Fire 3 Real Salt Lake 0 - Recap and Ratings

Well that was unexpected.

The Fire now have an opportunity to turn what seemed like a complete loss of a 2011 season just a few short weeks ago into a memorable campaign.  A huge win in Real Salt Lake and the return of Marco Pappa's scoring touch has re-ignited playoff hopes ahead of next Tuesday's US Open Cup Final in Seattle.  The win raises the team's record to 7-8-15 and pushes the Fire to within three points of the New York Red Bulls for the tenth and final playoff spot.  The three goal victory margin also improves the Fire's goal differential to zero.  Important because of possible tie-breaking scenarios in order to qualify for post season.

However, Frank Klopas' job is now a little more complicated over the next 6 days.  After hinting that some regulars could get a rest against Houston on Saturday, the Fire's interim coach now has a legitimate shot at the playoffs to consider when penciling in his line-up this weekend.  A chance to win a trophy on Tuesday will probably remain the priority considering that playing in altitude at RSL followed by another match in Texas heat just three days later will certainly push the starters to the limit.  Of course it helps that RSL was chasing the match most of the night after Kyle Beckerman's silly head butt against Daniel Paladini so the starters may have had a small bit of relief as a result of playing a man up for 80 minutes.

This victory, on the road against a strong Real Salt Lake side, without Sebastian Grazzini as impressive as it was is just a first step.  The next two matches over the next six days will define the season, possibly turning 2011 into much more than anyone foresaw.

Unexpected indeed.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) - After playing brilliantly over the last two matches but allowing four goals Johnson was rewarded with a clean sheet.  A few near misses by Saborio early certainly helped.

D Dan Gargan (6) - Embroiled with Espindola for most of the first half, Gargan did well to goad the RSL forward into continuous fouls and frustration.

D Josip Mikulic (5) - After a first half that saw him blow two offside traps allowing Saborio to almost score twice Mikulic settled down in the second before being subbed out in the 69th with apparent cramping.  Several fine sliding tackles.

D Cory Gibbs (6) - Solid in the middle.  Stopped through balls from getting to RSL forwards on more than one occasion.

D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Good in possession as the Fire were looking to make RSL chase after going down a man.  Not a whole lot coming from the opposing outside players either.

M Pavel Pardo (7) - Classy turn and assist that led Pappa to goal number two.  Fire has control of RSL's quality midfield but being up a man certainly helped.  Pro.

M Logan Pause (6) - Seems more lively than ever in his new role.

M Daniel Paladini (6) - Nice touch to Pappa leading to the first goal and of course he was the recipient of the head butt that changed the course of this match for good.

M Marco Pappa (8) - A stellar effort from Pappa after offensively going missing for the last three months.  All three goals were class efforts.  The first one was even taken with his right foot.  Undoubtedly should be MLS player of the week unless someone has a superhuman effort this weekend.  It should also be noted that Pappa's resurgence came without Sebastian Grazzini on the pitch.  The ball is on Pappa's foot less in dangerous spots when the Argentine is on the field.

F Patrick Nyarko (6) - Continues his dangerous play from the forward spot although he didn't figure into the score sheet.  Cross nearly found Oduro for a goal in the 17th.

F Dominic Oduro (6) - Managed to get several shots off only to be denied by Rimando on each of them.  A 43rd minute strike was well taken and easily could have hit the back of the net if not for a spectacular diving save from the RSL keeper.

D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Came on for Mikulic in the 69th.  RSL rarely threatened with the exception of one set play in the 77th where about four players were offside.

D Mike Videira (5) - Came in for Gargan in the 78th.

M Corben Bone (5) - Hey look it's Corben Bone.

C Frank Klopas (6) - At the helm of an excellent result.  Moved Pappa into a more central role with Nyarko and Pause on his sides with Paladini and Pardo behind him after the red card.  This could be the most satisfying match of the year so far.

Next Up

At Houston on Saturday afternoon and Klopas will have some interesting line up decisions to make.

