Fire 1 Crew 0 - recap and ratings

A well deserved three points was earned in this match with Jeff Larentowicz's 83rd minute header providing the difference in a 1-0 win over rival Columbus Crew. Chicago was the better team throughout the game from start to finish and limited Columbus playmaker Federico Higuain to very few touches in dangerous spots while generating plenty of opportunities themselves.

A complete defensive effort is exemplified by some very telling numbers. The Fire outshot Columbus 21-5 and the Crew failed to register a shot on target. Chicago also had a 10-0 advantage on corners and 7-1 in blocked shots. After two good outings against New York and Houston, the Fire should feel better about the continued improvement particularly on the defensive end where it appears that Arne Friedrich will be gone for just a bit longer.

At 2-4-1 there's still a lot of work to do but the last three weeks are steps in a positive direction.

Player ratings

GK Sean Johnson (5) - Didn't really have much to do seeing that Columbus didn't register a single shot on target for the entire match. An early offside call that overturned a Columbus score and a 16th minute shot by Oduro where the only real threats in this game.

D Gonzalo Segares (6) - The Crew outside players (Gaven and Speas) were pretty quiet all night and Segares also managed to get forward several times in support. He found himself alone in front of goal in the 51st minute but Gruenebaum denied the opportunity with one of several outstanding saves.

D Austin Berry (6) - There was some confusion on the set piece that  resulted in Columbus' called back score and he did get turned around on Oduro's chance but that was it for the negative on the night. His header in the 75th was saved in spectacular fashion by Gruenebaum but his flick on header in the 83rd led to the game winner. Strong presence in the box against a big Crew back line.

D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Key in back all night long with a composed effort. His long throw in skill led to the goal. You can see Anibaba talk about the team's improvement and his partnership with Berry at the Fire Confidential Facebook page.

D Wells Thompson (6) - Good recovery after a tough outing in Houston. Thompson caused some problems for Columbus with runs out of the back and also limited anything going forward on his side.

M Jeff Larentowicz (6) - Scored the game winning goal but also teamed with Pause in stifling anything positive out of the Columbus midfield. He's played best throughout his career with another holding mid next to him and he appears to be getting more comfortable in Chicago even acknowledging that he still has some fans to win over. Watch his post game comments here.

M Logan Pause (6) - The middle of the Fire defense completely neutralized Higuain and controlled most of the match from start to finish. Oduro was also seldom dangerous.

M Patrick Nyarko (6) - There may have been some consternation surrounding the benching of Daniel Paladini in favor of Nyarko on the right side but he showed why he should be an automatic starter. Continues to be one of the most consistent and dangerous wing players in the league and his spirited play may have set the tone for this one. Active from the first whistle he generated several good scoring opportunities. His cross to Berry in the 75th easily could have led to a score. Watch Nyarko's post game comments here.

M Joel Lindpere (5) - Some decent service on corner kicks, fair in combination, and a couple of shot attempts. The Fire have yet to see Lindpere's best this season.

F Chris Rolfe (5) - Solid work throughout and attempted four shots at goal but the Fire do need more creativity in the middle of the pitch if they're going to play with two holding mids.

F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - Another decent outing for MacDonald. Provided a chance for Segares in the 49th with the service that found him alone in front of goal. At some point he's got to finish a chance when presented with it though. He found himself with another clear look in the 46th minute but his shot was weakly mishit and handled easily by Gruenebaum. Took his time in leaving the pitch when substituted and had to be "encouraged" to get off the field quickly by Pause.

F Maicon Santos (5) - Entered the match in the 78th for MacDonald. Drew a yellow card on Glauber.

M Dilly Duka (5) - Came in for Lindpere in the 82nd and did a decent job in killing the clock with a nice move or two late.

M Daniel Paladini (5) - Subbed in for Nyarko in the 87th minute and wasted no time in picking up a yellow card. He may have been on the pitch for ten seconds before Chris Penso whistled him for an infraction.


