SEATTLE - APRIL 09: Goalkeeper Kasey Keller #18 of the Seattle Sounders FC falls to the turf after blocking a shot by Patrick Nyarko #14 during the game against the Chicago Fire. Keller kept the Fire from equalizing and earned the Sounders 3 points at home.
The undefeated Chicago Fire traveled to the Pacific Northwest in attempt to beat the winless Seattle Sounders for the first time. Both streaks were broken as the Sounders held a 2-1 halftime lead and took all 3 points in front of their 36,223 fans.
Forward O'Brian White sounded the first horn for Seattle while Diego Chaves lit the match for the Fire. Chaves became the first Fire player to score in each of his first 3 club appearances. Zakuani doused the flames with his brilliant run past rookie Anibaba on a give-and-go from White finishing inside the near post from an acute angle.
The Fire now find themselves comfortably in the middle of the Eastern table and will need a win against a struggling expansion side in the Portland Timbers to keep pace with the playoff contenders.
Player Ratings after the break...
Referee: Hilario Grajeda Referee's Assistants: Fabio Tovar; Cameron Blair 4th Official: Tyler Ploeger Attendance: 36,223 Time of Game: 1:52 Weather: Partly Cloudy and 52 degrees
Starting XI for Seattle: Keller; Riley, Parke, Hurtado, Gonzalez; Evans, Alonso, Rosales (Jaqua 64); Friberg, White (Carrasco 81), Zakuani (4-3-3)
Fire Starting XI: Johnson; Anibaba, Robinson, Gibbs, Segares (Oduro 83); Nyarko (Barouch 90), Videira, Pause, Pappa; Chaves, Puerari (4-4-2)
Sean Johnson (5) - Struggling in the air again. Comes off his line late leading to what should have been a sitter for Erik Friberg. On the 2nd goal, he didn't open up and slide down to the ball fast enough and left way too much goal for Zakuani on what should have been a really tough angle. Really poor distribution all game long. Gave up a lot of possession by clearing goal kicks to the Sounders. Late goal kick sprays straight out of bounds helping kill time for the goal-ahead home side and relinquishing possession. Johnson is a great shot stopper but is really showing areas for improvement this season.
Jalil Anibaba (5) - Without the support of Mikulic in the middle, the young rookie struggled all night with the Zakuani matchup (I will note that many defenders in the league struggle against Zakuani). Couldn't stay tight with Robinson to close down White on the first goal. Zakuani's pace got the best of him on the 2nd goal. Some good passing out of the back but overall a night to forget.
Dasan Robinson (5.5) - To his credit had a great clearing header in the 35th that saved a dangerous chance for Seattle. Gave White too much space on the first goal, though it was a brilliant header. Improved as the game went on but wasn't up to par with the obvious organization Mikulic brings.
Cory Gibbs (5) - With Mikulic unavailable, it should have been up to the veteran to organize the 4 man back line and keep things tight. The defense looked as porous as swiss cheese, however.
Gonzalo Segares (6) - Sega is finding his form. Several good crosses into the box. Set up the threatening header by Puerari. Defensively sound.
Logan Pause (6) - The captain was quiet tonight. Couldn't really get control of the midfield allowing Alonso and Rosales to dictate pace and possession. Second half proved a bit better. Spent most of the match getting back to help the struggling back line.
Mike Videira (5) - Couldn't get the ball often enough or find enough space to show the creative prowess we saw last week. Struggled defensively to regain possession and control the midfield. Several late tackles ending in free kicks given. Justifiably earned a yellow card.
Marco Pappa (6) - Much of Pappa's ineffectiveness I attribute to his position on the pitch and Seattle's effort to keep the ball on the opposite side. He was much more of a threat once De Los Cobos moved him back to the middle. Chance denied by Keller in the 66th. Unable to test the keeper on free kicks.
Patrick Nyarko (6.5) - Responsible for setting up the Fire's goal with a great run and perfect cross on the ground to Chaves earning an assist. The Sounders resorted to using their bodies to slow him down and Nyarko got knocked around for much of the match. The official was allowing lots of suspect contact. Nyarko finally stayed down after an extremely late studs up challenge by Carrasco that should have seen red.
Gaston Puerari (6.5) - Started the run up to the Fire goal with a through-ball to Nyarko. Had a great chance with his head in the 43rd on a cross from Segares that just goes over the bar. Another late breakaway denied by Keller. Continues to draw fouls creating set pieces in dangerous areas, though he didn't draw a red this time.
Diego Chaves (7) - Another Man of the Match for the Fire as Chaves scores the side's only goal becoming the first player to score in each of his first 3 appearances for the club. Had another great chance on a Pappa set piece that would have been the equalizer if not for veteran Casey Keller. Continued to connect well with Puerari and the rest of the Fire attack. Held the ball extremely well in crowds of green allowing support to get up and finding men in red. Beautiful through-ball to Puerari in the 60th that nearly leads to a goal, again denied by Keller.
Dominic Oduro (6) - 83rd minute change with Segares making way for the attacker. Created a couple chances late.
Orr Barouch (N/A) - Less than a minute on the pitch as the official did not add much injury time after Nyarko had to be taken off.
Carlos De Los Cobos (5) - DLC was somewhat limited this week due to injuries, but we learned how little depth there is at CB when Mikulic is unavailable. I am not quite sure what he was thinking with his late subs. I would have liked to see Paladini come on for Videira early in the second half. Pappa should have made the move to the center much earlier. Cuesta may have been worth trying out in place of Robinson as the back line simply was not cutting it. Oduro for Segares seemed like a good late attacking move. Maric and Paul were also available on the bench. Johnson has been struggling early this season and was said to have been ill this week. I wonder if starting Conway might not have been a safer bet. We'll see how the keeper situation progresses from here.
Visit ratetheplayers.com to offer your own player ratings for the match.