he tripped the Red Bulls' Henry in the 37th minute, will have to miss Chicago's next league match at Chivas USA.
"[Referee Kevin Stott] said that it was because Henry got fouled four times before that, and so I was just the guy that fouled him the [next] time," Paladini said. "Now I don't get to go home. My family's from L.A., so that was more of a hurt, because they were expecting me to come home. But it happens. I've just got to wait until the next game the following weekend at the Galaxy."
Analysis: It was a tale of two halves for the Fire on Sunday, and the bottom line is that they need to replicate their second-half efforts for a full 90-plus minutes.
On paper, the Fire had a 14-8 shots advantage and a 5-4 shots on goal advantage over the Red Bulls. But Chicago could not capitalize on its extra chances.
It is understandable that the Fire would have some flat moments considering the jam-packed schedule they currently are enduring. But the Red Bulls also were coming off a midweek match on Thursday.
The need to finish is a given, but the Fire also need to be more intelligent with their passing. Johnson has found his form with some key saves, but his distribution was not at a high level Sunday. Johnson had several goal kicks that immediately went to Coundoul and the Red Bulls. Patrick Nyarko was active in the midfield, but his passing touch was not there.
The Fire managed to fight back against one of the better teams in the Eastern Conference. But as usual, there was an empty feeling among the Fire, because they could have earned a better fate than what the final score said.