Fire 1 Whitecaps 0 - recap and ratings

Nine wins.

With a 1-0 victory over the Vancouver Whitecaps the Fire have equaled their total victory output for each of the last two seasons.  In 2010 the club finished the campaign with a 9-12-9 mark.  Last year's squad ended up at 9-9-16 after a late season winning stretch leveled the won/loss totals.

This one wasn't pretty but it was effective.  The Fire controlled long stretches of the first half after a lackluster performance by the Vancouver midfield allowed the home team to move the ball about freely with little challenge.  Vancouver seemed content to sit back and wait for an opportunity to spring Darren Mattocks via long balls but Fire defenders Arne Friedrich and Austin Berry were present to thwart just about every attempt to get ball to the rookie forward in the final third.

Another solid, well earned victory is a good sign especially when you get the sense that the lead would have been squandered at this time last season.  That being said, the Fire have scored only one goal from the run of play in the last four matches and that was on a counter in the first half against Kansas City.  Another big win like this one puts the club into a good position looking at playoff contention but the lack of offense and absence of finishing quality needs to be addressed sooner rather than later.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) - Johnson registered three saves and another clean sheet.  A finger tip save of Eric Hassli's header in the 87th minute and a diving save in the 73rd from a free kick were the most spectacular moments.  Johnson is coming into his own at just the right time.

D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Starting him for a second straight game in lieu of Dan Gargan may have been questionable in light of the handball call last weekend but Anibaba delivered.  Served a good cross into the box in the 24th minute and contributed defensively although Vancouver's wing play was fairly inept.

D Austin Berry (6) - Another solid outing for the rookie center back in tandem with Friedrich preventing Vancouver from threatening aerially for most of the match.  Berry made slight contact with Mattocks in the 69th minute which resulted in referee Juan Carlos Rivero somehow deciding that Arne Friedrich deserved a second yellow card for the infraction.  "That was me hitting him," said Berry of the contact on the play.  "I could tell when the ref was coming in that he was going to give it to Arne.  It's a split decision call and he's behind the play a lot.  Luckily it didn't affect us but it's unfortunate that he got the second yellow instead of me."

D Arne Friedrich (6) - Forget the second yellow and write it off as a terrible call.  Friedrich was all over Mattocks denying him position to receive the ball in dangerous areas throughout the first 70 minutes of the match.  This was probably the most comfortable Friedrich has looked in a match since joining the club.  Check out his post game comments at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.

D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Vancouver really was able to get nothing going until a few chances late in the game.  Barry Robson was forced to retreat deep into midfield to retrieve the ball and never really got going in the attack.  Segares let him know he was being watched carefully on more than one occasion.

M Pavel Pardo (7) - A perfectly placed free kick in the 10th minute gave the Fire all they needed.  It seemed that goalkeeper Joe Cannon was either screened or late to react to the ball but it was struck in a manner that it may not have mattered even though it wasn't a particularly hard shot.  Another well struck attempt from distance in the 35th sailed over the crossbar.  He and Pause owned the midfield on this night.

M Logan Pause (7) - Vancouver gave the Fire midfielders space to work and rarely were able to move forward effectively when they did maintain possession.  Pause often goes unnoticed but it was hard miss numerous break-ups and intercepted passes denying the Whitecaps offensively.  I stopped counting at six.  Pause was a force on a night when the game plan and the play of the opposition played into his strengths.

M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Created the chance for Pardo's free kick when he drew a foul near the top of the box.  With Alex and Rolfe stepping into starting roles there didn't seem to be a whole lot of continuity between the Fire's top attackers but Nyarko continues his high work rate on both ends of the field.

M Chris Rolfe (5) - Started out wide in place of Marco Pappa due to illness but never appeared to be comfortable.  Passing wasn't as crisp as is customarily seen from Rolfe but did move up front late in the game when Oduro was subbed out.  He's going to need to play up top to really be valuable to this team.

M Alex (5) - Showed some flashes of brilliance again but not really enough to make anyone feel ready to declare that the club doesn't need Sebastian Grazzini.  He may yet be a suitable replacement as he learns his teammates and their tendencies but he does appear to hold onto the ball just a split second too long in most cases.  Perhaps the connection will develop but he's in a tough spot.  "I'm getting used to the players around me, especially Oduro since my passes should go directly to him to his feet," said Alex after the match.  A 44th minute cross was cleared from the line by Vancouver before Nyarko could get to it and a 23rd minute pass found Oduro but Cannon came out to deny the chance.

F Dominic Oduro (5) - Perhaps it's due to the single striker formation, the fact that opposing defenses are prepared for his speed, or just because he doesn't have a wide variety of tricks or touch but the Fire will need to get much more production out of the forward spot than what Oduro is currently providing.  He can still be effective by using his pace but the club needs another striker to compliment him in order to avoid the predictability that has set in.  Had an opportunity 1v1 in the 23rd but Cannon thwarted the chance and had a goal called back for being in an offside position in the 53rd minute.

M Corben Bone (5) - Entered the match in the 64th for Oduro thereby pushing Rolfe up top.  A few decent touches on the ball from the right side but the red card spoiled any chance to see what he could do going forward.

D Dan Gargan (6) - Came in for Alex in the 71st minute as the Fire looked to defend while a man down.  The Fire back line was solid all game long.

M Rafael Robayo (5) - Subbed into the match in the 77th minute for Nyarko.  He's done well to maintain possession and kill the clock late in games as the Fire held onto leads but he had a few errant passes in this one.

C Frank Klopas (6) - Clearly got the better of the match up with Martin Rennie but he'll need to find some answers offensively soon.

