The most important thing the Fire have shown they can finally do is beat teams that they should beat at home. The Revolution offered little resistance by allowing the Fire plenty of room on the ball, even before the expulsion of Je-Vaughn Watson for a silly second yellow card, and the final numbers showed the home team’s dominance. An impressive 76-24 advantage in possession combined with 90% passing efficiency is similar to the numerical beat down the Fire had handed to them in Atlanta several weeks ago while playing a man down.
The Fire are a different team now with Bastian Schweinsteiger conducting from midfield and Nemamja Nikolic getting accustomed to a new league and team. A successful three game home-stand yielded 7 of 9 possible points since his arrival, and one can suggest that the draw against Montreal should have borne all three points. Regardless of that outcome, Chicago is starting to show that they will be a playoff contender in a weak Eastern Conference. Beating a short-handed Columbus side, followed by a disinterested New England team, in which Veljko Paunovic tactically out-maneuvered both of his rivals should be expected now.
A true test of how far they’ve come is now on the horizon with three straight road games at Toronto, New York RB, and Los Angeles before returning home to face the defending MLS Cup champion Seattle Sounders on May 13.
GK Jorge Bava (5.5) – Recorded a second consecutive clean sheet with even less to do in this match than the last one. New England didn’t challenge his goal at all.
D Michael Harrington (6) – With his job on the line and Conner and Polster both getting consideration at right back, Harrington put together a decent match and provided good service in the first half even if it didn’t lead to a goal.
D Johan Kappelhof (6) – Once New England went a man down it was relatively easy for Kappelhof and Meira to shut down Kamara.
D Joao Meira (6) – There wasn’t much to do but a good tackle in the 8th minute denied a dangerous cross from entering the goal area.
D Brandon Vincent (6) – A couple of good runs up the left side early in the game helped set the tone with Chicago as the aggressor.
M Juninho (7) – Quietly had his best outings with the Fire although it’s hard to tell just how effective the midfield trio can be with New England rolling over. Completed over 90% of his pass attempts. Started the play forward on the Fire’s first goal. Also involved in the second score with a cross field switch to Solignac.
M Dax McCarty (6.5) – His ability to cover ground will continue to free up Schweinsteiger. New England had no match for the Fire in midfield even before the red card.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (7) – His clinical finish put the Fire in the lead with a late first half goal. Up until then, Chicago had the ball all day but had little in the final third. Got Accam forward leading to the third goal. Schweinsteiger is a game changer and there’s no reason to think he won’t continue his work if he stays healthy. A big-name, big-money DP can make a difference between winning and losing….imagine that.
F Luis Solignac (7) – Active throughout the entirety of his 72 minutes. Picked up an assist on the first goal and set up the second with a pass that was deflected to Nikolic. Versatility in the positions in which he received the ball, and what he was able to do with it caused New England fits.
F Nemanja Nikolic (7) – Scored twice while continuing to show that it was a just a matter of time before he became consistently dangerous with service. Cleaned up a ball meant for de Leeuw in the 47th and cleanly finished a pass from Accam in the 73rd. Just missed another chance in the 74th although he was called offside (barely). Involved throughout the entire match.
F Michael de Leeuw (6.5) – Now a supporting player rather than the hope for running the offense, his smart runs and ability off the ball suit him well in the Fire’s current style. His near post run in the 47th allowed Nikolic to find space for his attempt. Sixty minutes of good work.
M Daniel Johnson (6) – Replaced de Leeuw in the 60th. Forget the show-time footwork that resulted in a missed shot attempt, Johnson had two passes on the money that could have led to more scores. He found Nikolic with a well placed long ball in the 65th although three defenders got back to get in front of Nikolic, and another curling pass found the forward in the 74th to get behind the defense but it was ruled just offside.
M David Accam (6.5) – Subbed in for Solignac in the 72nd and got behind the defense finding Nikolic for a score one minute later. Another good ball through for Nikolic resulted in a corner kick in the 80th. That’s two good passes in one game for Accam.
D Drew Conner (6) – Came on for Harrington in the 78th in perhaps a short game-time audition for right back. Completed 14 of 16 pass attempts.