  • The Fire's next match is Saturday in Montreal.
  • Pause commented on having to hurry MacDonald off the field late in the game while the score was still 0-0 by saying, "At that time we were pushing, and trying to win the game.  I wanted to speed up, because every second counts.  I understand the frustrations with being subbed off.  No doubt; it’s happened to me countless times.  It will continue to happen.  That’s just because he wants to help the team.  It’s nothing more than that.  It’s nothing more than us wanting to win and it was left at that.  We’ve already talked about that.  We laughed about it.”
  • Alex was available on the bench for the first time after suffering an ankle contusion against Chivas several weeks ago.
  • Stayed tuned for the next episode of the Fire Confidential Podcast with Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla as our guest. TV, radio, marketing, front office changes, and the third kit are the topics of discussion.


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  • I asked Paladini about the yellow post-game. He said that he "used him for leverage" to get up on the header, but it looked like an elbow. :)

  • The Fire played really well in the second half and looked like a team that can put together some results in the future. MacDonald had some moments but might be the 3rd worst finisher in MLS, behind Calen Carr and Chad Barrett but just infront of Dominic Oduro. Seems like a Fire thing to have terrible finishers up top. But him walking off the field when he got subbed off is unforgivable. I understand that he is frustrated at being taken off but its 0-0 in a game your team is dominating at the moment and he decided to walk the whole way off the field. Logan getting in his face was so nice to see. That is the reason he is our leader and captain.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    The trials of this early season have certainly made clear the value of Logan Pause to the Fire. There should be no more talk about why we need to replace him. MacDonald played his best game of the season. If he continues to improve, I can be very forgiving of a mental lapse like his prolonged exit last night. I think he may be still adapting to the differences in style of play in the MLS.

    The main thing to take from last night is that this team is coming together. There's more work to be done and the Fire definitely need to find that determined goal scoring finish. But the guys are finding their roles and becoming a TEAM.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    MacDonald walking off shown he is about himself over the team. He has had 2 starts over Santos when Santos has shown himself to be the better finisher, he played the majority of the game getting good opportunities and doing nothing with them. If he disagreed with being subbed off then run off the field and discuss it with Frank after the game.

  • Lindpere offers nothing in the run of play and looks old to me. Would rather see Paladini and Nyarko out there together.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    I think that deserves a look.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Absolutely worth a look but I like Danny a lot in the role of supersub. He's a guy who can come off the bench and have an impact. Exactly what you want from a bench player and not something you usually get.

  • Guillermo, Federico Higuain, not Gonzalo Higuain. They wish they had Gonzalo!

  • In reply to manyou07:

    Ha! Thanks for that...can't believe I typed Gonzalo.

  • Wow, I must have been watching another game than everyone else. Or maybe I was one of the few who had to watch it live in 35-degree weather (which definitely impacts my perception!) I was not at all encouraged by this game, in fact I found it extremely depressing and discouraging.

    Defensively, sure, we were fine against a mostly invisible Columbus attack. But our offense is woeful. We don't have a single player, Rolfe included, who tries to and knows how to score goals. It's one thing to see Sega blow a wide-open shot, one-on-one with the keeper, as he's a defender. But I expect more from forwards.

    Rolfe, MacDonald and Lindpere's play this entire season leaves me wondering what goes on during practice sessions. I honestly don't know what a professional soccer team practice is like, but I would think that if I were a coach of a professional team, and I saw, week in week out, my forwards fail to even get shots on goal when they have open looks at goal, I wouldn't let them leave the practice field until I was confident they could. I just don't understand.

    As far as ratings go, I can see giving Nyarko a 6, but not if you give half the team 6s and Rolfe, Lindpere and MacDonald 5s. He's a class above the rest of this team in terms of creativity and production. Yes, he's a terrible finisher himself, but he creates so many quality chances for everyone else around him, we should be scoring 2 goals per game with him on the field, easy.

    Sorry for the rant. I don't know how much more of this terrible team/cold weather combination I can take.

  • In reply to manyou07:

    The weather may have frozen your perception of what was going on and left it in week 3. ;)

  • Guys. I have been involved in soccer for many years. The game that I viewed last evening was one of the worst that I have seen in years. No offense Guillermo but I believe that all of us have hoped for a decent team for so long that anything with a win after the game is good. The offense was terrible. I just can't get myself ready to travel 23 miles to Toyota park to see such a misserable team. Hopefully klopas and Leon will not be with the team next year.

