Fire 1 - Real Salt Lake 0: Undefeated Streak Runs to 5

Tim Ward

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.

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  • timmy was The man!!! We can take Superliga!!! Go FIRE Go!!! FIRE4EVER

  • You would know better about Blanco's injury than I would, but considering the purse for SuperLiga is worth half of an MLS team's salary cap for a year, I would suspect he will make some kind of appearance, even if it's a late game sub just for his free kicks.

    The defense has been solid, but I really am beginning to worry about our scoring prowess. It's showing how much we miss McBride's presence as a big strong target man. Rolfe and Nyarko are both great players, but we need a guy like McBride that they can take quick runs off of. Not to mention his abilities in the air. Yeah, we haven't let up a goal in 3 games, but we haven't put many in the back of the net either.

    Ward's cross was beautiful, but I also saw him give up the ball quite a bit during the game, sometimes passing directly to RSL's players. Not going to fault him too much though, it's not his position he was playing, and he did fairly well despite it.

    All in all a much needed 3 points, but we're going to need a much better performance on Wednesday if we want that silverware.

  • im back......saving something for the playoffs?

  • Was the TV feed of the game down in Chicago? I get the MLS Direct Kick package on DirecTV, and some sort of transmission error knocked out the first 20 minutes of the game.

    I'm definitely eating crow this morning with regards to Nyarko. His header goal was McBride-quality, he posted up well as a target, and he easily had his best game of the season. Rolfe, on the other hand, seemed somewhat lost, which really surprised me. The defense was fantastic (it's good to have Segares back), as was Jon Busch. Man of the Match: how about Bakary Soumare, who seemed to be everywhere?

    I'm concerned with Blanco and Conde's injuries. The SuperLiga title would be a nice win for the Fire franchise, but winning an MLS title for the first time in over 10 years easily supersedes Wednesday's game. Sit out these two guys and play counterattack, which Tigres has had trouble with.

  • In reply to iowalth:

    If you missed the first 20 minutes, you missed nothing.

  • In reply to iowalth:

    People are saying rolfe and nyarko were terrible. But I blame the midfield and service. Baky and CJ seem to just bomb long balls and surprise surprise 2 quick strikers didn't win them. They needed to play it to their feet. Look at the nice run pause had and a nice 1 2 with rolfe. Also, mapp dribble less pass more.

    The distribution for the fire overall lacked. To many boots down not enough building of the attack.

  • In reply to iowalth:

    I agree in with the previous poster in that the reason neither Rolfe nor Nyarko had a very good game was due to lack of service. Disagree however on CJ kicking long balls (that was all Baky). CJ acutally played the ball to the mids, the problem seemed to be more in having two d-mids instead of someone in the attacking part part of the midfield. No one was in the center to bridge the attack between Mapp/Pappa and our forwards. I know this was a case of getting the best available players on the field, but I think we could've kept Prideaux on the bench in favor of Husidic at CAM.

  • In reply to iowalth:

    Rolfe was no good, an off game, but Mapp looked good. Can't wait for Wednesday!!!

  • mom = tim ward

    and i agree w/iowalth, the fire shouldn't risk further injuries to blanco or conde for the superliga final. while it'd be nice to win a tourney, i would much rather the team shoot to get healthy for the final part of the season. i could see the players having a diff take on it w/the chance for a nice bonus.

    the shutout streak is sweet, how bout no more goals all season! ;)

  • ward hit a beautiful cross, but he was giving up the ball way too much. he was playing out of position and did not have a good game, and should not be motm. rolfe was really terrible, too. nyarko was his usual energetic self, but still lacks that killer instinct.

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