For 97 plus minutes the Fire battled the top team in the league and held their own. A spectacular effort by Sean Johnson kept San Jose from at least equalizing during regulation time before a 98th minute strike from Steven Lenhart salvaged a point for the home team. The effort and the result on the road are overshadowed a bit by the ridiculous amount of stoppage time awarded by referee Chris Penso, especially after Alan Gordon's red card worthy tackle on Dan Gargan in the 93rd minute but the overall outcome should provide some satisfaction.
San Jose came into this match with a league leading 43 points and an impressive 44 goals scored. That's double the amount scored by the Fire but Chicago was seconds away from earning all three points and a clean sheet. Given the circumstances that seems a bit hollow but the result is a positive one. Also consider that the Fire looked better offensively than they have in the previous 5 matches and continued to create chances throughout the match. Chris Rolfe's 37th minute strike ended a streak of 430 minutes without a goal from the run of play and there were several other opportunities to score another. Things will get more interesting next week with the return of Marco Pappa and the arrival of Alvaro Fernandez.
Consider that this match was the last game to be played against Western Conference opposition. The Fire will face only Eastern Conference foes over the final 13 contests of 2012. With Columbus only 4 points behind (and holding 2 games in hand), the Fire have their playoff fate in their own hands.
GK Sean Johnson (8) - An amazing 10 save performance should earn Johnson serious "Player of the Week" consideration. In fact Johnson has been in top form for several weeks now and should garner some "Player of the Month" votes. Spectacular stops in the 21st, 33rd, 36th, 44th, and 85th were all impressive but the best might have been his denial of Gordon's header in the 59th.
D Dan Gargan (5) - Moved to the left side in place of Segares and had a decent game despite having some issues with the pace of Shea Salinas.
D Arne Friedrich (6) - Limited Wondolowski to very few good looks in the box and teamed with Berry to keep a good percentage of San Jose's 34 open play crosses out of danger.
D Austin Berry (6) - Stepped it up in the second half as San Jose pressed for an equalizer. Fine sliding stop in the 78th to break up a cross inside the 6 in the 78th minute.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - The Fire's half backs weren't as effective getting forward as they usually are since an effort was made to stay back and stay in front of San Jose's attackers. The Earthquakes did manage cross after cross in the second half and it seems to me that passing is just a bit better from the right side when Gargan is there.
M Logan Pause (6) - Made a great run in the 79th to end up 1v1 against Busch but his right footed shot was stopped by the former Fire 'keeper. Had a good game in combination play finding attackers with room to get forward.
M Pavel Pardo (6) - The holding tandem had a decent game but Johnson's heroics really kept San Jose off the board. The Pause/Pardo combo was better than the Cronin/Baca pairing for the opposition.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Hacked and fouled for the entire night. Should have earned another yellow card or two from San Jose defenders in the first half. Picked up an assist on Rolfe's goal and had two great passes early on that provided chances for Oduro.
M Chris Rolfe (6) - A beautiful right footed toe poke from outside the box in the 37th minute was classic Rolfe. He's a true finisher when given a clear look and needs to play a little closer to goal. So-so passing in the first half improved in the second.
M Alex (5) - Color commentator Evan Whitfield said it best when asked about his performance. It was okay. Nothing to write home about. A blast in the 26th forced Busch into a big save. Had some good moments and some head scratching ones as well.
F Dominic Oduro (5) - Had a clear look at goal in the 14th minute after being sent in by Nyarko but was denied by Busch. Hit the left upper 90 with a shot that wasn't pretty but still managed to get on frame.
F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - Entered the match for Oduro in the 64th. When was the last time you saw a Fire forward play a ball with his back to goal and control it enough to turn and shoot like MacDonald did in the 64th? The shot was blocked however. Played a nice ball into Pause that resulted in the 79th minute 1v1 opportunity.
M Hunter Jumper (5) - Subbed in for Alex in the 82nd as the Fire were looking to defend in the final minutes.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - Came in for Rolfe in the 89th.
C Frank Klopas (6) - The Fire nearly came away with another huge win on the road against a top club. Sean Johnson made things easier but the opportunity for beating San Jose was there. The Fire may not be the most talented team in the league but they will fight in every match.