Mauricio Pineda scored in the 84th minute to lift the Chicago Fire to a 2-1 victory over the Seattle Sounders on Tuesday morning in a Group B match of the MLS is Back Tournament near Orlando.
Chicago provided a response to Handwalla Bwana's tying goal in the 77th minute by taking advantage of its fifth corner kick of the match. The ball bounced through traffic to an awaiting Pineda, who wired a left-footed shot under the arm of goalkeeper Stefan Frei for his first career MLS goal.
Robert Beric scored in the 52nd minute and Kenneth Kronholm was not required to make a save for the Fire (1-1-1 season, 1-0-0 tournament), who competed in their first match since a 1-1 draw with New England on March 7.
Chicago initially had been placed in Group A before being shuffled to Group B following the withdrawal of expansion Nashville SC after nine players tested positive for the coronavirus.
Beric, who scored in the Fire's 2-1 setback to the Sounders on March 1, took advantage of a defensive miscue by Seattle's Xavier Arreaga at midfield. Beric chased down the ensuing loose ball and gained inside position on defender Yeimar Gomez before firing a left-footed shot past Frei for his second goal of the season.
Jordan Morris made his presence felt on Tuesday after recording a second-half brace in the teams' last meeting. Morris made a run to the end line before deftly sending a centering feed for Bwana, who converted from in close for his first goal of the season and fourth of his career.
Frei made three saves for the reigning MLS champion Sounders (1-1-2, 0-1-1), who fell to 11-3-4 in 18 all-time meetings with the Fire.
Seattle's Shandon Hopeau, who was making his first career MLS start, settled a feed from Raul Ruidiaz in transition before wiring a shot from in close that sailed wide of the net in the 22nd minute. The sequence began after Chicago's Fabian Herbers was whistled for a yellow card following a bad foul.
Hopeau received a yellow card of his own for a bad foul in the 41st minute and was replaced to start the second half by Morris.
"I wanted to see a team that works together and fights together and we saw that. I think in the first half we had three, four, five good chances, half chances where we were a threat going forward, even if we didn't have the ball as much as Seattle. We were well organized," said Fire head coach Raphael Wicky after the win.
"In the second half it became more difficult. We dropped, I think, too deep. We couldn't really keep the ball and create stuff and make them run. But at the end of the day, it's the first game, it's a big win for us against the champion and I'm really proud about the performance that the team has put on the field."
Wicky said the morning kickoff time was difficult because of the sunshine in Orlando.
"I know we'd struggle physically. We saw the games, we saw a lot of teams cramping," he said. "For me it was always clear that the morning games are more difficult than the evening games, even though the evening games are tough as well, because in the morning you're in the full sunshine and you have 90 minutes with the sun shining down on you. It's very hot, it's brutal."