In front of a 'sold-out crowd' at Red Bull Arena
Another draw is in the books, except this ain't just any old draw. This is the record tying draw. I'm sure FC Dallas is pulling for us to get another draw so they can only have one season with that infamous record (and at least they can always say "MLS Cup Participants!" after that record is referenced). Pretty soon we will get to say "Kings of the Draw". Yay?
Being up at half: This hasn't happened enough this season. Good first halves have been hard to come by for Chicago this season and this was a welcome site after the last two games. While the team was unable to hold the lead at least it put itself in a position to win for the first time in a long time. Baby steps. I can't believe we are twenty games into the season discussing small positive increments in development.
Dominic Oduro: The birthday boy scored! Heart shaped hand signals for all! Dom has been one of the bright spots this season in terms of having a positive impact on the game. He certainly has his limitations and is a better winger than a striker but his pairing with Nyarko in the first half really worked. A hideous, debilitating tactical change in the second half, pushing Nyarko back to the midfield and leaving Oduro up top again illustrated that Dom is not a lone striker. Can't blame the player for poor tactical decisions by the coach. He left everything on the field tonight (to the point where he was out of gas late in the second half) and his effort was greatly appreciated. I'd like to see his passing get better but a few of his teammates need to realize that he isn't capable of making intricate passes in the middle of the field.
Patrick Nyarko: Had an excellent first half as the second striker with Oduro. Combined well with Grazini and added extra punch to the offense. This was a quality coaching move to push Nyarko up top. Oduro plays better with Patrick at his side (don't doubt the powers of Ghanahian brotherhood). Unfortunate injury in the second half but any time Patrick takes a hard shot you have to worry about the possible concussion issues. Hopefully it was just a migraine that will dissipate during the week. The coaching decision to push him back into a five man midfield in the second half was dubious at best. A very good game for Nyarko. His loss was immediately felt on the field.
Jalil Anibaba: I'm completely fine with Jalil being one of the main CB starters going forward. It is clearly his best position on the field. He was really good in this game. Being a physical defender when he had to be, making diving tackles, man positioning was generally solid and he disrupted passing lanes. In general I was impressed with his performance from our vantage point on the second deck of Red Bull Arena. Long term this team might have something with Anibaba, Cuesta, Mikulic rotation in the middle. All three best be protected in the upcoming expansion draft.
Sebastian Grazzini: The straw that stirs the offensive drink. This team is a completely different animal when he is on the field. His ball control, vision and passing were top notch tonight. He started most of the Fire's most threatening moments tonight and had a crafty shot on the second Fire goal. When Grazini was subbed out the team's offensive composure left with him. A terrible substitution unless there is no way Grazini could continue. I realize that this was the first of 3 games in 8 days but with Patrick already being subbed out there was not much in the way of creative force available. Chaves tried but he didn't have any speed to link with late in the game (Dom out of gas, Barouch was moved to the other wing when Nazarit came on and lacks winger pace).
Gonzalo Segares: Ugly first half for Sega. Unable to contain his side and missed a few tackles. Also was beaten to the ball on several occasions. Had a significantly better second half. Sega has been an issue most of the season and his problems continue. The team really needs to sign/draft/trade for a left back to challenge and spell Sega. HIs play has been a disappointment all season long and this evening was no different.
After the initial strike of genius in moving Patrick up top, the tactical adjustments during this game were lacking. Barouch on for Patrick was an obviously needed move due to Nyarko's migraine. But once Barouch is in the game, there is no need to bring on Nazarit later and push Orr to the left wing. Barouch is a better target forward, with better on ball skills and a higher soccer IQ than Cristian Nazarit at this point. Nazarit only offers a downgrade at the striker position when Barouch is already subbed in up top. You could play them together but Frank chose not to. He pushed Barouch to the wing. This, again, was a significant downgrade from options available. Corben Bone and Daniel Paladini were dressed on on the bench. Why not sub one of them in instead of Nazarit? You could have slid Chaves up front to pair with Barouch and used Paladini or Bone in the middle of the field to kickstart the offensive creation. Using all of your strikers as subs isn't "going for the win" it hampers your lineup and offensive flow. Terrible choice for a last substitution. Frank's infatuation with Nazarit (which hopefully ends with this game) has been an issue since he took over as coach. Alex Ferguson's condescending comments aside, I don't think you would find a single fan/educated observer who thinks that Nazarit is the better target forward. Why he continues to be the preferred choice over Barouch is baffling. Frank is just not a good coach and the sooner he is done being the team's coach the better.
Dan Gargan: Solid performance, looks like a serviceable backup. After seeing his initial performance the trade surprises me. While Dasan will always be loved in these parts his better days are clearly behind him. Gargan is a much better right back and can play a few more positions across the back line (from what I hear). Who knows if he can do them well but it looks like he at least can play right back. As long as he play continues at this form I have no problems having him be the primary RB backup next year. Not sure about having him be the starter but he can push a guy for minutes. Now if we can only find a similar type player for left back.
I thought the team played fairly well. Should have scored a third goal and with the right subs they most likely would have (NY being susceptible to fast quick players usually results in late game goals against them). I can't say I am overjoyed with the result but it was an entertaining game played at a fairly high level of offensive competency compared to the rest of the season.
So, as I do often, I'm on the road with Section 8. So far this trip has been excellent. After leaving late on Friday things went swimmingly. A lot of new folks on this trip including a lovely family and their three girls. A hardy group of travelers with little to no issues on the way there. There was not much time before the game to go into the city although some people made a go of it. Another great time on the road following the Chicago Fire. If you have never considered taking one of the bus trips with Section 8 you should. Fun times and new friends await. I'll see you all on Thursday. Until then, adios.
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson; Dan Gargan, Yamith Cuesta, Jalil Anibaba, Gonzalo Segares; Logan Pause ©, Pavel Pardo, Marco Pappa (Cristian Nazarit, 73'); Sebastian Grazzini (Diego Chaves 67'); Dominic Oduro, Patrick Nyarko (Orr Barouch, 56')
Substitutes Not Used: Jon Conway, Josip Mikulic, Daniel Paladini, Corben Bone
New York Red Bulls: Chris Konopka; Chris Albright, Rafa Marquez, Tim Ream, Roy Miller; Joel Lindpere, Dax McCarthy (Juan Agudelo, 60'), Mehdi Ballouchy (Stephane Auvray, 60'), Teemu Tanio; Dane Richards; Thierry Henry ©
Substitutes Not Used: Alex Horwath, Stephen Keel, Carlos Mendes, John Rooney, Corey Hertzog
NYRB - Thierry Henry (Dax McCarty, Dane Richards) 9'
CHI - Dominic Oduro (Pavel Pardo, Patrick Nyarko) 16'
CHI - Sebastian Grazzini (unassisted) 24'
NYRB - Joel Lindpere (Dane Richards) 63'
CHI - Sebastian Grazzini (Caution; Reckless Tackle) 25'
NYRB - Joel Lindpere (Caution; Dissent) 64'
Referee: Jair Marrufo
Referee's Assistants: C.J. Morgante, Corey Rockwell
4th Referee: Fotis Bazakos