The Leagues Cup served up an absolute classic on Thursday night as the Chicago Fire beat Minnesota United 3-2 at Allianz Field.
The contest burst into life in the second half, with a remarkable five goals in the span of 21 minutes. The last of those five was scored by Chicago, which proved to be enough for them to secure the win and all three points.
The first real chance came after about 10 minutes. Hassani Dotson picked up the ball in a dangerous area and cut inside before going for goal, but his effort was hit too centrally, which led to a simple save.
The ball was chipped into the path of Teemu Pukki shortly after, but he blasted a volley way over the crossbar. He then had another chance moments later when a cut-back went right to him, although this time his attempt was blocked by a defender.
Chicago finally had an opening of their own from a corner. Brian Gutiérrez whipped the ball into a dangerous area, and Rafael Czichos rose highest to meet it, but he headed the ball way over the bar.
After an uneventful spell and a drinks break, Emanuel Reynoso nearly pulled off a moment of magic. He went for a curling effort from distance, and he came close, but the ball sailed just a bit wide of the frame.
The away side had one more opportunity before the end of the half. A cross from Jairo Torres found the run of Fabian Herbers, but his header was off target.
Minnesota started the second half on the front foot, and their efforts were rewarded at the hour mark. Hassani Dotson slipped Bongokuhle Hlongwane past the backline, and he did the rest, slotting home from close range.
The lead didn’t last long, though. Brian Gutiérrez danced through the area before being brought down, which left the referee with no other choice than to point to the spot. Xherdan Shaqiri stepped up, and after a bit of back-and-forth with the goalkeeper, calmly converted the resulting spot-kick.
In a wild turn of events, the hosts reclaimed the lead moments later. A bouncing ball was headed by Franco Fragapane into the path of Hlongwane, and he made the most of the opening, slamming a shot into the roof of the net.
Things simply refused to stop happening, and the Fire managed to grab another goal. A low cross made it all the way to Arnaud Souquet at the far post, and his first-time attempt was enough to just squeak over the line to level the scoring once again.
Chicago finally took the lead themselves with about five minutes to go. Kei Kamara was left unmarked in the area, and when the cross came his way, he was able to easily jump up and head the ball into the bottom corner.
The contest was forced to calm down thanks to a weather delay, with lighting being reported in the area.
Minnesota carved out one final chance in stoppage time. Kervin Arriaga went for a tough volley, and he made great contact on the strike, but Spencer Richey did well to make the big save.
What it means
Minnesota will be really upset with themselves for not securing at least a point here. They were at home, and they had the lead on two separate occasions. Since they lost, they’ll need the last result in this group to go their way.
Chicago, meanwhile, put themselves in the driver’s seat with a win on the night. They’ll now host Puebla, and a draw in regulation will be enough for them to seal their spot in the next round. They should go for the win, though, and they should be able to get it if this game was any indication.
Notes and observations
Chicago named a strong starting lineup for this contest, but it wasn’t quite their best team. The likes of Xherdan Shaqiri and Kei Kamara were rested, while backup goalkeeper Spencer Richey got the nod in net.
Emanuel Reynoso is so good. I’m still not completely sure what happened with him in the offseason, but he’s such a talented player, and he showcased that ability tonight.
Bongokuhle Hlongwane is one of the best names in all of MLS.
This game was Jairo Torres’ chance to prove himself, but he struggled once again. There’s not even any more excuses for him, as he’s been healthy, and he’s been getting chances in the lineup. The Mexican just isn’t performing. He has the rest of the campaign to turn things around, but if he can’t then he’ll probably be sold in the offseason.
Both teams have work to do defensively. I know it’s fun to see goals flying in on both sides of the field, but the backlines were poor tonight, which is what led to the high score.
Kei Kamara just keeps going, man.
Man of the match – Kei Kamara
I don’t care about actually doing analysis here because Kei Kamara took a photo with an opposing fan after scoring the winning goal. That’s such good content man.