The home opener. A tradition of 12,000 hard core Chicago Fire fans braving the elements to watch their team. For the fourth year in a row I am proud to be among them. This was by far the coldest Chicago Fire game I have attended. I sat in my seats surrounded by folks who turned out to be knowledgeable fans and had a fantastic time. After this game was over my final thought was "We have something special developing here" and I got excited. Very excited.
When I got home MLS matchday decided to tell me I couldn't watch the game again. Ok jerkfaces I'll wait until Monday to watch the game and provide my recap. I'll stare into the deep socketed death mask that is Tweed Thornton's face and tell him his detailed recap must wait. Wait, I totally didn't do that. I avoided Tweed and instead decided it would be cooler if this recap just showed up randomly on Monday.
Game recap and better analysis than Shasha Victorine could ever dream of, provided after the jump.
The Fire immediately start the game off on the right foot. After parrying KC's initial 1st minute of possession Nyarko and Puerari get busy linking up down the right hand side. This ends up with a Nyarko making a nice pass to the open Cory Gibbs at the top of the box. To bad Gibbs shoots like a central defender and puts the ball over the cross bar. Nice quality movement on this.
3rd: Omar Bravo shoots down the right hand side but Anibaba cuts him off, Mikulic follows that with a strong tackle and Anibaba makes another nice defensive play on Bravo. So far so good for the rookie.
8th: Cory Gibbs does some fine defensive work down the side line. Anibaba takes the ball away from Bravo on a really nice play and then ruins it by immediately turning it over with a pass to no one in particular.
At this point it became clear Pappa was playing, essentially, as a third striker. I like using Marco in this fashion as it takes full advantage of his skill set and hides his weakness of being a player who makes poor defensive decisions.
11th: Nyarko puts in some solid defensive work helping to force the ball back to the midfield. Puerari controls the ball and links up well with Chaves who eventually puts in a nice cross. Nyarko ends up with the ball and earns a free kick (1) in the offensive third.
13th: The ensuing free kick from Pappa is a bit lacking as it is easily handled by KC. Marco decides to knee Omar Bravo in the back in an attempt at atonement for his poor service.
14th: The Fire continue their early dominance by getting Marco free on the left hand side. Marco attempts a shot just outside the box and puts it wide. Excellent decision here from Pappa as he had two Fire players in position for any potential rebound.
15th: Near disastrous decision by Anibaba as he misses a scissor kick attempt. This allows Bravo to get behind him and put a very nice cross into a dangerous area. Gibbs ably defended it away.
17th: Perplexing referee decision to call advantage after Puerari was fouled just outside the box. Advantage was given to Marco Pappa against 4 KC defenders. There was clearly no immediate advantage to the Fire here.
20th: Nice interaction between Pause and Pappa to work the ball up the left sideline, they eventually find Chaves who makes a terrific pass to Pappa who continues his run down the sideline. The play fizzled shortly after this but was a nice indicator of how well the Fire were controlling the ball on the ground at this point in the game.
22nd: Nyarko earns free kick (2). Ensuing free kick by Pappa forces a save out of Nielsen. At this point it became apparent that wind was a huge factor. Any goal kick from Nielsen was held up in the wind making distribution difficult. Johnson also had the same issue in the second half.
24th: Good clearance from Mikulic cleaning up after a defensive breakdown. Johnson easily handles the resulting corner.
26th: Bravo with a great pass to Arnoud who promptly dribbles it towards the sideline and earns a throw in. Wasted opportunity by KC there.
30th: Here comes the big game changing moment. Omar Bravo puts in a terrific free kick that bounces in the box and Johnson handles without a KC player getting close. Still it was dangerous and should have been handled better. The Fire immediately counter and Puerari's pace again forces a terrible defensive decision this time by Omar Bravo who clearly pushes Puerari with an extended arm in the box as the last man. Stupid play. Straight red for Bravo and penalty awarded to the Fire. Again the emphasis on last man stopping scoring opportunities rears its head and it is the proper call. Sasha Victorine loses his mind in the KC booth calling the decision very harsh. Extended arm pushing the opposing player in the box in plain site for everyone to see while you are the last man is not "scrapping" or "fighting" for the ball. The rules are pretty clear on that Sasha.
While I'm listening to Victorine publicly proclaim his ignorance regarding the rules Davy Arnoud is busy grabbing the referee by the arm and shoving him around. Somehow he avoids a card. This type of behavior deserves a suspension and a fine. If MLS is serious about improving its referees it has to make sure the players can't just randomly grab the ref when he is about to show a red card. Unfortunate behavior from Arnoud even if today's referee was incredibly silly in figuring out if he should hand out a red card. He talked to both linesman and the fourth official before giving it out.
34th: Scrum now over Chaves buries the penalty in the upper right hand corner. Nielsen wasn't getting that even if he guessed the right way. 1-0 to the Fire.
40th: Logan Pause with a high quality ball out of the back. I note this because that has been happening with regularity so far this young season. Pause is playing the best he has ever played and no one is really talking about it. Hopefully this will continue.
41st: Mike Videira with a great through ball to Puerari who slots the ball past Nielsen for a well deserved goal. 2-0 to the Fire.
44th: Near own goal by Anibaba. Johnson is forced to tip the ball over the cross bar.
45th: Nyarko earns free kick (3) in defensive half killing off KC's attack.
