The Fire moved into sole possession of second place in the Eastern Conference by virtue of their third victory of the season over hapless Toronto FC. This match wasn't always pretty although the club enjoyed a 2 goal lead at half time but the Fire managed to accomplish what good teams always seem to find ways to do. Win on the road.
After the Fire took the lead on the first career Chicago goal by Alvaro Fernandez, Toronto managed to grab control of the match a bit before Chris Rolfe extinguished their hopes with a crushing goal before half time. The only real problem remains the occasional lack of concentration defensively as evidenced by the apparent breakdown in team marking which resulted in the loss of what would have been a well earned clean sheet in the 79th minute.
Regardless of losing the shut out, the Fire did what good playoff teams do in all sports. They beat an opponent they needed to beat on the road when they had to beat them. They're not a perfect club on the pitch by any means (that big time striker is still missing) but they're going to be a major factor in the East down the stretch.
Consider this. The combination of a Sporting KC loss to Houston this Friday and a Fire win against Montreal on Saturday will push Chicago into a first place tie in the Eastern Conference. The opportunity is there for a top of the table finish.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Contributed 5 saves including a huge stop on Eric Hassli in the 15th that prevented Toronto FC from tying the match. Lost a cross due to some indecision in the 19th minute which resulted in a shaky moment but he was otherwise solid as he has been for the last several months. Managed to get a fingertip on Avila's dangerous blast in the 82nd.
D Gonzalo Segares (7) - In good position to clear loose balls, stop possession, and help out wherever necessary. One of Segares' better games recently. Had the first scoring chance of the night in the 2nd minute.
D Austin Berry (6) - His name wasn't called much but his steady presence is a good compliment to Friedrich's game as a centerback who roams a bit. Berry should be considered a front runner for the MLS Rookie of the Year award. Darren Mattocks, Luis Silva, Nick DeLeon, and Matt Hedges would seem to be the top competition.
D Arne Friedrich (6) - Had an excellent game and this might have been a tick higher but he appeared to lose a man-mark on Hassli in the 79th minute which resulted in the lone TFC score. All over the field defensively breaking up attacks and clearing balls aerially.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - A decent game for Anibaba as well although he got sucked into the middle of the box along with just about every other Fire defender on Hassli's goal. Worked his way into the attack on several occasions but crossing ability does need to improve.
M Pavel Pardo (7) - Set the tone early forcing a turnover in the 12th minute which allowed Fernandez to play the to Rolfe. His subsequent pass found Pardo but his shot hit the post. The veteran immediately gathered the rebound and found Fernandez for the score to give the Fire the lead. Had control of midfield while he was in there and I thought the Fire lost a bit in the center of the pitch after his departure.
M Logan Pause (6) - His name wasn't called much but he did break up a handful of Toronto forays forward as usual. I'm not sure how he managed to get back on the field so quickly after breaking ribs and puncturing a lung but he somehow has managed to recover enough to play a full 90 minutes. Would liked to have seen less TFC possession after the Fire's first goal though.
M Patrick Nyarko (7) - Tireless effort and constant beatings are part of typical nights for Nyarko. Despite the physical abuse he endures from defenders he continues to cause havoc even late in matches. Set up MacDonald for a 1v1 chance in the 41st and nearly missed scoring himself a few minutes later when his shot nearly found the inside of the far post on a counter. Continued to be the Fire's main threat with the ball at his feet in the second half.
M Alvaro Fernandez (6) - A bit of an up and down night for Fernandez with some difficulty in passing and maintaining possession but he did finally manage to break into the scoring column with his first Fire goal in the 13th minute.
F Chris Rolfe (6) - The same can be said for Rolfe who had a bit of a slow start but his game picked up as the match advanced in the first half. Scored his 6th goal of the year in the 42nd, giving him the club lead. His volley from just inside the box found the back of the net and you almost expect he can bury those every time.
F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - He can play well with his back to the net as a post player and has a good rhythm in combination with Rolfe and Fernandez but strikers need to put away chances. His touch failed him in the 41st botching a clear 1v1 opportunity and he blasted another one high in the 63rd. Probably a better option than Oduro because of his passing ability but strikers need to score.
M Wells Thompson (5) - Came on for Fernandez in the 63rd and managed to work his way into the box for a shot, although it sailed wide. The Fire were in a bit of a scramble down the stretch with Nyarko the only real threat on the wings.
F Dominic Oduro (5) - Not involved much at all after entering the match in the 71st minute for MacDonald. To be fair he wasn't presented with many opportunities to receive the ball anywhere near goal.
M Alex (5) - Subbed in for Pardo in the 76th and had a few moments but you'd like to see him do a little more with the ball at his feet - particularly in protecting a lead.
C Frank Klopas (6) - With a fourteenth win the Fire seem poised to win 17 or 18 games this season after winning 9 last year. I've mentioned before that Klopas deserves a great deal of credit for moving forward and not missing a beat after the loss of Grazzini and now Marco Pappa. Winning on the road is difficult in MLS and even if it is TFC the effort should still be applauded. If the Fire win 17 or 18 games while maintaining their position in the standings, Klopas must seriously be considered for MLS Coach of the Year recognition.