The game seemed destine to end with the Revolution and Chicago tied at 2-2.
Then, in the 87th minute, Chicago's Alex latched onto a cleared corner kick and fired a first-time blast into the back of the net past a diving Bobby Shuttleworth. The 25-yard cannon brought the local Toyota Park crowd to its feat and threw a visible dagger into the heart of the Revolution's playoff chances.
This loss pushes the Revolution (10-11-7, 37 points) down to seventh in the Eastern Conference, below Houston, Chicago, and Philadelphia, in order, in the standings.
Saturday night's match resembled a playoff environment. Referee Ismail Elfath let the game flow, despite physical play from both sides.
And the Revolution began the game like a playoff team, too. Kelyn Rowe scored his seventh goal of the season in the 9th minute, firing from 25 yards out to send the ball sailing over the head of Chicago's Sean Johnson and into the back of the net.
That goal was followed by an immediate response by Chicago. Shuttleworth made saves on three consecutive attacking plays, but was unable to keep a short-range effort by Juan Anangono from going into the back of the net in the 30th minute.
Anangono found space in between Andrew Farrell and Jose Goncalves as he ran onto a through pass from Joel Lindpere. He took one touch before burying the chance past Shuttleworth for the equalizer and his first goal of the season.
The Revolution replied just before halftime. They completed the sea-saw first half with a goal by Saer Sene, who collected a short pass from Dimitry Imbongo before slotting the ball past Johnson at the far post.
Scoring before halftime usually gives a team a psychological edge over an opponent, but with both teams needing a result for their respective playoff chases, neither team backed down in the second half.
And though the Revolution were able to match Chicago's offensive pressure, they were sucker-punched three times.
The first was by the linesman. In the 50th minute, Sene went in behind the defense off a pass by Rowe and fired a shot past Johnson. But the linesman raised his flag, deeming that Sene was offside. The referee's call was a mistake, since the replay showed that Sene was not in front of Chicago's last defender when Rowe made the pass.
Next, the Revolution gave up their lead. In the 55th minute, Mike Magee scored his 16th goal of the season, finishing a sequence that was started by Patrick Nyarko by curling a shot inside the far post past Shuttleworth.
Revolution Coach Jay Heaps tried to go for the win by making offensive substitutions. He took off Sene for Chad Barrett, then removed Imbongo for Juan Agudelo, and then substituted Charlie Davies on for Scott Caldwell. The substitutions occurred over a span of 35 minutes and by the final whistle, the Revolution had played six different forwards.
But none could come up with the winner. And when Alex scored the match point, none could come up with the equalizer. Chicago wasted time effectively in the allotted three minutes of stoppage time and Johnson did his part, making four saves.
Defensively, the match could have gone better. It was the first time this season have given up three or more goals in consecutive games.
The result also means that the conference is much more congested than before. Five teams have legitimate chances to claim the Easts' fourth and fifth playoff spots. If the Revolution want to claim a place in the post-season, they'll have to start by winning their next two games against DC and Houston; both of those games are at home.
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