MLS is hard to figure sometimes and the Fire are even more perplexing. After defeating front running FC Dallas at Toyota Park on August 2, Chicago proceeded to drop two games to Philadelphia and another to Western Conference bottom dwellers Colorado. The New York Red Bulls entered this game riding a five game unbeaten string, rested from a long break, and looked poised to overtake DC United at the top of the East with games in hand.
None of that mattered, as the Fire looked more like the team that rekindled hope against FC Dallas than the one that squashed it against the Union and Rapids. The Fire were the better side for most of the match and once again created numerous opportunities to score. This time they cashed in on those chances with Gilberto and a revitalized Kennedy Igboananike doing a bulk of the damage.
With the win the Fire moved to within two points of sixth place Montreal, but the Impact now have three games in hand. The playoff math still says they're alive but the reality is that they're still at the bottom of the league, even with tonight's three points. Chicago sits in the same position as Philadelphia, Orlando City, and New York City FC above them. All four teams are hoping that Montreal collapses and that may not be too far fetched considering reports that playmaker Ignacio Piatti will miss the next 4-6 weeks due to injury.
The Fire can continue to hope but they'll need to put together a long string of victories to have a chance. They'll face a struggling Orlando City side on Saturday night and will have this same Red Bulls team twice more in the last eight games. New York may not look as lethargic the next time around.
Sean Johnson (5.5) - The Fire actually did a good job of limiting New York despite the two goals allowed. The first goal came on a penalty kick and the second should not have counted as the Red Bulls executed a trick play from a corner kick that caught the defense off guard. The goal should not have counted as Lloyd Sam touched the ball several times on the play before Sacha Klejstan picked it up.
D Matt Polster (6) - Still at right back even after a mistake on Saturday night but this game was better. Passing was good out of the back and his play to pressure Grella taking the ball away directly led to the first Fire score.
D Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Slipped, fell, and grabbed a hold of Mike Miazga's jersey on a corner kick in the 10th minute which earned him a foul in the box and a penalty call. He was solid after that however, as New York only had two shots on target for the entire night.
D Eric Gehrig (6) - Key blocks and last ditch tackles helped the defense limit a potent New York attack.
D Joevin Jones (6) - Completed all 24 of his passes according to Opta and did well to limit Sam on the outside. Left the match late with an injury which throws his status for Saturday into question.
M Patrick Nyarko (6.5) - A great finish in the 42nd gave the Fire a lead. Active on the outside and made the left side of New York's defense work.
M Michael Stephens (7) - Won't get much attention because he didn't score the goal but two fantastic sequences earned him assists. The first assist was a well executed chest pass from a difficult angle and tight space that found Nyarko for the first Fire goal in the 42nd. A perfectly placed ball over the top to Accam sent him off to the races and led directly to the game winning goal in the 73rd. High quality play all around from Stephens will make it tough to get him out of the line-up and begs the question as to why he hasn't seen more time this year.
M Razvan Cocis (6) - Passing wasn't pretty at times but the effort was high. New York won the possession game overall (56-44) but the Fire had the edge in the first half (51-49) and held their own against a very good NY midfield.
M David Accam (6.5) - Just too much for Conor Lade to handle on the outside for most of the night. Lade needed help and that opened up space. His assist on Igboananike's goal was the difference on the scoreboard although passing could have been better at times.
F Gilberto (6.5) - Started off a little slow but once he got into the flow he was very good. His two assists in the first half showed were his value will come. In combination and decision making in the final third he was a step above what the Fire have seen from DP's this season. Also had a shot cleared from the line by Robles kick save in the 28th. Catch his post game comments here.
F Kennedy Igboananike (7) - Took his first chance very well and the result was a goal in the 22nd. The second goal may have been mishit slightly but it ended up in the net regardless. He was aggressive and looking to make things happen whenever the ball came near him. He's finally several notches above where he was at the beginning of the season but can he do it consistently? He talked about confidence in his post game interview.
F Jason Johnson (5) - Entered the match for Gilberto in the 62nd. Earned a corner kick in the 66th but otherwise quiet.
M Harry Shipp (6) - Replaced Nyarko in the 72nd. Started the play for Stephens which led to the game winning goal.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - Replaced Jones at left back due to a groin injury in the 76th.