For a team playing without its entire starting backline, a starting midfielder, and two starting forwards, the Fire did pretty well for themselves Sunday afternoon, ending their two-game losing streak with a 2-0 win over the Kansas City Wizards at CommunityAmerica Ballpark.
The Fire - who was playing their first game after Bakary Soumare's and Denis Hamlett's "locker room incident" - took the lead in the 13th minute through Chris Rolfe. Rolfe - whose goal was his second in as many games - combined nicely with midfielder Marco Pappa before firing home a right footed strike from 15 yards out.
The Fire's next chance came in the 17th minute, when Marco Pappa led a counter attack following a Kansas City corner. Pappa eventually found forward Patrick Nyarko streaking down the right side and he looked to have a 1 on 1 with keeper Kevin Hartman but Nyarko tripped at the crucial moment and Pappa - who recovered the ball after
Nyarko fell - hit his left footed shot over the bar.
After the Fire came close to scoring their second, the Wizards started to get into the attack a little but their efforts were no match for keeper Jon Busch, who came up with save after save. It was good to see Busch get the clean sheet (his 9th of the season) as his confidence had to have been taking a hit after giving up three goals in last week's loss to Houston.
With Busch and the backline holding strong, the Fire almost doubled their advantage in the 41st minute when Marco Pappa's 25 yard blast beat Hartman only to hit off the left post and deflect harmlessly away.
Pappa's shot was the closest the Fire would come for the rest of the opening frame and the side went into the second half looking to add to their lead and keep the Wizards off the board. Fortunately the Fire was able to accomplish both of those tasks and the team did well to absorb Kansas City's pressure before sealing the win in the 89th minute through Mike Banner's first career MLS goal. Banner, who came on for Justin Mapp in the 66th minute, slotted his strike from the left side of the box off of the far post and in.
Overall, it was very good win for the Fire as not only did they pick up the victory but they did so in style, outplaying KC throughout the match. I thought the Fire youngsters were impressive and it was good to see some of the more experienced players (Pappa, Rolfe, Busch, and Brown) step up and play well.
So those are my thoughts on the match but before I sign off for the day I wanted to leave you guys with a few questions...
**1 - What did you think of the Fire's shorthanded effort?**
Given the depleted state of their lineup, I thought that it was very impressive that the Fire was able to pick up the road win. I thought that the Fire would have a lot more trouble than they did with KC but they proved me wrong and picked up the win - despite only playing four regular starters.
**2 - Who was your Man of the Match?**
For me it was definitely Marco Pappa. The 21-year-old winger was the Fire's most dangerous attacker all day, assisting on the match's lone goal and coming close to scoring one of his own on several occasions. I suppose a case could be made for Chris Rolfe (or even C.J. Brown) but Pappa is without a doubt my choice.