By Louis East
Chicago Fire survived a late New York fightback to record their first victory of 2014 in a simply pulsating game, that saw nine goals and two hat-tricks.
The Red Bull Arena hosted the most incredible game of the MLS season so far on Saturday night, as the Fire beat the Red Bulls 5-4.
Chicago’s Harrison Shipp and New York’s Bradley Wright-Phillips each bagged a hat-trick in a dramatic goalfest that provided a perfect advert for Major League Soccer.
It is the first time a MLS game has seen two hat-tricks, and the unrelenting nature of the game left viewers breathless at the final whistle.
The game started as it meant to go on, with drama present from as early as the third minute.
Harry Shipp fired a shot from the edge of the box, with Mike Magee clearly in an offside position, and the ball found its way past Red Bulls goalkeeper, Luis Robles, and in to the bottom corner.
Referee, Kevin Stott allowed the goal to stand despite the fact that his assistant had raised his flag, much to the fury of Red Bulls players and fans alike.
New York didn’t waste much time thinking about the early setback, as they equalised just two minutes later, with Tim Cahill rising high in the box to head in from Eric Alexander’s cross.
The frantic start to the game did slow down for a while after, with both sides struggling to gain control of the match.
Chicago then had a great chance to take the lead in the thirty-seventh minute, as Shipp sent Magee through on goal, but the striker watched his shot sail agonisingly wide of the post.
Chicago were punished straight-away, as Thierry Henry carried the ball forward with purpose before crossing to Bradley Wright-Phillips, who scored his seventh goal of the season to put the Red Bulls in front.
The teams went in at halftime with New York deserved leaders, with Chicago left disappointed to have thrown away their early lead in such a short space of time.
Though Fire coach Frank Yallop clearly said the right things at halftime, as Chicago came out firing in the second period.
They managed to tie the game once again in the forty-eighth minute, as Quincy Amarikwa was able to get on the end of a Jeff Larentowicz cross to make it 2-2.
The away side looked confident, and New York left stunned.
Just five minutes later, they took the lead once again, courtesy of rookie Harry Shipp for the second time in the match.
Some poor New York defending helped the ball through to Shipp, who found space in the box and fired past Robles.
The Red Bulls looked rattled, and they gifted Chicago with their next goal, as Jamison Olave and Kosuke Kimura’s over-relaxed defending led to the latter being dispossessed by Shipp, who grabbed his hat-trick and put Chicago 4-2 up.
Good fortune then went the way of Chicago, who added a fifth goal in the sixty-third minute, thanks to a mis-cued cross by Patrick Nyarko which found its way over Robles and into the net.
New York manager, Mike Petke, had to change it up and try and get back into the game, and the introduction of Jonathan Steele and Peguy Luyindula put the Red Bulls back in the driving seat.
Three minutes after conceding the fifth goal, Bradley Wright-Phillips volleyed home to instil some life back into the side, as Steele’s cross was chested into the path of Wright-Phillips by Lloyd Sam.
The home crowd roared their side forward in search of another, and they got a penalty in the seventy-sixth minute after Thierry Henry was brought down in the box by Jhon Kennedy Hurtado.
Wright-Phillips stepped up and blasted the ball in for his second hat-trick of the season and took his tally for the season to nine, making him the league’s top scorer.
Chicago were now stunned once more, and thoughts of last week’s late capitulation against Real Salt Lake must have been creeping into their minds.
Though goalkeeper, Sean Johnson, made sure his side stayed in it on eighty-one minutes, as he stopped Henry one-on-one to prevent what looked like the equaliser.
A last minute bicycle kick from Wright-Phillips couldn’t find the back of the net, with Sean Johnson pouncing on the ball to ensure that Chicago would pick up their first win of the season.
New York will be deflated after putting so much in, and to score four goals and not get a point is quite incredible.
They remain just three points behind Sporting Kansas City in the Eastern Conference but will see the game as a missed opportunity, especially when they were leading at halftime.
For Chicago, it’s the much needed break they’ve been waiting for, and the result leaves them in eighth place in the Eastern Conference.
A truly wild night of MLS action in the Red Bull Arena, and one that fans won’t forget in a hurry.
Highlights courtesy of Major League Soccer’s YouTube channel: