The Fire pulled off a wild one tonight - getting three goals in the last 20 minutes to defeat the Colorado Rapids 3-2.
"This was a test for us, this was a test to see what kind of character we have," said a very happy Jon Busch. "Everybody stepped up. We got behind the eight ball a little bit but we didn't hang our heads. I couldn't be prouder of these guys, it was awesome."
After a first half that is sure to end up in the soccer-bashing hall of fame (just in case you didn't notice - the first 45 was boring, slow, and goalless...) the game completely opened up in the second with Colorado taking the advantage.
Rapids forward Omar Cummings opened up the scoring in the 48th minute when he pounced on the rebound of a Jamie Smith drive and coolly slotted home from 10 yards out.
Cummings doubled the lead - and his goal tally - in the 58th minute when he hit a left footed blast from 20 yards out into the top right corner of the net, leaving Jon Busch with absolutely no chance.
But even after going down two goals, the Fire refused to give up, eventually getting a spark from three key substitutes. The comeback started for the Fire in the 70th minute after Cuauhtemoc Blanco (who received the ball from Patrick Nyarko who - you guessed it - was a substitute) got tackled from behind in the area, earning himself a PK and the ball a ticket to the back of the net.
Another substitute, Mike Banner, equalized for the Fire in the 85th minute when he hit an absolute rocket from 20 yards out to beat keeper Matt Pickens. Banner's goal - his second in three games - sent the Toyota Park crowd into complete mayhem and sparked the Fire to push for a winner, which they finally found in the 93rd minute.
Defender Dasan Robinson - who endured a rough match against L.A. on Wednesday - was the hero for the Fire, as he headed in a Justin Mapp (that's right, a substitute...) cross for what should've been the final nail in Colorado's coffin. But, unfortunately for Dasan, he gave the Rapids a final gasp at an equalizer by tearing off his shirt in celebration - and earning a second yellow card in the process.
"I kind of blacked out a little bit there," said a smiling Robinson. "Obviously it was a game winner -- thank god that I was able to put it into the back of the net - but kind of a bonehead move. But you live and you learn and I'll do my best next time to be a little bit more thoughtful in my actions after I score a goal."
So the Fire, who pulled within one point of the idle Columbus Crew for first place in the East with the win, pulled out a dramatic one. But before I end this post, I thought I'd ask a couple questions of you guys and - as always - share my opinion too...
**1 - Who was your man of the match?**
Watch out - you're getting three players for your money on this one. I'm going with the three subs: Justin Mapp, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Banner. You might see this pick as a wimp-move but I really believe that the three subs were all the difference in the game. They all made key contributions in the build up to the Fire's goals and they really changed the complexion of the match when they came in. I'll give an honorable mention to Temo and Dasan though (even with the red card...)
**2 - Did you have any hope left in the 70th minute, with the Fire trailing 2-0?**
No. As Jon Busch said, "I thought it was done and dusted." But seriously, tonight's win was a great comeback for the Fire. They showed the most resiliency that I have seen out of them all year and to pull out this kind of result with a ton of players missing, really says a lot about the team and its mental toughness.
**3 - What concerned you about the match?**
Yeah, yeah so I might be raining on the parade a little bit here, but for the first 70 minutes of the match the Fire really didn't look very good. They were harmless in the attacking third and - while the second goal was simply great play on Cummings's part - the first goal was very soft. The main thing for me though is the attack. Hopefully the little slump the offense was in ended with the culmination of tonight's game, but I'm not too sure, and hopefully they'll put the effort of the last 20 minutes together for the full 90 next week.
But really, who am I to complain? That was one hell of a match...
I'll have more reaction/news coming your way tomorrow so keep an eye out for that. Enjoy this one though, after all, "it was awesome."