Hamilton FC Rage travelled to Chicago to play the leaders of the United Soccer League’s Premier Development League, the Fire, in Evanston on Friday night (June 3) and left with a valiant 3-3 draw.
With about 300 enthusiastic and cheering spectators in the stands, Hamilton was slow to find their tempo and found themselves behind 2-0 at half-time on Chicago goals at the 16th and 19th minute marks. Both goals were the result of some slack defending.
The second half kicked off with a group of Chicago Fire supporters taking position behind the Rage bench, singing and taunting the Hamilton squad. They were quickly subdued, however, when Josh Bennett struck a nice, inside the foot strike from close range just two minutes into the half.
The Hamilton squad was buoyed by the early goal and took the play to the Fire, gaining the important midfield advantage. Scott McCoubrey then struck a sweet left footer into the bottom corner past the outstretched Chicago goalkeeper after 55 minutes to tie the game, 2-2.
The comeback looked to be on as Chicago had lost its composure and were at sixes and sevens at the back. But they were able to recompose and struck what looked to be the winner with about 12 minutes to go.
“Eighty-seven minute” Evan James had other ideas though, as he rose high above the Fire defense to head an Anthony Di Biase free kick into the Chicago net, leaving the home team stunned again.
The tie left Hamilton with a 1-1-1 record and in fifth place in the nine-team league. This was a great character builder for HFC as they showed grit and determination having to come back twice to gain the important road point.
Hamilton next plays on Tuesday (June 7) at Brian Timmis Stadium. They face visitors Forest City London for a 6 p.m. kick-off.