FOXBOROUGH, Mass. – Rajko Lekic scored his second goal of the season three minutes after the halftime break to help the New England Revolution salvage a 1-1 draw with the Chicago Fire on Saturday night at Gillette Stadium.
Dominic Oduro had given Chicago (2-4-9, 15 pts.) a halftime lead with his fourth goal of the season in the 32nd minute, but Lekic converted from Pat Phelan’s stray shot in the 48th minute to help the Revs (3-7-6, 15 pts.) claim their second consecutive draw.
Revolution head coach Steve Nicol opted to deploy a 4-4-2 formation for the second straight match, but with two changes to the lineup which played to a scoreless draw with Toronto FC on Wednesday night. Franco Coria and Sainey Nyassi started at center back and right wing, respectively, replacing the injured Ryan Cochrane (L hamstring strain) and Zak Boggs (R MCL sprain).
Both goalkeepers were tested in the opening stages as the sides pressed for the crucial first goal. New England’s Matt Reis had to be alert to tip Jalil Anibaba’s 35-yard rocket over the crossbar in the fourth minute, while Chicago’s Sean Johnson held his near post to deny Nyassi’s drive in the ninth minute.
Reis had the woodwork to thank in the 16th minute when Cristian Nazarit weaved his way to the top of the box and sent a bending shot toward the upper right corner, only to see his effort clip the crossbar.
Five minutes later the back-and-forth continued with Lekic forcing Johnson into a good save after settling Nyassi’s right-wing cross, while Nyassi had a go himself in the 22nd minute but blasted his shot high and wide of the near post.
Lekic continued buzzing in the 28th minute, turning Kevin Alston’s cushioned header into a first-time shot toward the right post which Johnson sprawled to tip around the post. Chicago returned the pressure a minute later and Reis matched his counterpart, parrying Patrick Nyarko’s 20-yard drive over the end line.
The inevitable opening goal finally arrived in the 32nd minute when Oduro struck to give Chicago a 1-0 lead. Nyarko’s diagonal pass sprung his teammate down the middle of the park and with Darrius Barnes in his path, Oduro dipped his shoulder a few times before calming slotting a low shot inside the left post.
Kenny Mansally almost pulled the Revolution level six minutes later but directed his close-range header over the crossbar after an inch-perfect cross from Nyassi.
While the Revs couldn’t find an equalizer before the halftime break, they did so just three minutes into the second half when Lekic struck to make it 1-1 in the 48th minute. Phelan’s off-target drive fell to Lekic – who was narrowly kept onside by Fire defender Cory Gibbs – and the Danish striker buried his shot inside the right post.
Rookie defender A.J. Soares almost scored a second for the Revolution in the 54th minute when Chris Tierney’s corner kick found him at the near post, but Soares’ first-time effort was cleared off the line by Logan Pause. A quickly-taken free kick created more danger in the 66th minute, but Mansally couldn’t find the target.
Midfielder Ryan Guy made his MLS debut when he replaced Tierney in the 71st minute and made an instant impact two minutes later, clearing Orr Barouch’s firm header off the line.
Chicago turned up the pressure and forced Reis into a pair of fine saves in the 79th and 81st minutes. Reis first turned away Oduro’s drive from the right side of the box before tipping Daniel Paladini’s long-range effort over the bar two minutes later.
Reis came up huge once again in the 87th minute when he turned away second-half substitute Gabriel Ferrari’s shot inside the box, while Barnes made a goal-saving tackle on Oduro’s low effort in the second minute of stoppage time.
New England had one last chance at a dramatic winner in the fifth and final minute of added time, but Lekic’s acrobatic volley after juggling the ball around a defender whistled wide of the right post.
The Revs will play five of their next six league matches on the road, beginning with a trip to the Pacific Northwest for a meeting with Seattle Sounders FC on Sunday, June 26. Kickoff from Qwest Field is set for 4 p.m. ET.
New England Revolution vs. Chicago Fire
June 18, 2011 – Gillette Stadium (Foxborough, Mass.)
New England Revolution 1, Chicago Fire 1
CHI – Dominic Oduro (Patrick Nyarko) 32
NE – Rajko Lekic (Pat Phelan) 48
New England Revolution: Matt Reis, Darrius Barnes, A.J. Soares, Franco Coria, Kevin Alston, Chris Tierney (Ryan Guy 71), Pat Phelan, Shalrie Joseph ©, Sainey Nyassi, Kenny Mansally (Zack Schilawski 81), Rajko Lekic
Substitutes Not Used: Bobby Shuttleworth, Otto Loewy, Andrew Sousa, Stephen McCarthy, Ryan Kinne
STATS*: Shots: 19; Shots on Goal: 8; Saves: 5; Corner Kicks: 8; Offside: 3; Fouls Committed: 12
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson, Gonzalo Segares, Cory Gibbs, Yamith Cuesta, Jalil Anibaba, Patrick Nyarko, Logan Pause ©, Baggio Husidic (Daniel Paladini 74), Dominic Oduro, Cristian Nazarit, Diego Chaves (Orr Barouch 63)
Substitutes Not Used: Jon Conway, Corben Bone, Dasan Robinson, Bratislav Ristic, Gabriel Ferrari
STATS*: Shots: 13; Shots on Goal: 7; Saves: 6; Corner Kicks: 9; Offside: 3; Fouls Committed: 16
* Note that all statistics are unofficial
CHI – Cristian Nazarit (caution) 59
CHI – Gonzalo Segares (caution) 66
CHI – Dominic Oduro (caution) 77
NE – Shalrie Joseph (caution) 78
CHI – Daniel Paladini (caution) 90
Referee: Silviu Petrescu
Assistant Referees: Daniel Belleau, Eric Proctor
Fourth Official: Drew Fischer
Weather: Partly cloudy, 78 degrees
New England: 3-7-6, 15 pts.
Chicago: 2-4-9, 15 pts.
- With the draw, the Revs moved to a 13-17-9 overall record against the Chicago Fire
- The Revs remain winless against the Fire in regular-season matches in their last nine meetings, with New England’s last in-season win coming May 6, 2007 at Gillette Stadium (3-1)
- The teams will close out their two-game season series on Sunday, Sept. 25, at Toyota Park
- The draw extended the Revs’ unbeaten streak to two games, marking the team’s first consecutive results since a scoreless draw on Saturday, May 7, followed by a win on Saturday, May 14
- The Revs’ 11 first-half shots were more than or equal to the team’s full-game totals in 13 of the previous 15 matches entering this game
- Tonight marked Matt Reis’ 200th start as a member of the Revolution … Reis ranks third in games started, behind only Jay Heaps (238) and Shalrie Joseph (221 and counting)
- Ryan Guy made his first appearance for the Revolution tonight, entering the game as a substitute in the 71st minute
- Rajko Lekic scored his second goal of the season in the 48th minute … his first came on April 23 in the Revs’ 3-2 win against Sporting Kansas City … Lekic is now the second player – along with Shalrie Joseph – to have scored multiple goals during the 2011 season
- Pat Phelan earned his second assist of the season on Lekic’s goal, a career high for the fourth-year pro
- Both Ryan Cochrane and Zak Boggs missed tonight’s game because of injury, Cochrane with a left hamstring strain and Boggs with a right MCL sprain