By IVES GALARCEP
When the New York Red Bulls took a 2-1 lead into halftime of Saturday’s match against the Chicago Fire, there was a sense it might not be enough to hold off a Fire team playing with the look of a team determined to win its first game of the year.
It wasn’t enough. Not by a long shot.
The Fire stormed out in the second half and scored four unanswered goals, led by Harrison Shipp, who scored a hat-trick on the same night he scored his first professional goal. The Red Bulls made things interesting with two goals to make the score 5-4, but couldn’t find an equalizer as the Fire held on for a wild victory at Red Bull Arena on Saturday night.
Bradley Wright-Phillips scored his second hat-trick in less than a month for the Red Bulls, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Fire from recording their first win of 2014.
The Fire dismantled the Red Bulls defense in the second 45, with Shipp proving too quick for the home team to handle. After Quincy Amarikwa scored a 49th-minute equalizer, Shipp slipped a shot through the legs of Jamison Olave for his second goal in the 53rd minute. He then toasted Kosuke Kimura just five minutes later to make the score 4-2.
When Patrick Nyarko latched onto a Shipp pass and finished off Chicago’s fifth goal of the night in the 64th minute, the match seemed out of reach for the Red Bulls, but the home team had one more surge left and Wright-Phillips made things interesting with two more goals.
Shipp started the goal-fest in controversial fashion, when he sent in a cross toward goal that slipped past Luis Robles for the 1-0 lead. Replays showed Fire forward Mike Magee interfering with Robles on the play, but referee Kevin Stott deemed Magee to be in a passive offside option, a decision that left Red Bulls head coach Mike Petke exasperated after the match.
The Red Bulls responded right away to that goal, equalizing just two minutes later when Tim Cahill headed home an Eric Alexander cross.
Wright-Phillips gave the Red Bulls their only lead of the night in the 39th minute when he finished off a Thierry Henry pass to send the Red Bulls into the locker room with the lead at halftime.
Little did they know just how things would change in the second half.
The victory snapped a season-opening eight match winless streak for the Fire, while it also handed the Red Bulls their first home loss of the season.
Here are the match highlights: