One of the most incredible finishes in recent Fire history has kept the team’s playoff hopes alive. After a rather soft penalty kick awarded to DC United in the 89th minute all hope seemed lost but goals by Sebastian Grazzini and Diego Chaves turned the improbable, some would even say impossible outcome in the Fire’s favor.
Despite the celebrations a win of this fashion makes the unenthusiastic loss to a shorthanded FC Dallas side at home this past Wednesday even more difficult to swallow. A midweek win would have put the Fire in decent position to win the tenth and final MLS playoff spot but as it stands now, Chicago will need a win against Columbus and a ton of luck.
In order to qualify for post season, the Fire must beat Columbus by a substantial margin in order to make up a 5 goal deficit in goal differential to the New York Red Bulls. New York also has to lose at home to Philadelphia on Thursday night. In addition to that, DC United has to drop points in one of their final two remaining matches. They play Portland and Sporting Kansas City to close the season. Portland can max out at 46 points but their minus 8 goal differential puts them in near impossible territory if they lose to DC and somehow manage to beat Real Salt Lake at Rio Tinto to close the season. Bottom line is, if the Red Bulls win on Thursday night the Columbus match will be be meaningless in terms of postseason play. Philadelphia is playing for the top spot in the Eastern Conference and New York will be without Thierry Henry who was shown a straight red card for a cheap shot foul in Kansas City.
GK Sean Johnson (5) – Didn’t have much to do since DC wasn’t particularly dangerous for most of the match. A little slow to come out on a couple of DC balls into the box causing some concern but no damage was done.
D Mike Videira (5) – Surprising choice at right back had to be subbed out in the 19th minute due to an apparent left groin injury.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) – Solid early at center back and also good at right back after moving outside due to Videira’s injury. Numerous blocked shots and a fine sliding tackle late in the first half denied Josh Wolff a good scoring chance. Several long runs out of the back also went unnoticed. Good outing for the rookie defender.
D Josip Mikulic (6) – His best game in a while. Also had several key blocks to deny DC shooters including DeRosario and Najar.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) – A good night defensively for Segares particularly against Najar. Also provided the assist on the winning goal on a perfectly timed run to beat an offside trap and also assisted on Grazzini’s goal. Called for the soft foul on Quaranta in the box for a PK.
M Daniel Paladini (5) – Also had a fine block of a Najar shot in the 86th minute but his most memorable highlight was a hard foul on DeRosario in the in 28th minute.
M Logan Pause (6) – Solid passing night for Pause and most of them were forward. Fire won the midfield battle although the match was fairly uneventful for 88 minutes.
M Marco Pappa (5) – Back from international duty and had two very good chances to do some damage but waited too long to pull the trigger in the 24th and again in extra time just before the game winner. Also seemed to be in the wrong place while almost running into Grazzini on more than one occasion.
M Sebastian Grazzini (6) – Decent first half before a relatively quiet second half…until the 91st minute of play that is. Another fantastic finish tied the match from outside of the penalty area. Grazzini is a difference maker. If he had been in Chicago since April the Fire would certainly have qualified for post season play by now.
F Patrick Nyarko (6) – Probably the team’s most active attacker for the full ninety minutes. Set up Pappa for a chance in the 24th and made the DC defense work throughout. His cross led to Grazzini’s goal.
F Dominic Oduro (5) – Had two shots at Hamid’s goal but DC defenders did a good job of staying in front of him. Subbed out in the 73rd for Barouch.
F Orr Barouch (7) – As a substitute Barouch has figured in the Fire’s last three scores. A fine chip pass to Segares led to Chaves’ game winner and his touch pass to Segares ended up on the foot of Grazzini for the equalizer.
D Yamith Cuesta (6) – Came on for the injured Videira in the 19th minute and also has his best game in quite some time.
F Diego Chaves (7) – Entered the match in the 90th minute for Paladini and scored his first goal since April but it was a big one.
C Frank Klopas (6) – All three substitutions played a key role in the victory although Chaves for Paladini could have been made earlier and the team should have been pushing to score earlier than they did. The back line that was on the pitch after Videira left with an injury probably should have been the starting four. Give credit to Klopas and the coaching staff for having this team ready to fight to the end despite the disappointing loss on Wednesday. “Sometimes you make some moves and things go your way, but I think just overall the whole game was pretty positive. I think it’s never over until it’s over. We pushed it and brought a couple subs in that had an impact on the game. I think in the end some special players made some special plays and when we had the chances we finished them,” said Klopas after the match.
The Fire will know the their fate going into the final match of the regular season against Columbus next Saturday. Portland and DC probably need to tie on Wednesday night but if New York wins or ties on Thursday it’s all over. If the Red Bulls lose to Philadelphia this match could be incredibly interesting.