On a weekend chock full of late game heroics the Fire chipped in with a big victory of their own fueled by a 90th minute score by Cristian Nazirit. After 89 minutes of generally outplaying the Crew in Columbus a third consecutive 0-0 draw almost seemed certain. Particularly after Orr Barouch managed to find the post yet again in the 79th minute.
An excellent individual play from Barouch ten minutes later led to Nazirit's open tap in and rekindled the flame of hope for an Eastern Conference playoff spot. The Fire still have a ways to go but a victory on the home turf of a rival is a good sign that the season is not lost yet. For the moment concerns over lack of finishing, central midifield play, and dropped points will take a back seat but there's still a long way to go.
The Fire were clearly the better side today for much of the match and the three points were well deserved.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - A third straight clean sheet is a good sign but Johnson was rarely tested today. Columbus had zero shots on target and Johnson's distribution was better than it had been a few days ago in Kansas City. Also seems increasingly more comfortable in the air and had no trouble handling a few tricky bounces (a problem earlier this season).
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Struggled a bit early with 1v1 runs against Meram and Gardner but settled down to have a fairly decent match. Provided a few long distance link ups with Nyarko that resulted in possible chances in the first half.
D Cory Gibbs (6) - Three straight clean sheets with clear scoring chances scarce for the opposition is a testament to the work of Gibbs and Cuesta in the middle. The Crew are dangerous on set pieces and the Fire limited them to zero corner kicks.
D Yamith Cuesta (6) - See above. Cuesta also limited the use of long distance boots to move the ball forward. Both Cuesta and Gibbs managed to clear any dangerous looking attacks after the Crew's initial push in the first few minutes of the match.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - A missed clearance or two could have led to some danger but when all is said and done there was little success from the right side of the Columbus attack.
M Logan Pause (6) - Solid work from Pause for the full ninety minutes. Stepped back to cover for defenders and controlled the ball after take aways on several occasions. Klopas noted in post game that Pause played a deeper allowing Husidic to get more involved offensively. The questionable quality of the Crew central midfield allowed for Pause to play in his more natural role as a true defensive midfielder.
M Baggio Husidic (6) - Very active in the first half in particular. Played a big role in the Fire's control of midfield for much of the match. Distribution was good and looked to shoot when the opportunity arose. Subbed out in the 84th.
M Dominic Oduro (5) - Not a bad effort but none of his three attempts on net were even close to being on target.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - After a first half that saw him pass up a chance at goal in the 35th minute Nyarko contributed what probably was his best match this season. Very active in positive play throughout most of the second half.
F Gaston Puerari (6) - Very active match from Puerari after being teamed with Chaves up top for the first time since April 17. A 51st minute shot also forced Hesmer into a diving save resulting in a corner kick chance. A few nice combinations with Oduro and Nyarko resulted in dangerous chances but the Fire are still not finishing consistently when presented with opportunity. Subbed out in the 64th.
F Diego Chaves (5) - Will attempt a shot on net when the chance arises but has a tendency to get a little too fancy in passing when simplicity may be better served. Subbed out in the 79th for Nazirit.
F Orr Barouch (7) - After hitting the post for the second consecutive match as a substitute Barouch continued to show an ability to create scoring chances by beating two Crew defenders with a classy move in the box allowing him to get free for a shot on Hesmer's net. Came into the match in the 67th minute for Puerari and provided the winning touch which has eluded the Fire for over two months.
F Cristian Nazirit (6) - In the right place for the rebound off of Barouch's shot and the game winner after coming in during the 79th minute for Chaves.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - A late 84th minute sub for Husidic. Did manage to attempt a shot on net in extra time.
C Frank Klopas (6) - I thought the initial Barouch substitution for should have come for Chaves instead of Puerari but his first two subs eventually combined for the winning effort. The Fire controlled much of this match and it's apparent that Columbus was planned for appropriately as evidenced by the wide disparity in shots attempted (21-7). Passing overall still needs to improve. "I'm really proud of the guys. It was the third game in eight days. This (Columbus) is a very good team in a difficult place to play. We knew this was going to be a different game than in Kansas City. It was going to be a little more open game, which kind of suits us. In the end I think we pushed the game. I think, had we been a little sharper with passing in the final third, we could've created a few more opportunities," said Klopas after the match.
The Fire have surpassed the Revolution in the Eastern Conference table with the victory and they travel to New England next weekend to face another rival on their turf. The overall quality, or lack thereof in the Eastern Conference may keep the Fire alive and fighting for a playoff spot.