LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — Rookie Mauricio Pineda scored in the 84th minute to give the Chicago Fire a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday in the MLS is Back tournament.
Wide open at the back post, Pineda caught Sounders goalkeeper Stefan Frei off guard after Seattle’s Handwalla Bwana scored in the 77th minute to knot the score at 1-all.
Robert Beric’s goal put the Fire up after a scoreless first half. It was his second goal for the Fire this season — his first came in a season-opening loss to the defending champion Sounders.
The match Tuesday was the tournament opener for the Fire, who were shifted to a new group after FC Dallas and Nashville SC had to withdraw because of positive COVID-19 tests.
“I think everyone was looking forward to this game, we were all really anxious to start playing games again,” Pineda said. “Everyone worked really hard today, we all really wanted a good result to start the tournament off and just for the league points."
The Sounders played to a scoreless draw against the San Jose Earthquakes to open the tournament.
The 24 teams in Florida are separated into six groups of four teams apiece for the opening stage of the tournament being played without fans at ESPN’s Wide World of Sports complex at Walt Disney World. Results from the groups count toward the regular season.
Seattle’s Jordan Morris started on the bench against Chicago but subbed in after a scoreless first half.
The Fire threatened in the 32nd minute when Frei grabbed Przemyslaw Frankowski’s header. Frei also deftly punched away a Chicago free kick in the 42nd minute.
But he couldn’t stop Beric, who manoeuvred around Seattle defender Yeimar Gomez to score in the 52nd minute. Beric signed in the off-season after playing in France for five seasons.
Morris pulled off a well-placed cross to Bwana, who timed his run to beat Chicago goalkeeper Kenneth Kronholm and tie the game.
Pineda’s goal was his first in MLS. The Illinois native signed as a homegrown player in January.
“Obviously we're all frustrated. It's a disappointing result and we wanted to come away with a win,” Morris said. “We had a lot of possession and we need to create better chances, I think that's the main goal for us, and should be the main goal going forward.”
Morris scored both goals when the Sounders opened the regular season with a 2-1 victory over the Fire in Seattle. Beric scored his first MLS goal for Chicago.
The Sounders also played to a 1-1 draw with the Crew before the league was shut down because of the coronavirus pandemic.
The Fire were playing under new coach Raphael Wicky after an eighth-place finish in the Eastern Conference last season.
“Those are three big points against the champions and it counts for the league, which is very, very important for us," Wicky said. "After two good games against Seattle and New England, but the results didn't go in our favour, I'm very happy with the three points. For the tournament it's always good to have a positive start, but it's just a first step.”
With temperatures in the mid-80s and 85% humidity, the game featured two hydration breaks in both halves.
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