  • In reply to brokerjohn:

    I think we'll have to disagree on that Broker. I'm not expecting to see Barca out there but the "worst that I've seen in years" is a long stretch.

  • In reply to brokerjohn:

    Worse than 2010? Cuz 2010 was pretty rough.

  • In reply to brokerjohn:

    brokerjohn, I see what you are coming from. Sure, this isn't Barcelona or Man U on the field but fans expect the team to do better. Mr. brokerjohn, I am sure you want this years team to like last years team when every game they have a chance to win with the presence of Pappa, Pardo, Oduro, Gibbs, Grazzini, Gargan and so on, so fourth. Since those guys are no longer with the club and added Larentowicz, Lindpere and Duka along with key injuries like Arne Friedrich and the reshuffling of the lineup, this team is going to struggle. Yes, they need to add a striker or two along with a playmaker that can make a difference. Hopefully, they can address this during the season or else it is another long year for the Fire.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    Also my beef is how come they don't give Corben Bone and Atouba more opportunities to play in games? If they can't get on the field, might as well loan both Bone and Atouba to NASL teams to get seasoning. Don't understand the thought process.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    They can't loan those guys out because they've been hammered with injuries and they're already a few spots short of the roster max.


  • I have to disagree, although the finishing left something to be desired this was the most dominant display by the team so far this season.
    They throughly outplayed the Crew in every phase of the game.
    I have to agree with the ratings by Guillermo and his assessment of the game, only downside was the 1-0 result, should have been at least 3-0. But still a major improvement, with team playing much better during the last three games, the Houston game probably should have been a 2-2 tie with decent officiating. I just don't understand some of the above negativity, we're we watching the same game?

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    My guess re the negativity is fans are tired of the team not finishing its chances for years now. I agree that the fire controlled the game and played well, except for the finishing...which is an old/tired story. So you can look at the game and be optimistic by the win and general control of the game, or feel that we were one Jeff L goal away from major disappointment again b/c of the lack of finishing. To be fair to the Fire, Greunebaum played a hell of a game. But until the Fire start to finish and win consistently, there will be pessimism and skepticism.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Drew I think this is a fair assessment. We dominated from back to front and Gruenebaum really saved their skins on several occasions. We could have easily had two defenders on the score sheet (Jerry Berry and Sega), and wouldn't that have said something about the potency of our forwards. I love the defense keeping a clean sheet, and threatening up top, but let's not depend on our D for our offensive production as well.

  • In reply to Drew:

    I watch a lot of high school age games, tourneys, etc around the area and see far more upper 90 blasts than I see from the Fire. Rolfe got a hold of one on frame but most of his and Mac's shots were weak attempts where you expect more from a professional player.

  • In reply to Bumsteer:

    Most high schoolers aren't facing MLS level defense, either...

  • Episode 29 of the Fire Confidential Podcast is up with Fire COO Atul Khosla as our guest in part 1 of a two part interview.

    Part 1 includes discussion of tv, radio, marketing, and the Fire's presence in Chicago.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Great podcast! It was really interesting to hear the team's take on securing TV/radio deals. Can't wait to hear part 2!

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    Thanks Roti....a lot of interesting stuff in part 2 as well.

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    This was a stinky game. I think i just rue the missed chances more than anything, but what the heck is wrong with Rolfe? We need an elite CAM. There is no question in my mind that's what's wrong.

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    In reply to Kao Xiong:

    I'm not connecting the two things unless its Rolfe having a bad (many) games because there is no proper movement by the mids to service the forwards the balls. It also doesn't help that Rolfe isn't have a form start to the season as well.

  • I see that Mila's (Polish CM) name has surfaced again.
    This season in 30 games he has 9 goals and 17 assists,
    not bad, but he really is not a goal scorer, but more of a set-up guy.
    would be a great addition to the team (probably much better than Grazzini) but we still need a decent striker. We had no problem moving the ball or creating scoring chances in the last game, we still need a reliable finisher.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    As of 3 weeks ago they had not had contact with Mila. Javier Leon verified that yesterday in an email to Trib reporter Jack McCarthy by saying, "We are familiar with Mila and that he has had a great career, but we have not had any contact with him at this time,” Leon told the Tribune on Sunday. "(But) if it's the right fit, we would love to have a Polish player in our squad."

