The Fire continue to just win and are now one point behind Sporting Kansas City for the top spot in the Eastern Conference. The latest victory, a 3-1 decision over Jesse Marsch and the Montreal Impact improved the Men In Red's home record against Eastern foes to 8-0-1 and an impressive 12-4-3 overall against the East. The question of whether or not the Fire will break their two year playoff drought has been answered. The only mystery remaining will be just how high will they finish?
Three transfer window acquisitions played a big part in this one with Sherjill MacDonald, Alex, and Alvaro Fernandez all finding their way onto the score sheet. Montreal is not a pushover either despite their standing outside of playoff contention. The additions of Marco Di Vaio and Alessandro Nesta have made them more than a typical expansion team and they have managed to accumulate twelve victories in MLS play. The Impact grabbed an early lead but it didn't matter. The Fire continue to just win (particularly at Toyota Park) even though you get the sense they're not quite firing on all cylinders just yet. Good teams seem to do that.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Montreal got a lot of looks early in the game and Johnson was up to the task collecting five saves in the first half alone. His best of the night came in the second half however when he impressively stopped a quick touch from Di Vaio in the 73rd minute.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - The Impact tried to attack the Fire's right side in the first half staying away from Segares' area of the field. Opposing attackers didn't have much going on the left side.
D Austin Berry (6) - Hasn't had his name called much in the last two matches but he's been solid in both. One hiccup did come in the 3rd minute when he lost the ball to Felipe in a dangerous area resulting a corner kick. Darren Mattocks, who at one point looked to be the Rookie of the Year favorite is no longer a regular in the starting eleven for Vancouver.
D Arne Friedrich (5) - Left the game in the 41st minute with stiffness in his neck. He seemed to be moving well enough but Klopas said after the game that he was having trouble turning his head from side to side. Montreal's lone score came in the 20th minute when Di Vaio beat Friedrich after gathering a second ball from a long kick over the top of midfield.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Had a bit of a rough start as Montreal looked to attack the right side but he answered by getting involved offensively. Had a couple of dangerous forays into the final third before an excellent cross in the 24th found MacDonald for the equalizer. Moved to center back after Friedrich departed and played well there.
M Logan Pause (5) - Without Pavel Pardo teaming with him in the middle of the pitch Montreal earned far too many looks at goal in the first half before things settled down. Midfield shut down was much better in the second frame as the Impact only mustered one shot on target.
M Alex (6) - It seemed like it took Alex and the Fire some time early to adjust to playing without Pardo in the middle and adapting to his different style of play at the second holding spot. A fantastic finish in the 61st gave the Fire the lead for good. With his second Fire goal, Alex now appears to be warming to his role and may be a big factor off the bench and as a spot starter down the stretch. Watch Alex talk about his role and playing against friend and former teammate Felipe at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Created the Fire's first big chance of the night when he was fouled just oustide of the penalty area in the 18th. A dangerous 34th minute cross along the mouth of the goal went unanswered with nobody making a far post run. Picked off a pass in the 69th which led to a good save from Perkins. Didn't figure into the scoring but still solid as usual.
M Alvaro Fernandez (6) - Struggled a bit early in possession but his pass to Alex in the 61st led directly to the Fire's first goal. His well struck shot in the 80th minute got past Perkins and sealed the win for the Fire. After a long drought Fernandez has now scored twice in the last two matches. Watch him address adjusting to the club and comparing the Fire to Seattle during post game at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.
F Chris Rolfe (6) - A relatively quiet night but he did contribute an assist on Fernandez's goal. Forced Perkins into a good save in the 36th.
F Sherjill MacDonald (6) - After flubbing a couple of chances in Toronto, MacDonald bounced back and put one away to tie the game. Both of his goals this season have come from headers and MacDonald talked about pressing a bit in the locker room. "After the last game I put a little bit of pressure on myself. I spoke to the coach and he told me to relax," said MacDonald.
D Dan Gargan (6) - After he replaced Friedrich in the 41st and Anibaba moved to center back the Fire seemed to tighten up defensively. Gargan played well and picked up an assist on Fernandez's goal when he put Rolfe through into the offensive end. Picked a yellow card which will cause him to automatically miss the Columbus game.
F Dominic Oduro (5) - Came in for MacDonald in the 77th but he didn't really get a chance to exploit Montreal's three man back line as the Fire scored shortly after he entered and looked to defend for the remainder of the match.
M Wells Thompson (5) - Subbed in for Fernandez in the 83rd as the club looked to kill the clock.
C Frank Klopas (6) - This wasn't always pretty but Klopas continues to coax results. The end of the 2011 season combined with the Fire's record of 15-8-5 this year makes for an impressive calendar year run for Klopas. The Coach of the Year suggestion I made last Wednesday still stands. It will be difficult to beat San Jose's Frank Yallop but Klopas should be in consideration.
A home game against the Columbus Crew next Saturday. An important Eastern Conference mid week match-up to watch takes place on Wednesday when the Red Bulls host Sporting KC. The Crew also host Chivas USA on Wednesday night.
Franco joins the club
Veteran striker Guillermo Franco spoke about his decision to come to MLS and how he landed with the Fire. See his comments here.
I'll have more on him coming up.