Without Mike Magee and Patrick Nyarko you'd think the Fire would have been hard pressed to rebound from Wednesday's US Open Cup semi-final loss but they did just that. A 2-1 victory over the Montreal Impact has moved the club even further into the thick of the Eastern Conference playoff race. Playing without Magee and using a much different line-up than the one he's used for the last two months, Frank Klopas got a look at Juan Luis Anangono up top with Alex as a second striker.
The duo had a close call moment or two but the key plays were goals by Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka. Lindpere was the beneficiary of an Alessandro Nesta deflection and Duka managed to beat most of the Montreal back line before Nesta factored in again and failed to clear a ball that Duka collected to slot past Troy Perkins.
At 9-9-4 the Fire are back at .500 and sit in sixth place in the Eastern Conference only two points behind fifth place Houston. Incredibly enough, they're only eight points behind conference leading Sporting KC with two games in hand on the leader.
Nothing is ever over in the parity driven world of MLS.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - After a tough USOC semi-final Johnson was back in big save form for this match. Montreal did not register a shot on target until the 39th but Johnson came up huge to deny Justin Mapp after the Fire defense was opened up by Nyassi and Paponi. The Impact's lone goal came on a great shot from Felipe. Johnson made sure to punch or knock away with two hands every questionable ball in the air this time.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Montreal owned the stats with big advantages in possession, passing, crosses, and duels and the Fire back line as a whole did well to contain and limit the amount of real chances created for most of the match.
D Austin Berry (6) - A sliding block in the 84th prevented a good Montreal chance from finding the frame. The centerbacks played their best game together in some time.
D Bakary Soumare (6) - His best match in several weeks. Contributed with big stops and even had a shot on goal in the 22nd that was just wide left. Excellent recovery move to deny Di Vaio in the 62nd. Probably the Fire's most valuable defender on the night.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - There wasn't much from activity from Montreal's flanks and the visitors really weren't dangerous outside of one chance until Felipe and Di Vaio entered the game. Matched up with Nyassi most of the night.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Montreal had a lot of the ball but weren't able to generate much until late and the Fire's central midfield chased most of the game. Got sucked in a bit to vacate space ahead of the defenders on Felipe's goal.
M Logan Pause (5) - His first considerable action since the end of June after suffering a back injury. Wasn't bad but the Fire's passing out of midfield was woeful and Montreal enjoyed an 85% to 70% passing accuracy advantage.
M Joel Lindpere (5) - Scored the first goal but the Fire caught a break with the deflection. Did have a few good offensive sequences including a pass into the box that found Rolfe in the 83rd.
M Dilly Duka (6) - Active in the first half and created much of the Fire's offense before leaving the match in the 71st. Duka said the ankle injury wasn't serious and that he should be back in a few days. His goal provided the difference after an excellent individual effort to get by several Montreal defenders and slot a shot past Perkins for a 2-0 lead.
F Alex (5) - Worked a few good combinations with Anangono in the early going. Set up the newcomer with a chance in the 51st but his passing and field vision need to improve considerably to be effective as a second forward.
F Juan Luis Anangono (5) - Worked hard and provided a few good runs in his first Fire start. His shot on goal in the 51st was slightly mishit allowing Perkins the time to react and make the save. He's not quite at 100% yet but he says he's close.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - Entered the match for Alex in the 63rd as the Fire briefly switched to a 4-2-3-1 formation.
F Chris Rolfe (6) - Replaced Duka in the 71st and the club switched back to 4-4-2. He had a chance or two offensively but his biggest contribution was clearing Ferrari's header in stoppage time off the line after it appeared to be headed into the net for a late equalizer.
F Quincy Amarikwa (6) - Very active again after coming in for Anangono in the 76th. Tried to draw a penalty after a challenge in the box in the 79th and his deflected shot almost managed to get over Perkins' head and into the net in the 87th.