With Arne Friedrich's retirement serving as the news of the day on Sunday, I held back on posting the ratings in order to give the veteran defender his due. Now that the announcement has been made we return to regularly scheduled programming.
Wins on the road aren't easy to come by in MLS. The Fire's first road victory of 2013 wasn't perfect but it was effective. Mike Magee's addition has changed the face of the club but you get the sense things aren't clicking on all cylinders just yet. There are still defensive errors and lapses that need to be corrected but Frank Klopas seems to have found a good mix offensively. The Fire are creating chances and several players are beginning to flourish as the season progresses. Adding another piece to this puzzle in July could make Chicago are very dangerous side to contend with.
There are still issues to address but the signs of a competitive club are now surfacing. A seven game unbeaten run and a win on the road against arguably your top rival seems to indicate that the club is pointed in the right direction. If they can beat Orlando City on Wednesday they will advance to the US Open Cup semi-finals. The next home game after that is a winnable contest against the struggling San Jose Earthquakes.
Things are looking up but work remains to be done on and off the field.
GK Sean Johnson (7) - Eight saves on the night with the biggest coming on a 73rd minute diving stop of Higuain's attempt from just outside of the box. Another big denial came in the 80th when he stopped Oduro from a tough angle. He was called for a foul and shown a yellow card for "tripping" Oduro but replays clearly showed that he didn't make contact and the former Fire forward embellished on the play. A huge presence for the entire game.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - So he's probably not a natural right back but he's done fairly well at the position since switching back over from the middle.
D Bakary Soumare (6) - Probably the best of the Fire defenders on the night with a solid shift in the middle. There are still occasional gaps allowing free headers in the box but the partnership with Berry should improve with time. Only lowlight was a bad pass back to Johnson in the 39th which the goalkeeper had to clear out of trouble.
D Austin Berry (4) - Making a mistake like the one that led to the Crew's PK attempt one time is one thing but doing it two weeks in a row is inexcusable. Still dangerous on headers with a shot attempt in the 11th but he couldn't get one back this time.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Consistently solid performer although he hasn't been as involved offensively in recent weeks.
M Logan Pause (5) - Only played 26 minutes with what appeared to be a back injury after a collision.
M Daniel Paladini (6) - Very good second half as the Fire began to take control in the first 30 minutes of the second frame. Plays a different role than Alex when next to Larentowicz or Pause but effective nonetheless.
M Dilly Duka (7) - Delivered a man of the match worthy performance against his old teammates. Scored a goal, took six shots, put four on frame, delivered good service, and ran at defenders in his best of a string of increasingly impressive outings for Duka. If he can continue playing at this level the Fire will be a difficult team to defend.
M Joel Lindpere (6) - After a less than stellar first half and a yellow card to start the second (resulting from lazy defending against Higuain), Lindpere finally showed up with two picture perfect crosses leading to both Chicago goals. His first real contribution of the season was badly needed and the deliveries were top notch. Left the game with a hamstring issue.
F Chris Rolfe (5) - Played sixty minutes and managed one shot attempt and a close call or two on crosses but he really didn't touch the ball much and continues to look a bit out of place for some reason.
F Mike Magee (6) - Scored a goal with his chest/shoulder and started the play which led to the first score. Magee has met and exceeded all expectations since joining the club and every outing has been impressive. Six goals in six games is astounding and he almost scored another one in the 92nd.
M Jeff Larentowicz (6) - Entered the game for Pause in the 26th and things seemed to pick up from there. Columbus ended up with the possession advantage 53-47 as they pressed for an equalizer in the last 30 minutes of the game. Just missed the post with a long blast in the 29th.
F Maicon Santos (5) - Subbed in for Rolfe in the 58th but didn't factor in much with the Fire leading and Columbus pressing.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Came in for Lindpere in the 69th. Took a pass from Duka in the 78th and almost scored, forcing Gruenebaum into a tough save. Continues to draw foul after foul (and many aren't called).