Fire fans who believed their team had already hit rock-bottom were proved wrong Thursday night. Chicago conceded two goals in the first three minutes to the New York Red Bulls (5-1-2) in a 3-0 defeat. After opening the season with a four-game unbeaten streak, Chicago (3-4-1) has dropped four straight.
Jozy Altidore scored in the first minute, Juan Pablo Angel tallied two minutes later, and after an hour of Chicago trying to battle its way back into the game with little success, Angel put away another goal and the match midway through the second half.
David Beckham and Fire-bound Cuauhtemoc Blanco may eventually surpass his achievements, but Angel is rapidly proving to be an astute usage of the Designated Player slot. He was MLS Player of the Week last week in a 4-0 rout of Columbus with a goal and an assist, and could earn those honors again. In his first three MLS games he's logged three goals and two assists.
His low cross was redirected by John Wolyniec to Altidore for the first goal and Altidore's third of the season. Angel pounced on an intercepted to cross to slam home the second, and cleverly faked Chris Armas to the turf before slotting home No. 3.
Chicago launched 21 shots, but only a few of those efforts stretched Red Bull keeper Jon Conway. New York earned its league-best sixth shutout of the season despite playing with stand-ins at right back (Dema Kovalenko) and left back (Dave van den Bergh), and without midfielder Claudio Reyna and starting keeper Ronald Wattereus. It also lost defender Jeff Parke to a hamstring strain; Taylor Graham replaced him at halftime and assisted on Angel's clincher.
"We got a clean sheet not playing our best," said Coach Bruce Arena. "There were a lot of times in that game when we weren't playing well and Chicago was taking to the game to us, so we held in there and we got the win. I was pleased with that."
Conway stoned Chad Barrett one-v-one midway through the first half and set a personal best with 10 saves. New York relaxed with its two-goal lead and its marking slackened but the Fire failed to exploit lengthy stretches of space and possession.
Calen Carr took seven of Chicago's shots and on at least a few occasions should have passed the ball instead, yet Barrett's miss was the most costly.
"Conway had a great game, but I should have done better on my chances," said Barrett, who scored five goals in 16 games as a rookie last year. "Especially on the breakaway. I let my first touch get away from me."
The season is starting to get away from the Fire, which desperately needs to stop its skid at home Sunday against Real Salt Lake after being shut out for the first time this season.
Said Coach Dave Sarachan: "We've had breakdowns and we've been punished and we've got to get that corrected."
Chicago has conceded 11 goals in its four straight losses.
New York has the weekend off, which gives Altidore - who missed the Columbus game to attend his high school prom in Florida - a chance to head back down south for graduation ceremonies. He, and his teammates, are definitely living right.
May 24 in East Rutherford, N.J.
New York 3 Chicago 0.
Goals: Altidore (Wolyniec, Angel) 1, Angel 3,?Angel (Graham, Stammler) 68.
New York -Conway, Kovalenko, Mendes, Parke (Graham, 46), van den Bergh, Richards (Schopp, 78), Mathis, Stammler, Altidore, Angel, Wolyniec (Ubiparipovic, 60).
Chicago - Pickens, Brown, Curtin (Thiago, 70), Segares, Pause, Armas, Mapp (DeOlivera, 80), Plotkin (Bedrossian, 63), Guerrero, Carr, Barrett.
Yellow Cards:New York - Altidore 59, Richards 63; Chicago - Pause 13, Brown 60.
Referee: Tim Weyland.