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Daniel Paladini has goal, two assists in Fire’s first victory

In this phoprovided by Chicago Fire Chicago Fire forward Daniel Paladini left New York Red Bulls defender Markus Holgerssgo for

In this photo provided by the Chicago Fire, Chicago Fire forward Daniel Paladini, left, and New York Red Bulls defender Markus Holgersson go for the ball during the first half of an MLS soccer match, Sunday, April 7, 2013, in Bridgeview, Ill. The Fire won 3-1. (AP Photo/Chicago Fire, Brian Kersey)

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Updated: April 7, 2013 11:22PM

In his first two seasons with the Fire, Daniel Paladini found himself fighting for playing time behind a group of higher-paid midfielders.

But he has delivered when he has received an opportunity, and he turned in a huge effort in the Fire’s 3-1 victory Sunday against the New York Red Bulls at Toyota Park.

In the Fire’s first victory of the season, Paladini scored the tying goal in the first half and assisted on both of Maicon Santos’ second-half goals. In his last nine starts, Paladini has three goals and three assists.

‘‘We matured as a team
today, and it was probably the most fun I had in a long time,’’ Paladini said. ‘‘It’s a team
effort, and we all played well.

‘‘We had a meeting this past week. It was a positive meeting, and things have changed for the better. We have a good team here.’’

Though the Fire (1-3-1) dominated possession early in the first half, it was hampered by the same kind of costly mistakes that hurt it through the first four games of the season.

Red Bulls defender Jamison Olave opened the scoring in the 17th minute on a backward volley that beat Fire goalie Sean Johnson.

Fire forward Chris Rolfe missed a penalty kick wide left nine minutes later, the kind of mistake that could have deflated an already-reeling team completely.

But in the 44th minute, Paladini rejuvenated the Fire when he headed the ball out of Red Bulls goalie Luis
Robles’ reach and into the back of the net.

The game nearly turned again off the foot of Red Bulls forward Thierry Henry, who entered as a substitute in the 61st minute. Henry, one of the most talented players in the league, hit a left-footed shot from 20 yards that
hit the post.

That ignited the Fire, which created numerous chances from that point to the end of the game.

Santos, a 63rd-minute substitute, scored in the 83rd and 89th minutes. The first of his goals came from
seven yards out off a perfectly placed through ball from Paladini. The second came after Paladini stuck a free kick to midfielder Jeff Larentowicz, who volleyed the ball to Santos.

‘‘[Paladini] has quality, and when we’ve called on him to step in, he’s done it,’’ Fire coach Frank Klopas said. ‘‘He’s a guy who’s pushing
because he needs to be on the field and playing.’’

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