After failing to take advantage of numerous opportunities to gain ground on playoff contenders the Fire finally capitalized on the ineptitude of the remainder of the Eastern Conference by laying claim to one of the top five spots in the East. By doing so they've put themselves into a position to rely solely on their own results rather than continuing to hope someone else loses or draws in order to move into a playoff spot. With six games remaining they still hold a "game in hand" against Philadelphia and sit only one point behind Houston for fourth place.
Holding on won't be easy, in fact nothing has been easy for the 2013 Fire but each of the last six matches presents an opportunity for positive results. At Columbus, v Montreal, at DC, FC Dallas and Toronto at home, before closing the regular season in New York is the most favorable schedule among the clubs vying for spots 4 and 5.
Dropped points against Houston, Seattle, and Toronto may yet come back to haunt them but now they can stop looking at the scoreboard if they just take care of business on their end. Realistically, there's still no reason for celebration given the up and down nature of every playoff contender in the East but some solace can be taken in finally being able to win a match in a "must win" situation. The Fire should remember that feeling. It's likely this wasn't the last "must win" game they'll face before the end of the regular season.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Another four saves although none were of any particular difficulty. Two goals allowed were tough and you can't fault him too much for either one. Rowe's 9th minute shot from distance is a GOTW candidate.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Sene and Fagundez weren't really dangerous on the outside for New England but there were a few instances where the entire back line was caught chasing (see goal #2). A dangerous cross in the 76th almost resulted in a score.
D Austin Berry (5) - Decent outing for Berry and he got into the action in the offensive end with a well taken header in the 68th.
D Bakary Soumare (5) - Both centerbacks played fairly well but there was a slight hesitation in closing down on both New England scores. Played well late in the match again. Long boots to no one in particular are still perplexing.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Beaten on Sene's goal but the play never should have happened as Imbongo trapped the ball with his hand seconds earlier. Contributed a few good crosses including the one that found Berry for a chance in the 68th.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Both New England goals came as a result of players finding too much space in the gap between the central mids and the back-line (blown call notwithstanding). Some of the numbers are pretty good (35/42 passing) however.
M Egidio Arevalo Rios (5) - See above except not as successful on the passing end. Despite that he's still a factor when on the field. Started the play that led to the Fire's first goal winning the ball and getting to Magee.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Looked a bit more like the player he was before missing time due to concussion symptoms. Assisted on Magee's goal with a lead touch that got him into position to score. Could have drawn a penalty call when he beat several defenders and appeared to be taken down in the box in the 45th minute.
M Joel Lindpere (6) - A good ball into Anangono led him to the first score as he added to his team lead in assists. Lost the ball a few times but work rate was high.
F Mike Magee (6) - When presented with a clear chance, Magee has seldom missed and his goal in the 55th was huge as it tied the score with enough time left in the match to pursue another. Also involved in the play leading to the Fire's first score.
F Juan Luis Anangono (6) - His first goal in Chicago is a clear example of how dangerous he can be if he gets the ball in a good position. A smart run and a classy finish provides some hope that this Fire DP will be better than previous acquisitions. Shielded defenders from getting to the ball on Magee's goal.
M Dilly Duka (5) - Came in for Lindpere in the 63rd. A cross to Anangono two minutes later resulted in a chance.
F Quincy Amarikwa (6) - Continued to provide spark off the bench after being subbed in for Anangono in the 72nd. Wasted no time in making his presence felt with a good move in the box to beat his defender eventually resulting in a chance in front of the net for himself.
M Alex (6) - Subbed in Nyarko in the 83rd and provided the biggest goal of the season for the Fire with a 20 yard blast after a corner kick was cleared right to him. Had another chance later when he headed a ball from Amarikwa that forced Shuttleworth into a save and another corner kick.
- The Fire will travel to Columbus next Saturday. The Crew seemed out of the playoff picture a week ago but a 2-1 win in Montreal has revived their faint hopes.
- There was some celebratory "plate breaking" in the locker room after the match. Watch Juan Luis Anangono talk about it here. You can also catch Mike Magee's post game comments.
- Neither club was particularly happy with referee Ismail Elfath. THe Fire believe he missed several calls in the first half, including the obvious handball before Sene's goal but the Revs were also unhappy with a 48th minute offside call against Sene that negated a score.
- According to this site, the Fire's chances of making the playoffs are now at 50%.