The Fire's two-year long road nightmare is finally over. A resounding and well executed 3-0 win over the Montreal Impact was easily the team's best overall performance of a season that has been short on highlights and tangible progress. There was finally some action to justify Veljko Paunovic's weekly optimism. An early lead which wasn't immediately surrendered along with a composed and professional finish on the road can be something to build on.
"If I tell you that the playoffs are more believable now, I would lie. Because you always believe. We knew it was a matter of time that it was going to break. And we worked hard, we were challenged so far and still I'm going to repeat, we haven't done anything," said Paunovic after the match. It's a very small step but it's very important and something that we will continue to build on our team and our style of play which has to improve, I think today was the perfect game for us, so far the best in the season for sure but a long way to go."
The playoffs still aren't happening, but if the Fire can move forward from this victory by exhibiting the same type of commitment to a team game over the last eleven matches that they did in this one, perhaps there will be some hope for supporters to cling to. They'll have another test at home on Wednesday against a Los Angeles Galaxy side that lost 1-0 at New York City.
GK Sean Johnson (6.5) - No gaffes, no misjudged balls in the box, no hesitation to control the area. Five saves and a clean sheet. The 33rd minute stop of Drogba's free kick attempt and the 38th minute denial of Piatti's shot were very good.
D Johan Kappelhof (6.5) - A good shift at right back for Kappelhof even if the passing efficiency wasn't always there. Saved a chance in he 35th by cutting off Mallace on his way to goal after getting by Meira. Involved in the play for the second goal.
D Jonathan Campbell (7) - Led all players with five tackles, three blocks, and four clearances. Drogba had a few moments but he was essentially kept in check throughout the night.
D Joao Meira (6.5) - Did well to team with Campbell on keeping the Fire's penalty area difficult to break down. Led the team with 32/34 passes completed but did find himself trailing on several on Montreal's best chances.
D Brandon Vincent (6) - Didn't give up much in a good defensive team effort. Wasn't as involved getting forward in this match as he has been recently.
M Matt Polster (7) - Center midfield was arguably the key to this win. With Polster playing under control and shutting down the area in front of the backline, Piatti found little room to operate. The possession statistic was even relatively close in this match. Montreal held a 54-46 advantage. Completed 30 of 40 passes. There was some comical white-flag defending near the end of the game by the Impact was his goal was very well taken. For the first time this season, we saw the version of Polster, who at his best was a top rookie-of-the-year candidate in 2015.
M Razvan Cocis (6.5) - Along with Polster, he helped the Fire finally win a battle in midfield. Completed 26 of 31 passes in 58 minutes of play.
M John Goossens (5.5) - Relatively quiet in this one with not a whole lot of touches. Completed 14 of 20 passes in 72 minutes.
M Michael de Leeuw (6.5) - Playing behind Solignac, he didn't get many individual chances but he did contribute again in team play. Started the counter attack that led to the first goal by getting the ball forward and springing Accam. Fed the cross in to Alvarez that resulted in the second goal.
M David Accam (6.5) - His run out of the Fire's end in the 15th set up Solignac's goal drawing defenders to him. His shot three minutes later almost doubled the lead but hit the post. In the right spot to get credit for the second goal. Had a handful of counter attack chances thwarted.
F Luis Solignac (7) - Tilted the game in the Fire's favor with a fantastic finish in the 15th. A good move to get free down the right side in the 29th minute ended with a cross attempt that narrowly missed de Leeuw in front of goal. Set up Accam for a chance in the 50th. Completed 18 of 23 passes. Not as active in the second half until late but his early play set the tone and gave the Fire some much needed confidence.
M Khaly Thiam (5.5) - Replaced Cocis in the 58th. Completed 5 of 10 passes and one shot attempt was high but he did contribute with five tackles to tie Campbell for the game lead.
M Arturo Alvarez (6.5) - Came on for Goossens in the 72nd and immediately contributed with what easily could have been his goal on his first touch. The play gave the Fire the breathing room they needed and put Montreal into panic mode. Credited with an assist on Polster's goal. Another shot was just wide in the 84th.
D Michael Harrington (5.5) - Subbed in for de Leeuw in the 80th minute. Completed 6 of 8 pass attempts.
A lot of them weren't around to experience the entire 39-match winless run but a large weight has been lifted from the shoulders of the collective locker room......