A second consecutive 2-0 victory and the team's best all around performance all season against a quality side is enough to provide some optimism and much needed confidence as the MLS season winds down. With eight games remaining the Fire currently stand five points away from the tenth and final playoff spot but Frank Klopas was cautious while looking ahead to the US Open Cup Semi-Final on Tuesday.
“The thing is, we played a great game for 90 minutes. Every time we train and play matches we get better. We just have to keep going. It’s one game. The guys are not satisfied and I know this is behind us. We have to look at this match and look at the good things and the things we need to improve upon. We have another game on Tuesday. It’s a great opportunity to put ourselves in a position to win a championship,” said Klopas.
Klopas was equally careful not to overlook the USL Pro side Richmond Kickers, “We’re playing at home. It’s the kind of tournament that you see big upsets like that all over the world. We can’t underestimate any opponent. I saw Richmond when they played Kansas City and they were very organized. We have to prepare to play for a full 90 minutes. It’s a good thing that we’re playing at home in front of our fans. This is a tournament that we take very seriously. It’s been one of our goals since the beginning of the season to put ourselves in the position to win the U.S. Open Cup. We have a great opportunity on Tuesday. We will focus and prepare over the next few days. This late in the season it’s all about recovery. This next match is not going to be easy.”
There's no time for relaxation either before Tuesday. The Fire will play the Colorado Rapids in Reserve League action on Sunday morning at 10am. You can listen to the Klopas post game press conference here, or watch it (yes watch it) on Fire Confidential's Facebook page. Check out the right side of the page for access.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Kept a clean sheet while recording four saves and even improved his distribution on the ground and in the air.
D Dan Gargan (6) - Continues to be an excellent pick up and addition to the club. Solid defensively tonight and does enough to get involved moving forward.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Has earned the right to continue starting at center back. Very good in breaking up Colorado passes and an early 6th minute long ball to Nyarko nearly provided a scoring opportunity.
D Cory Gibbs (7) - Scored on a header to give the Fire a 2-0 lead and equally as effective on defense highlighted by a sliding interception of a dangerous Colorado cross in the 71st minute.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Had control of Wells Thompson and the right side of the Rapids attack for much of the match.
M Pavel Pardo (7) - Two fantastic passes led to both Fire tallies. Also anchored the Fire's transition game from the holding midfield spot masterfully. Pardo is a pro. He left the match at half time after feeling some tightness in his right calf. His status for Tuesday is unknown.
M Logan Pause (5) - Playing a bit out of position on the outside but he's doing exactly what the team needs at this point, dropping back to help Pardo in the middle while Pappa and Grazzini move forward.
M Marco Pappa (5) - Not as involved in the play with Grazzini, Pardo, and Nyarko on the pitch and seems to be feeling his way through trying to figure out how to best fit in. Was not quite on the same page with Oduro on several passing opportunities which were missed.
M Sebastian Grazzini (6) - This guy appears to be the real deal. His 36th minute cross before the ball reached the endline was class. His shot selection tonight was a bit curious with three long distance bombs sailing over the cross bar but you can't doubt the effort.
F Patrick Nyarko (6) - Placed a well taken shot on goal into Pickens' hands in the 12th minute and continues to make the Fire difficult to defend in combination with Oduro and Grazzini. Subbed out in the 76th.
F Dominic Oduro (7) - Say what you will about missed chances but nine goals on the season is nothing to sneeze at. Put away his one clear chance by racing onto Pardo's pass in the 17th and blasting by Colorado defenders to beat Pickens.
M Daniel Paladini (6) - Solid in relief of Pardo at the start of the second half but his biggest contribution was an 83rd minute goal line block that kept Colorado off the board.
F Orr Barouch (5) - Didn't get much offensively since the Fire were in defensive mode by the time he entered the match in the 76th minute but he did contribute an important clearance from a Rapids corner kick.
M Baggio Husidic (5) - Came in for Oduro as time was winding down in the 90th minute.
C Frank Klopas (6) - A second consecutive win and an outstanding team effort against the defending champions is a job well done. The Rapids may have been a bit road weary but the Fire took advantage of it and finally seem to be fitting the pieces into place.
A chance to advance and play for a championship on Tuesday night against the Richmond Kickers, who were defeated 3-0 in the USL Pro playoff semi-finals by Orlando City.