The Fire and Real Salt Lake squared off in the first of their two meetings on the year Saturday night at Toyota Park and the Fire walked away winners, [defeating the Utah squad 1-0.](http://www.chicagotribune.com/sports/soccer/fire/chi-02-fire-chicago-aug02,0,5651248.story)
The match looked to be heading towards a scoreless draw but Patrick Nyarko saved the day for the Fire in the 76th minute. His tally - his fourth of the year - gave the team all the cushion it needed and secured the three points for the Fire.
Give Nyarko credit for getting the game winner, but the real star of the match for the Fire was the defense. Salt Lake struggled to maintain possession of the ball throughout the match and their opportunities were few and far between.
"I think we weren't worrying about playing pretty soccer but thinking more about playing effective soccer and doing all the things that give you a chance to win," said Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett. "This is a group that's experienced and they know what the feeling of going out and getting a clean sheet is and we were able to do that tonight."
The defensive effort was all the more impressive when you consider that the backline was without Wilman Conde - who sat out tonight's match with that old hamstring issue - and Tim Ward - who filled in for the suspended John Thorrington in the central midfield.
The Fire also played the match without midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco. Blanco picked up an ankle injury in Wednesday night's MLS All Star Game and it is still up in the air whether or not he will be available for Wednesday's SuperLiga final against Tigres.
"He got hit in the ligament but it's not bad," said Hamlett. "Hopefully he'll be fully ready to go [on Wednesday] and we'll make the decision on Tuesday. But you have to be careful. I'm more cautious when a guy has a tweak or has something going on to get him the rest because if you put him in you can end up with more damage done."
Well that's all for this match report but before I get out of Bridgeview I'll leave you all with a few questions...
**1) What do you make of Blanco's injury?** Personally, after seeing him limping and with a giant ice pack/wrap on his ankle before the game, I would be surprised if he saw any action on Wednesday.
**2) What did you think about the Fire attack?** I'm not going to lie. I thought it was a little weak tonight. Apart from Nyarko's goal the Fire really didn't have many good opportunities and they will need to step it up if they want to make a deep run in the playoffs.
**3) How about that shutout streak?** It's been three games since the Fire last let in a goal and they've only let in one in their last five. Very impressive.
**4) Who was your man of the match?** This one is a tough call for me as no one Fire player really stood out. I'll go with Tim Ward though. Hit that great cross and did a very nice defensive job in the center of the park.