The second half of the MLS season started in New England on Sunday for the Fire and saw the squad earn the three points they so desperately needed to start the march to the MLS playoffs.
A first half blast from 30 yards out by Marco Pappa after a swift move to escape his defender, scoring his 6th goal of the year allowed the Fire to take the lead which they never relented on this summer Sunday night in New England.
Both teams clearly had a disappointing first half of the season and in the case of the Revolution they were clearly expecting better things with the return of their standout goal keeper Matt Reis. The Fire dominated the play in both the first and second halves but amazingly New England had over twenty shots on the night without a goal.
The Fire line-up saw Brian McBride and Patrick Nyarko starting as forwards for the Fire. The pairing of the veteran McBride with the much younger Nyarko (3 years in the league) produced results for Chicago in quality chances on the net. Nyarko was taken off in the 70th minute and we saw the Chicago attack feature McBride and Deris Umanzor for an extended period until McBride came off for defensive purposes. The Chicago midfield provided the forwards with the ball where they liked it to create the opportunities that helped control the game for the Fire.
Chicago had to scratch Justin Mapp with an injury during warm-ups and an injury to Baggio Husidic after the 37 minute mark lead to a Chicago makeshift midfield that still as above mentioned performed well on the night. Michael Banner had a particularly good night coming on for Justin Mapp on the flank.
The Revs had two good opportunities in the second half which Andrew Dykstra the Fire keeper could have played better but ultimately kept the balls out of the net.
It was another clean sheet for the Fire net minder but he seems always to make things interesting for himself and the Fire even with the opponent being shutout. The Fire unable to score a second goal decided to play defense later in the game and kept the team packed in defensively and frustrated a desperate New England attack. Carlos de los Cobos the Fire coach seemed to have used the break well to find the right combination of players and it seemed to pay off on this fine summer evening against the Revolution. Both defensively and offensively the Fire eleven never seemed more in tune with each other this season then what they showed in New England.
The victory for the Fire was their fourth of the season and left them in 4th place in the Eastern Conference. Despite an unbeaten run of five matches the Fire are still trailing Columbus and New York by seven points and are one point behind third place TFC. The Fire can improve things considerably for themselves with a win over the Crew on the road next Saturday night. A defeat can leave title hopes seriously in doubt, especially with New York expected to announce a major player signing before long. The Fire may very well respond with a signing of their own but the conference title chance may be gone with a win in Ohio next week.
While home MLS games will be rare for the Fire during July with only Salt Lake visiting Toyota Park on July 8, the Fire will have US Open Cup action and Superliga action in Bridgeview to keep the home fans occupied. On June 29 the Fire take on the Charleston Battery in the Fire’s first US Open Cup action of the year. Then the attention will turn to Superliga with action at Toyota Park on July 14 vs. Monarcas Morelia, July 17 vs. New England, and July 20 vs. Pumas Unam. I happen to love Superliga but will it require a bit too much out of the team during hot summer nights? We shall see.