The Fire continued their dominance against Sporting Kansas City with a victory over the Eastern Conference leaders that draws them to within reach of the team that started the campaign 7-0. The win places them six points behind the first place club with one game in hand and could be the impetus needed to start the team on a roll with winnable games against three struggling teams upcoming. The victory may have been aided by an opposing team that imploded with two key mistakes but good teams must capitalize on those errors. Something the Fire haven't been able to do consistently.
"It is still a long season. We have to see where we are in the end. Obviously, it is a very good feeling that we beat a team like this. They’re first place in the Eastern Conference. It gives a lot of confidence to the players, knowing that the work that you put in during the training and the effort that you put in during games gives results. You get confidence from it, but in the end, you have to stay at an even keel. We have to enjoy this moment, but regroup and get ready for the next match in Portland", said Frank Klopas after the match.
The play hasn't always been pretty but consider this. After nine games, the Fire are tied with San Jose and Seattle for the least amount of losses (2) in the league.
You can watch the entire Klopas post game press conference here.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Registered three saves and looked a little more sure on balls in the air than he has in previous matches. His best moment came on a highlight save in the 43rd minute when he got a hand on Espinoza's volley deflecting the ball of the crossbar and out for a corner kick.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Started at right back and moved into the middle again when Friedrich went off with an injury. Other than a team breakdown which resulted in SKC's only goal, Anibaba had a good night.
D Arne Friedrich (6) - Sporting had nothing going in the first half either until after Friedrich left the match in the 27th minute with a right hamstring injury. The injury did not seem to concern him too much after the match as he was moving around fairly well in the locker room. The Fire will have an MRI test completed before determining the extent of the injury.
D Austin Berry (6) - Shows veteran poise and continues to impress with solid all-around play. "I probably should have stepped and stayed tighter instead of checking forward and they kind of got around us," said Berry of what he called a mis-read on the Sporting goal. The play started with Roger Espinoza getting free down the right side before finding Bobby Convey in the middle. It seemed more a result of the team getting caught in a broken play after a substitution than anything else.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - The Fire backline played pretty well with the exception of the break down leading to the goal. Difficult to pin the error on any one player. Segares kept Kamara at bay for most of the match. His pass to Oduro led to the penalty kick award.
M Pavel Pardo (5) - Zusi was a non-factor for most of the match. Didn't have much to do getting forward but both teams started pretty cautiously.
M Logan Pause (5) - Placing him in a dual holding role next to Pardo suits him much better than playing out wide in a diamond formation. Sporting did not have much going on up the middle but they don't really have a creator that can coordinate an attack from midfield.
M Marco Pappa (5) - Tried to unleash several forced long distance bombs but in this case the attempts came out of simply trying to get something going on net rather than just blindly firing away. Switched sides with Nyarko at around the 36th minute.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Always contributes with high work rate on both ends of the field. Pressuring Kamara as he lazily juggled Gargan's cross resulted in Oduro's goal. Managed to find Oduro in the box in the 70th minute for a header attempt that was sent wide.
M Sebastian Grazzini (6) - The Fire were "a disaster" offensively in the first half according to Grazzini but things turned around dramatically after the Oduro was taken down in the box. Grazzini converted the penalty kick to tie it and drew a red card from Espinoza that changed the match completely.
F Dominic Oduro (6) - Drew the penalty call on Collin (the replay shows that the KC defender got plenty of ball though) and scored the game winner after Nyarko stripped Kamara. The score wasn't pretty but he was in the right place when he had to be.
D Dan Gargan (6) - His cross attempt led to the Fire's first score. Sapong and Convey weren't much of a threat for large portions of the match.
M Rafael Robayo (6) - Entered in the 71st minute for Pause and made a difference in midfield while KC was playing a man down. Did well finding the open man and several passes almost led to a third score. Robayo is looking more and more comfortable with each game. Will Klopas have a decision to make in the first eleven soon?
F Federico Puppo (6) - Came on in the 80th minute for Grazzini and was able to take advantage of gaps in the Sporting defense that could have easily resulted in another score. His 84th minute shot was saved by Nielsen but he may have converted it if he had chosen the far post rather than the near side. Probably his best overall game so far.
C Frank Klopas (6) - Sporting may have helped the game along by basically imploding but the Fire did what they needed to do and exposed their defense badly when they went down a man. The home team applied the pressure at the right time and got a result that may ignite a decent run. Substitutions contributed to the win as well although I would have liked to have seen Robayo earlier.