for this game

Blanco helps Fire end six-match home winless streak

Jul 19, 2009 - 4:34 AM By NICOLINO DIBENEDETTO STATS Writer

BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. (STATS) - A day after losing their top scorer for possibly the remainder of the regular season, the Chicago Fire received a stellar effort late by Cuauhtemoc Blanco.

Blanco got a goal and an assist to help the Fire end their franchise-record six-game home winless streak on Saturday night, defeating the San Jose Earthquakes 2-0.

The Mexican playmaker set up the winning goal in the 82nd minute when he intercepted a clearance pass from Earthquakes defender Brandon McDonald and found forward Patrick Nyarko alone in the center of the box, where he netted his third goal of the season.

Nyarko was starting in place of forward Brian McBride - the team-leader with six goals - who will miss at least three months after undergoing shoulder surgery Friday.

"Obviously, we were disappointed with the Brian McBride news, but I felt like our guys came out with the idea that 'Hey, we're still a good team,'" Fire coach Denis Hamlett said. "Tonight, as a group, I was real proud of the guys."

The goal also ended Chicago's home scoreless streak at a club-record 406 minutes.

Blanco followed up Nyarko's goal with one of his own eight minutes later as he collected a pass from defender Wilman Conde at the top of the box and chipped a shot over Earthquakes goalkeeper Joe Cannon.

"I'm happy that I could help my team with a goal tonight," said Blanco, who was used as a sub in the 60th minute as the Fire (7-3-7) capped off a stretch of three games in eight days. "Things hadn't been going well for the team at home so it was important to win this game in front of our fans."

Blanco's performance came after he had a goal and an assist in Wednesday's 2-1 win at New England, advancing the Fire to the final of SuperLiga. They'll host Mexico's Tigres in that title game Aug. 5.

The Fire, who had three shots on net in the second half after just one in the first, lead the Eastern Conference by one point over Columbus and D.C. United.

The Earthquakes, last in the West, saw their franchise-record road winless streak extended to 18 matches (0-11-7) dating back to a 2-0 win at Columbus on June 7, 2008.

"Every game on the road it seems we've been finding a way to give up goals," said Cannon, who had two saves. "I'm just going to blame myself at this point because I'm tired of trying to look at other places.

"I'm the older guy here. I take a lot of credit when we do well and I'll take the blame when we're not doing well. But we have a good team and I really don't understand what's going on."

San Jose (3-10-4) had all four of its shots on goal stopped by Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch, who recorded his fifth shutout.

The Earthquakes' best chance came in the 70th minute when forward Ryan Johnson was stopped by Busch on a breakaway. The shot, though, hit Busch and ricocheted off Johnson's face before going out of bounds.