 

Comments

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  • "The three goal victory margin also improves the Fire's goal differential to zero"

    if chicago can continue the wins, don't be too surprised if the team that misses the playoffs is the crew with a current -4 goal differential

  • Another interesting thing is 8 points out of 1st in conference. This team still needs to play hard, its really up to them to keep this going a put themselves in a good position to make other teams work hard in this playoff race

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Adam25:

    Adam, thats funny, but totally possible in this wacky season.

  • In reply to waam:

    That would be insane but the actual chances of that happening are infinitesimal. At least a point in Houston will be needed just to squeak in.

  • If I had to choose between winning the Open Cup and making the playoffs, I would go with the Open Cup. I really want to see the Fire in the Champions League next year. I don't think it gets a lot of coverage, but it would be realy great to see Fire matched up against top Mexican teams in meaninful games. To get that reward through the playoffs, the Fire would have to make it to the finals. That is too tough a road with little chance while the Fire have Open Cup sitting right in front of them. I really want the Fire to go for the Cup!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Krasov:

    I'm a little biased here. I almost value the USOC as much as the domestic league championship man. Seriously. In the future, when (not if) soccer gets the respect it deserves, USOC will definitely be one of the coveted trophies in this sport here in the States. I say, collect them all now while they have less value, because the prestige of having them will increase as time goes by. All players who play professionally want to win trophies. This is the way to get them to come. To come win trophies.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    I'd go with the open cup as well, but not for ulterior motives. The road to the USOC is much, much shorter: one game. While I have heaps more confidence in the team now than I did a month ago, the MLS cup a very distant possibility. Seattle's still gunning for the supporters' shield, so we'll see what they show next Tuesday, but we should put our max effort into that match.

  • It would help me to have a guide on who to root for in other games. For example, DC v. Philly tonight. What result helps the Fire? I'd guess a draw.

    For Saturday, I'd rest Nyarko and start Chaves. I'd also start Anibaba or Cuesta and leave Grazzini on the bench at the beginning to keep him healthy for Tuesday.

    Si' se puede

  • In reply to Doug:

    Both Philly and DC have games in hand on the Fire so the best thing to root for would probably be a draw in tonight's match. Neither one of them have it easy though with difficult road games coming up for each. DC has the easier finish with three home games to close the season.

    Looking at the overall schedule I don't think the Fire can catch either DC or Philly due to the games in hand but they can catch New York, Houston, and maybe even Columbus.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    well, one thing i learned last night from baseball is it's never over til it's over. still a long shot, but they've finally got a full squad together, and if grazzini can come back healthy.....

  • Yes, this is definitely an opportunity for that great reserve squad we've had all year to shine. Make sure to get at least a point away on saturday. That would be considered a success! Let's show this great bench and reserve squad!

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to RedLine55:

    I'm with you here Red. Reseve has been killin it all year long. This is their chance, and you know what? I think they can win.

  • In reply to waam:

    A win in Houston and I might start to believe. ;)

  • fb_avatar
    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Chavez - 14"
    Baroach - 51"
    Baroach - 68"

    I believe!!!

  • If I am going to think about the playoffs, I want to do it with a clear head. First, I want to to win US Open Cup before concentrating on the playoffs. So Frank should play a less than robust first team in Houston which could shock the Dynamo. Here is what the teams ahead of the Fire face this weekend:

    NYRB: Have to go to BMO Field to play the second worse team in MLS. Should win, but could easily come back with just one point. Fire Stay even.

    DC United: Play Columbus. This could go either way, but it is very likely that DC's defense falters again and gives up the game. Fire gain ground.

    Portland: Play Vancouver. Portland should win. Fire lose ground.

    If the Fire tie and my very sketchy predicions hold true, here are the standings on Monday morning with NYRB holding the last playoff spot on goal differential:
    Points
    NYRB - 40 3 games to play L.A. Gal., K.C., Philly
    Portland- 40 3 games to play Houst, DC, Real Salt Lake
    DC- 38 4 games to play Vanc., Fire, Portland, K.C.
    Fire- 37 3 games to play Dallas, D.C., Crew

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