    There may be some interest in Mila but a striker is top priority at the moment. They're also looking to add depth on the back line. There is some interest in Bakary Soumare but Philadelphia's asking price in trade is too rich at the moment.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I hear there's this guy named Frankowski who can put it in the back of the net...

  • I'll be talking w/ Ruben Tisch today at 2:40pm on Far Post Radio.

  • Just read our friend Peter Wilt is headed to Indianapolis to
    develop a NASL pro team in that city.
    Maybe it could be a feed to the Fire.
    Wish him the best of luck.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    They're unveiling the name and colors on Thursday. The Indy area is big on soccer so they should do well.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    I think it was the American Soccer Morning podcast which had an interview with Wilt's marketing guy last week about what's happening down in Indy.

    It sounds like a real grassroots efforts. Can't wait to see the Fire meet them in the US Open Cup one day.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    Sorry, the "marketing guy" is Tom Dunnmore, from Sec 8!

    Here is the link to the podcast:

  • Per Anthony Zillis on twitter regarding the Sebastian Mila rumors:

    Klopas: Mila definitely interested in coming to US, but like Leon had said, nothing is in any way imminent.

  • I heard that MLS showing interests in competing the Copa Libertadores, is it a good idea or bad idea? IMO, this is a bad idea because they haven't won a CONCACAF Championship League title yet; talk to me when any MLS team surpass Santos Laguna or Monterrey.

  • In reply to longoria3:

    If it means increasing the salary cap in order to pay players and add depth with an eye towards being able to compete in that tournament then I say it's a good idea.

    They can't expect to win CCL or Copa Libertadores without a serious look at revising or substantially increasing the salary budget structure. There's no sense in getting involved otherwise. Why get in there to lose?

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I don't think MLS is thinking about winning Copa Libertadores in the first year it enters the tournament. I think that being invited to the tournament is a sign (or even just talking about it) that MLS is viewed as an improving league (notwithstanding the fact that the Fire do not have a single player that can shoot harder than my 15 year old). I think that joining the tournament and potentially making more money for the clubs will lead to an increased salary scale. It's a chicken and the egg thing. Who cares which comes first? I think the Fire will improve if they sit Lindpere until he sheds 20 LBs and can actually keep up with the other 30 year olds in the league. Right now he's the slowest man on the field and it hurts the team. Pause was incredible on Saturday night. The guy will make a great coach. Maybe the Fire will keep Frank until Logan is ready to coach the team. I watched Pause a lot during the game. He is constantly telling the entire midfield and backline where to go. He was tremendous off the ball. The Fire are a decent MLS team, but they lack defensive vision without Pause and with Pause lack the ability to attack ferociously. He is terrific but holds the offense back. In MLS, the lack of offense is worth his defensive strengths. Two years ago, I never would have said that. I have come full circle. That's the beauty of posting so we can get GR's blood boiling.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Why would that get my blood boiling? I agree with a good chunk of what you wrote.

    I don't think it does MLS any good to go down there and get smoked. Perhaps it's viewed as an improving league and the invite is a result of that but what happens when/if the top MLS goes down there and loses 6-1 when they're forced to use their subs due to injury or otherwise in a midweek game? Best to go down there prepared, loaded, and wih a chance to win it, no?

  • In reply to longoria3:

    MLS in the Copa Lib is a little silly simply from a logistics standpoint. It is hard enough for the Mexican teams, but the travel from US/Canada would be even more atrocious.

    Imagine a scenario with the Vancouver Whitecaps flying down to Talcahuano Chile to play CD Huachipato. That would be like a 16 hour flight.

    The First round is normally in January and is a home and away tie. MLS teams will be in really poor form that early in training and imagine playing a first round match in late January, say, at Toyota Park!

    I don't even know why COMNEBOL would even want the MLS in the tournament. Mexico makes sense from a financial standpoint since it is the richest league in CONCACAF and has the biggest TV draw in North America.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    Big yes to all of this!

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    I have to think, imo, if the money is there they will figure out a way. If it helps the MLS grow, get better talent, and line the pockets of the owners, it'll be worth it and they'll do it, regardless of logistics.

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    ...though you do bring up excellent points! :)

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