1st half stoppage: Great service for KC from Auvry. Chance Meyers just sucks and was unable to get to the ball. This should of at least forced a save. Meyers hammered by Victorine in the booth "this is why he is better at right back".
Excellent first half for the Fire. They controlled play and put chances away. Defensively they were OK. KC was unable to take advantage of the mistakes made this half.
46th: Hey its another Fire shot on goal this time Puerari has his shot pushed away by Nielsen.
47th: Mike Videira making another nice pass this time to Chaves. Chaves is unlucky to score as Nielsen stops the ball with his foot. Nielsen goes down for a few minutes after the shot as the force of the shot and the cold weather does him in for a bit.
48th: Puerari earns a yellow for tripping a KC player.
49th: Pappa makes a terrible defensive decision. Instead of clearing the ball long, dribbling upfield, or attempting a pass to a mostly open Segares he decides to pass the ball back towards the middle of the field where three KC players converge on the ball and take it. A corner eventually results.
50th: After two corner attempts KC's Matt Besler scores. Johnson flat out fumbles the ball and Besler puts it away. 2-1 Fire. While this goal is on Johnson, Pappa's mistake a few minutes earlier led to the corner. If he clears it long the Fire avoid this whole sequence. Hopefully he learns from this.
52nd: Teal Bunbury is crushing Segares down the left hand side. Beating him seemingly whenever he needs to. This looked much worse live than it did on tape. I was began to freak out. Flashbacks to last season were happening.
55th: Gibbs shows how you handle Bunbury which is to put your body into his and hold the beast at bay. Well done by Gibbs here.
58th: Arnoud picks up a yellow for hitting Puerari. Arnoud got lucky his flailing hand missed Puerari's face. Frankly he was lucky not to be ejected on a second yellow at this point.
59th: Marco Pappa destroys FOUR KC defenders and slots a goal past Nielsen. This was all Marco. Impressive goal. 3-1 Fire.
60th: Some excellent work by Nyarko down the right hand side carrying the ball from the defensive end into the offensive half and then making a nice pass to Puerari.
63rd: Nyarko earns a free kick (4).
65th: Pause again good on ball defense.
67th: Segares lands awkwardly on left leg. Live his play was noticeably impacted. On tape it wasn't nearly as noticeable.
70th: Logan continues his resurgent passing form as he makes a good pass to Puerari.
71st: Gibbs is indecisive in what to do with the ball. Passes over to Segares. Segares makes a terrible backpass to no one. Bunbury flies past the Fire defenders and easily beats Johnson. 3-2 Fire. Horrible gaff by Segares. I've seen some people criticize Mikulic for this but really what was he supposed to do? Foul Bunbury and potentially earn a red while up two goals?
74th: Barrouch on for Puerari
75th: Videira's passing touch lets him down as his pass is a bit off for Barrouch who had a step on the KC defense. Nyarko earns free kick (5).
76th: Pappa gets free from the KC defense and opts to go one on one instead of making the pass to an incoming Chaves. Questionable decision but somewhat forgiveable.
78th: Mikulic makes a key deflection to help put a ball wide of the goal. On replay KC was clearly offside. Blown call by the linesman.
81st: Chaves makes a terrific pass to Barouch who has his shot saved by Nielsen pushing the ball just wide. Barouch a bit unfortunate not to have scored there.
82nd: Pappa puts a shot just wide. Good decision and a good shot.
83rd: Nyarko earns free kick (6).
86th: Johnson rushes out to collect the ball making a nice play to stop the oncoming Sapong from shooting. Victorine prattles on about how there should have been a foul. "There was a tug!" he screems. Replays clearly show little to no tug.
87th: Mikulic takes a yellow as he hammers Bunbury to stop his run. Good play by Mikulic.
88th: pause another nice long ball. Pappa manages to get Diop a yellow by falling over his attempted tackle as it went past. Cuauhtemoc is smiling in Irapuato.
89th: Nyarko with some high quality work in the corner keeping the ball and dribbling around KC players. Ball ends up with Mike Videira who attempts a highly speculative shot on goal which comes no where close. Should have kept possession at that point.
90th: Chaves subbed off for Dominic Oduro.
91st: Gibbs earns free kick in defensive end by taking a Sapong hand to the face. Well done Cory.
93rd: Nyarko earns free kick (7). Nyarko subbed off for Dasan Robinson. Excellent work by Nyarko today.
Sasha Victorine says Dasan Robinson was brought on for his "pace". I love Dasan but he runs like a 45 year old man. Sasha, I recommend you do some prep work next time.
Game ends and I no longer have to suffer through young englishman and Sasha Victorine booth combo of certain homer doom.
Patrick Nyarko was fantastic today. 7 free kicks earned (and I may have missed 1 or 2) and excellent work offensively and defensively. Puerari and Chaves remind Fire fans what its like to have strikers. Marco kept his silly decisions to a minimum today (so only 1 or 2) and made a couple of excellent plays. I think he likes being a slightly withdrawn third striker. The defense had some problems today but nothing that isn't fixable. No glaringly awful outings today. Yes some players had some bad mistakes but they also made good plays throughout the game.
This team has me falling for them. They play with heart and skill. They celebrate as one and seem genuinely excited to play in front of the fans. Cory Gibbs urging the fans to stand up and cheer in the last few minutes of the game was particularly inspiring. Much love was given towards Section 8 and the fans post game. It was a wonderfully emotional scene.
3 goals nets us 3 points. So anyone else getting excited about this team?