With thirteen games remaining in the season, time will do some damage to the Fire's playoff dreams but a nearly complete and healthy roster showed what they're capable of on Sunday night. A 2-0 win over the top team in the Western Conference and a club that had won five consecutive matches highlighted much of what Frank Yallop has planned for but hasn't been able to implement completely through the team's first 21 games. The Fire changed up tactically with Shaun Maloney and Harry Shipp out wide and playing a little deeper to provide cover against Dallas' attack. David Accam worked into a withdrawn role and the Fire did the damage on counters.
"I've said many times that when we have our team we're pretty good, and tonight you saw our guys," said Frank Yallop after the match. "I think we proved tonight we aren't a bad side, against a very good team in Dallas. I thought we deserved to win." The Fire are 4-2-3 this season when all three Designated Players are available for selection.
At 6-11-4, the Fire are only five points out of the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference but Montreal has two games in hand on Chicago. The Fire hope to have Gilberto available for the upcoming Friday night match in Portland and he will provide another option up top but it will take a miraculous run to finish the season and qualify for post season.
That run may end up short but if this game is any indication, it should at least be fun to watch.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Three saves on the night and a clean sheet. A stop of Hernandez's shot in extra time after a quick restart was probably the best of the game but he didn't face many difficult challenges. Struggled with distribution against the wind in the first half but a long pass in the 72nd sprung Igboananike.
D Lovel Palmer (6.5) - Against Fabian Castillo, Yallop knew he couldn't start Gehrig or Polster at right back and the move paid off. Palmer didn't get forward much but limited Castillo's touches and kept him from getting behind the back line. Left in the 68th with an apparent injury but said after the game that he was okay.
D Eric Gehrig (6.5) - A strong and disciplined game from the entire Fire backline kept a dangerous Dallas team at bay. Gehrig's play with Larentowicz should place Adailton on the bench for a while.
D Jeff Larentowicz (7) - Returned from injury and didn't seem to display any rust. Several blocked crosses and key stops in the area were big. Probably not a coincidence that the Fire defense looked as composed as it has in a while with Larentowicz back in the line up. See his locker room interview here.
D Joevin Jones (6) - With the Fire full backs concentrating on staying home, Jones wasn't as dangerous getting forward as he usually. As a result Dallas didn't have much from the wide positions despite holding possession.
M Matt Polster (7) - Dallas held a 64-36 advantage with the ball but rarely threatened seriously. Much of that can be credited to the work that Polster and Cocis out into limiting the effectiveness of their central midfield and taking Mauro Diaz out of the match. Completed 85% of his passes and kept the ball moving and out of trouble in key sequences.
M Razvan Cocis (6.5) - See Polster above. Cocis wasn't as effective a passer but contributed on both ends. Got forward on occasion when the opportunity arose and helped deny the middle in front of the defense, something the Fire have struggled to do this season.
M Harry Shipp (6) - Not spectacular but contributed to the overall movement on counters when needed.
M Shaun Maloney (6.5) - During post-game, Maloney talked about the tactical shift that moved him out wide and Accam up top. The game plan centered around giving up some possession and hitting Dallas hard on the counter. It worked to perfection with Maloney staying closer to the back line for additional cover. Check out his comments here. Buried the spot kick for the second goal.
F David Accam (7) - He is the difference maker and his play dictates how team's can defend, and in some cases play offensively against the Fire. A nightmare for most defenders on most nights. he caused havoc for Dallas for most of his eighty-eight minutes. Scored the first goal and his speed caused the play leading to the second goal as well. Post game comments can be seen here.
F Jason Johnson (6.5) - An excellent shift for Johnson, who sprung Accam on a give-and-go for the first goal. Decision making may have been questionable in a few instance but he pushed the game and made things happen throughout. A spectacular cross from the left side in the 55th probably should have resulted in more but Shipp's header was sent wide.
F Kennedy Igboananike (6) - Earned the penalty kick when he was tripped in the box by Acosta. Had a few other chances after coming on in the 66th for Johnson but his shots weren't on target.
M Matt Watson (4) - Entered the match in the 68th after Palmer was hobbled and Polster moved to right back. His ridiculous two-footed tackle in the 79th resulted in a justified red card and could have put the match in jeopardy.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Subbed in for Accam in the 88th.