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.
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.