It certainly wasn't pretty but the Fire managed to hold on for three points at home against a far less than full strength Sporting Kansas City side. What looked like a dire stretch of difficult matches two weeks ago with New York and Sporting Kansas City beginning a string of six challenging contests before the World Cup break has yielded two consecutive wins. Of course, some of that has to do with the improbable five goal outburst last week and the gift of a Zusi-Collin-Besler-Rosell-less defending champion but considering the manner in which the team has dropped points in the early going no one should be complaining.
Frank Yallop alluded to dropping too far back again and allowing another team to ping the ball around and hold possession but defense was improved in this match, save for a botched set piece that allowed Dominic Dwyer a free look on goal. There don't appear to be any magical solutions yet but taking advantage of a team that's ripe for a loss is a step in the right direction.
The Fire had to win this game considering the factors the opponent was dealing with and they did.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Okay, so he didn't have a whole lot to do considering that SKC only had two shots on target and he only claimed one save but the back line seemed a bit more under control and organized in this match. With the exception of the free look on Dwyer's goal of course.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - Had a decent first half but while it's hard to pin Dwyer's goal on one man, Palmer was one of the defenders that he ran by unchecked on his way to finding Feilhaber's free kick service unmolested.
D Patrick Ianni (6) - Maybe the effort looks better than it was in reality because the Fire allowed less than two goals and didn't blow a lead late but the Bieler/Dwyer combination was held to very few chances even while SKC's midfield carried a bulk of the possession.
D John Kennedy Hurtado (6) - After a rough match in New York the back line was more unified than it has been in some time. He was left alone as Dwyer and KC attackers rushed the net on their lone tally. Hard to blame Hurtado for that one when no one else reacted to the play.
D Greg Cochrane (5) - After an impressive run to start the season in place of Gonzalo Segares after game 2, the second year back has had a difficult go of it over the last several games. There weren't any glaring mistakes but he did get beat on a handful of occasions down the flank. One would assume that Segares will be back in the line up once he's fully fit.
M Jeff Larentowicz (6) - The opposition once again held a big lead in possession but Larentowicz and Joya did a good job of pressuring and not allowing Sporting to do much with the ball even though they had it 58% of the match.
M Benji Joya (6) - Drew a penalty on Erik Palmer-Brown which led to the second Fire goal. He didn't have many touches but the Fire's central midfield duo erased some of the large gaps in front of the back line that has contributed to some of the defensive problems so far.
M Harry Shipp (6) - Following up his hat trick in New York was going to be difficult but he continued to be vital in creating chances. His through ball to Amarikwa led to the first penalty kick and he was denied of a goal in extra time as his shot was deflected and saved well by Kronberg.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Dangerous, particularly in the first half as Sporting defenders had no choice but to foul him constantly in order to slow him down. Created a few chances that went unfinished in the first half before coming out in the 58th.
F Mike Magee (6) - Converted both of his penalty kick attempts to put the PK question to rest. Also credited with 3 key passes. Had a chance to ice the match in the 76th when a loose ball found its way to him but Kronberg denied him twice in a 1v1 situation.
F Quincy Amarikwa (6) - His work rate continues to be exemplary and he will always make defenders work even when he's not scoring. Coaxed a penalty kick in the 7th minute when he was tripped by Kronberg in the area, allowing the team to play with a lead.
M Dilly Duka (5) - Entered the match in the 58th for Nyarko and started off well enough with a good lead ball for Shipp and a well taken shot stopped by Kronberg in the 69th. Fell silent from there on until a softly taken attempt to chip Kronberg on a break away chance was stopped to end the match.
M Logan Pause (5) - Did well again to pair with Larentowicz in closing down lanes in middle of the park after coming on for Joya in the 58th but a late unforced give away almost led to danger in extra time.
F Juan Luis Anangono (5) - Subbed into the game in the 85th for Amarikwa. Didn't do much but did manage to draw a foul and a yellow card in extra time to kill a few valuable ticks on the clock.
A trip to Columbus next Saturday. The Crew have dropped off significantly since starting the season with a good run. Chicago can breathe a bit now with two straight victories but the significance of the missing SKC players shouldn't be lost on anyone.
The Fire Reserves to a listless 0-0 draw with USL-Pro side Richmond Kickers following the first team match. Here's the Reserve line-up:
Kann; Franco, Ritter, Kinney, Segares; Watson, Pause (Lindley 46'), Pineda, Duka (Myall 46'); Anangono (Gentile 46'), Barouch
Of note, Segares played a full ninety.