What looked like it might be draw number fifteen for 82 minutes turned into a solid home win against the hottest team in the league. Robert Earnshaw's score in the 83rd gave the Fire a 1-0 victory over an FC Dallas club that hadn't lost since May 31.
While the match wasn't a work of art for either side, the Fire did turn in a professional performance that rewarded the amount of work put in. Chicago held a 51-49 possession advantage (56-44 in the first half) and completed 85% of their passes. Both numbers are improvements over most games this season and Earnshaw's goal gave them what them been missing in most home games. Timely finishing combined with solid defensive work has not been seen very often at Toyota Park this season.
The win keeps the Fire within striking distance of the fifth place team in the East. Columbus currently occupies that spot on 33 points and Chicago is in eighth place with 29. The club would likely need to win at least 6 or 7 of their remaining nine games to get in which makes a playoff appearance highly unlikely but the quality (or lack thereof) in the Eastern Conference will keep every team hoping for a miracle run to finish the season.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Credited with two saves with the biggest coming in the 40th minute when his leg save denied Castillo from close range. Good command of the box.
D Lovel Palmer (6) - Two shots on goal from distance with the attempt in the 16th minute having to be cleared for a corner kick after the initial save.
D Bakary Soumare (7) - What makes Soumare's season so frustrating is that he turns in excellent performances sandwiched around less than stellar outings. After an own goal last week, he was very good in this match. Several outstanding blocked shots, timely tackles, and even quality distribution marked a quality outing.
D Jeff Larentowicz (7) - Limited FC Dallas attackers to very few clean looks and placed a perfectly executed cross into the box for the assist on Earnshaw's game winner. Not many center backs in MLS would have made that play.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - The Fire's outside backs did well to contain FC Dallas' wide players with Escobar and Hollingshead switching sides regularly. Contributed on both ends.
M Grant Ward (6) - Very active in the first half as the Fire's best player going forward. Two shots attempts both were wide of the target.
M Razvan Cocis (6) - The Fire's midfield had control of the match for once and the Cocis/Watson combination worked well in this one. Kept the ball moving positively.
M Matt Watson (6) - Like Cocis, there was little that was spectacular but most of his night was positive. Yallop addressed their play in his post game press conference.
M Alex (5) - Didn't get forward much working on the left side but overall team game was a small improvement over previous outings.
F Sanna Nyassi (5) - With Magee unavailable and Shipp on the bench, Nyassi got a run in the underneath forward spot. Not outstanding but did earn a few kicks.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Another typical night with a high work rate. Three shots attempted with none on goal.
F Robert Earnshaw (7) - Played the hero off the bench for the second consecutive week. Earnshaw can finish when he gets in position and service is available. Got close to a second chance in stoppage time after an Amarikwa pass was cut off by Fernandez before Earnshaw could get to it. Had yet another chance at a second goal in stoppage time when a break on goal drew Fernandez out but his attempt was just high. Catch his post game comments here. High quality 27 minutes after replacing Nyassi.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Some saw this as a rookie of the year showdown with Dallas' Tesho Akindele but neither managed much. The goal was scored after his Larentowicz chased down his corner kick service. 27 minutes played as a sub for Ward.
F Matt Fondy (5) - Late stoppage time sub for Amarikwa.
A trip to New England next Saturday where I hear the Revolution have a new center midfielder you may have heard of.
The Fire Reserves defeated FC Dallas 2-1 this morning via goals from Matt Fondy and trialist Florent Sinama Pongolle. The game winner was a penalty kick in stoppage time.
Patrick Nyarko made his first competitive appearance since May 18. Top prospects Collin Fernandez, Mauricio Pinedo, and Cam Lindley also played.
D Pineda, Ritter, Ianni, Cochrane
M Fernandez (Nyarko 70'), Pause, Joya, Shipp (Lindley 57')
F Pongolle, Fondy