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May 25, 2013

Fire, Real Salt Lake battle to draw

SANDY, Utah -- Generating offense has been a chore all season for the Chicago Fire. Twice this season, the team has been dealt three consecutive shutouts against MLS opponents.

The Fire finally found a way to extinguish their latest scoring drought in a tough road environment and can only hope this serves as a turning point in what has thus far been a disappointing 2013 season.

Quincy Amarikwa scored in the 84th minute to counter a goal from Alvaro Saborio in the 78th and Chicago played Real Salt Lake to a 1-1 draw Saturday night.

The Fire (2-7-2) snapped a three-match losing streak in which they did not score a goal and improved to 3-2-3 all-time in Utah. Chicago is the only MLS club with a winning road record against Salt Lake (6-5-3).

Earning a point on the road could be the fork in the road that helps the Fire climb the Eastern Conference standings again. Right now, they are taking a wait-and-see approach.

"You can't say until you have four or five games and you see what it does," Chicago midfielder Jeff Larentowicz said. "But, for us, you can tell that to come on the road and get a point is something that picks up the locker room."

Things appeared to be going in the wrong direction for the Fire once again after RSL broke a scoreless tie in the second half.

Saborio scored a few minutes after coming on as a second-half substitute for Robbie Findley. Playing for the first time in a month, Saborio made his presence felt, scoring after Javier Morales hit the crossbar on a free kick a minute earlier. Ned Grabavoy sent a cross to Saborio in front of the 6-yard box and he headed the ball home inside the left post and put Salt Lake up 1-0.

The Fire wasted no time stepping up on the other end, breaking a scoreless drought of 361 minutes with Amarikwa's goal. Austin Berry headed a pass off a long throw-in to Amarika, who used a bicycle kick to slide the ball under the crossbar.

Chicago hadn't scored since a 1-0 victory over Columbus on April 20th.

"We keep creating more good shots, trying corners and free kicks, but we just don't score," Fire midfielder Joel Lindpere said. "It's frustrating for players, but we know if you create them, one day the ball must go in. It must go in."

RSL had previously not scored a goal in three matches against the Fire since earning a 1-0 home win on Sept. 18, 2010. Chicago also had gone scoreless against RSL since claiming a 3-0 road victory on September 28, 2011.

Salt Lake had a couple of good scoring chances early after dominating possession for much of the half. Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson came up with big saves to keep RSL off the scoreboard.

Kyle Beckerman fired a right footer at the left post from the right side of the box in the 22nd minute. Johnson met the ball at the post and denied Beckerman. He stepped up again in the 29th after Grabavoy took a cross from Joao Plata and launched a header from the center of the box. Johnson snagged the ball out of the air to deny the potential goal.

RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando became just the fourth player in MLS history to play more than 30,000 career minutes. Beckerman and fellow RSL veteran Nat Borchers also played in their 209th MLS match together, setting a new league record for most games played together as teammates.

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