Filed under: 2012 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

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  • This report from Fox Sports claims the Fire and Millonarios have come to an agreement to transfer Rafael Robayo back to Colombia.

    http://www.foxsportsla.com/futbol/Hay-acuerdo-Rafael-Robayo-retorna-a-Millonarios-20120715-0035.html

    Can Sherjill MacDonald be far behind?

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I won that contest they have every game where you text in the answer. Got a Robayo jersey... He wasnt really given a chance to play but when he came on it was usually minutes where we needed to hold onto the ball and not really play a "normal" way. Good luck to him.

  • 2 comments.
    1. What do we lose by giving Oduro a "rest" and start someone else up top, perhaps Barouch? Dom has a poor first touch and a non-lethal shot. It's so frustrating to watch him muff these through balls.
    2. The Fire were doing a decent job with possession but as soon as Arne went out, it was just hoof the damn thing up the field and bunker down. I think they need to have confidence that they can move the ball out of the defensive third.

  • In reply to Doug:

    When the team is down to 10 men, they're not going to work on creating offense and trying to move the ball out of the defensive third, they're going to relieve pressure however they can. That's not unique to the Fire, that's any team a man down, especially with a lead. After Friedrich went off, they weren't playing to score again, they were playing to not surrender the lead.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I understand the safety-first concept. But, I also think it's dangerous to just blast it out and continually set up for the onslaught. 9 field players should be able to keep some possession.

    On the reverse side, SJ hammered RSL after getting the man advantage in the first half. I can't see the Fire putting together anything like that. I'd be curious how much time this year they've had a 2-goal lead? 10-15 minutes v. Columbus. Anything else? Seems half the games we've had to come from behind.

  • In reply to Doug:

    I'm sure they could keep a little possession if they had to but they didn't need too. I would rather them clear the ball in the final ten minutes than try to keep possession in our own half. When we cleared the ball they got alittle more frustrated. At the end of the game we had 3 dm and bone in there. We were never going to go forward with the ball.

    Now on to McDonald. Everyone has already bashed this guy. He hasn't even played yet. Let the guy play first and see if he has what it takes to help our team. Everyone bashes all people associated with the club all the time. Sure they do things wrong but who doesn't. They lost grazzini but he was just as much at fault as anyone. Our back line is solid and starting to come together nice. We have a solid enough starting midfield. We could use a playmaker but so could every team. We need help up top. That is where macdonald can come in. Oduro could play out on the wing if we needed him to. He could run at people more often than being the lone striker for us. Some things need to change but not that much. We already have 9 wins. That is what we finished the past 2 seasons at.

  • In reply to Doug:

    I don't know the stat now, but they allowed the first goal in something like 11 of their first 14 matches. Not sure what it is now, I think marginally better.

    I think they could have held more possession at that point in the game, sure, but you have to remember back to Columbus as well. They were down a man for 60 mins. of that match, and the whole team looked absolutely gassed by the 90th minute. You have to play smart in those situations, and a lead always dictates that you stall out when you can, and bomb it when you have to.

  • so i didn't catch most of the game so i won't comment on that, but the transfer of robayo leaves our once talked about depth at midfield 2 midfielders shorter. this is great for guys like paladini and bone who can sieze the opportunity for playing time but at the same time are the fire going to replace either one of the mids with a quality mid or just wait till the off season? we're still waiting for the legit scoring threat up top but that doesn't seem like its going to happen this transfer window considering the reports of macdonald coming in and the always reliable and threatening puppo coming in off the bench. i have a feeling that this coming off season is going to be another rebuilding off season.

  • Any word about the Grazzini situation, hopefully he can be moved
    to open another international slot before the window closes.
    Though ,except for Pardo and Arne, our recent international record isn't stellar, either getting total flops or players that don't want to play here. Without a solid attacking midfielder we may be able to limp to the playoffs but not much further, doubt that Paladini or Bone are answers for the offense either.
    There is need for change at the top of the organization to make the team truly competitive with the top MLS teams, without this change we'll probably get more of the same making a silk purse out of a sow's ear.

  • Robayo is at training this morning. Klopas says they have had talks with Millonarios about a return to Colombia but nothing is done at the moment.

  • Kenny Miller officially signed with Vancouver.

    http://t.co/5KIWnNQg

    Good for the Whitecaps. Understandable that the Fire wouldn't go after him. He's probably not "Keane money".

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    fantastic scorer in the SPL. Kris Boyd was a great striker in the SPL as well, and has 7 goals so far this season at Portland, so top SPL players can do well in the MLS

  • Somebody seems to think the FIre are doing pretty well. ESPN just released this week's power rankings and has moved them up to 3rd! Is there any rational explanation for ESPN's confidence level?!? I've thought they've been placing the Fire a bit high for the last 2 weeks as well.

    On the other hand, the Fire have been showing some toughness recently, and who's to say things *won't* work out with Alex and some of the other recent arrivals who may mesh better with a little more playing time.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    They're looking strictly at W's & L's, probably. Same with MLS I'd suspect.

    If they continue winning in the manner they are, I'd put them in White Sox "winning ugly" territory.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I'll say this, if they can win, ugly or not, at the Cow Palace on Wednesday they will do themselves some favors standings-wise. Might be a hot afternoon in Harrisburg. Is Marquez out for that game? I watched part of the NY-Sea game and it sounds like he was subbed out in the first half.

  • In reply to Doug:

    I don't think Marquez started, although to be fair, I had the Sunday afternoon coma going on through most of that game.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    Marquez started but was replaced by Wilman Conde in the 21st minute. Marquez didn't look injured when he came out though. Red Bulls say it was a left calf injury.

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