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Fireworks rocked the sky above Toyota Park prior to the match, and what followed on the field didn’t lack in excitement either, as the San Jose Earthquakes defeated the Chicago Fire 2-1 in front of a sold-out crowd of 20,276 in Chicago’s home opener Saturday night.
San Jose capitalized on a communication breakdown between Fire ‘keeper Andrew Dykstra and defender C.J. Brown to take the lead. Arturo Alvarez was the hero for the Earthquakes, chipping an 18-yard shot over the heads of Brown and Dykstra – who were still on the ground after colliding – to score.
Marco Pappa put the Fire level only three minutes after San Jose opened the scoring, ripping a 25-yard shot into the right upper 90. Pappa was assisted on the goal by Collins John, who laid off a Patrick Nyarko pass directly into the path of Pappa, allowing the Guatemalan midfielder to shoot on the first touch.
The Fire almost scored again in the 73rd minute when Patrick Nyarko pulled Cannon out of net before squaring the ball to John at the top of the 18. John one-timed his shot towards goal, but San Jose's Jason Hernandez came up with a miraculous goal line clearance to keep the game knotted up at one.
Nine minutes later, the Earthquakes made the Fire pay for their near miss, when rookie defender Opara headed midfielder Bobby Convey’s cross into the back of the net from 8 yards out.
The game had got off to a fast start and Chicago should have scored first in the 11th minute, when midfielder Nyarko used pinpoint crossing accuracy to pick out a wide-open John only three yards from goal. Inexplicably, John wasn’t able to redirect Nyarko’s cross into the back of the net, wasting an opportunity to give the Fire the early advantage.
John’s gaffe almost came back to haunt the Fire in the 38th minute, when Earthquake midfielder Joey Gjertsen nearly put San Jose ahead. But Gjertsen couldn’t capitalize on his one-on-one chance with Chicago goalie Andrew Dykstra, who ran well off his line before making a nice diving stop.
San Jose had a scary moment minutes after the start of the second half, when Opara nearly put the ball into his own net in the 48th minute. Opara was inaccurate with his back pass to keeper Joe Cannon but – fortunately for the Earthquakes – the ball rolled harmlessly wide of goal.
The Fire pushed up in numbers in the final minutes of the match, but were unable to find a second equalizer.