This game was nuts. Inexplicable referee decisions. Overly physical play. Weird penalties. Poor set piece defending. Golazo! Dives. Goalie Coach ejection. Yellow cards. Two (!) penalty saves. Nerve racking final minutes. All of this resulted in an ugly, but a rather satisfying (Hi Brimstone Cup you sexy thing you) victory.
Join me after the jump for a bit more in depth look at the game.
First Half: From a Fire perspective, the first 25 minutes were a bit of a mess. The Fire ceded possession easily and lacked any sort of build through the midfield. It became obvious early on that success could be had down the left wing. Marco Pappa's runs with the ball towards the inside of the field pulled the defenders with him. On at least 3 occasions Gonzalo Segares was wide open on the left side with acres of space in front of him. On each of these occasions Pappa continued to dribble the ball towards the middle of the field or pass the ball into the middle of the field. Thus making it easier for the defense to slow and stop the Fire attack. Dallas also had the better chances early in the first half.
The rest of the first half was better for the Fire in terms of possession. Yet they still couldn't find a way to generate much in the way of chances. Defensively the team appeared to have some issues at the back. In particular Sean Johnson was all over the place. He was punching balls that should have been caught and had issues communicating with his back line. The central pairing of Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba was generally speaking solid. Berry is clearly the more polished of the two even though he is in his first MLS season. Anibaba had a terrific pairing with Cory Gibbs but has not been able to replicate that with Berry.
The rather poor set piece defending raised its ugly head again in the 41st minute as the Fire conceded another goal off a corner this season. Blas Perez got the initial shot on goal that Johnson punched wide but not wide enough as Hedges popped up in time to head the ball home. While this was a fairly well executed corner Anibaba could have had a tighter mark on Perez. While that was a bit nit picky something needs to change on these corners.
The Fire's anemic offense was bailed out by a tremendous goal from Sebastian Grazzini in the 45th minute. Grazzini's goal was from 5 yards or so outside the box and it soared over the outstretched hand of Kevin Hartman. Incredible way to finish the half.
Second half: This is where business really picked up. Let's just cut to the insanity that was the Dallas penalty in the 50th minute. In live action Dom Oduro looked like he made minimal contact in the box with Bruno Guarda who went down like he was shot in the face. After watching the play later Oduro's knee did clip Guarda but nothing so bad as to cause that insane flop. All kudos to Guarda on getting the call but this looked awful in live play.
Blas Perez steps up to take the penalty only to have it stopped by Johnson. It was a well taken penalty but Johnson was that much better with an incredible save. This was where the match turned in the Fire's favor.
In the 62nd minute a penalty is awarded to the Fire after Marco Pappa is taken down in the box by two defenders. Live this didn't look like much but after seeing the replay there definitely was a foul in the box and perhaps enough to take Marco down. Still Marco did what he could to make sure he got the call. Grazzini steps up to take the penalty only to have it saved by the, apparently ageless, Kevin Hartman. Fortunately for Seba, Marco Pappa has crashed the box and buries the rebound. Celebrations happen and we are all happy. BUT WAIT! Look at that replay! Pappa clearly was WELL (like 4 yards) inside the box before Grazzini struck the penalty. This penalty should have been retaken. Somehow this penalty attempt and follow up stood. It was the lowlight of many for our referee, Hilario Grajeda who did not have a good game.
The rest of the second half was a physical contest. The referee let a lot of physical play slide. Dallas created a few more decent opportunities but was unable to put them on frame. The Fire were able to see this one out for a victory.
Players of note:
Logan Pause: The Fire captain was again excellent defensively. He had a bit of a lapse going forward late in the game but I can forgive him for that since he was so good the rest of the game defensively. It was particularly noticeable tonight since Pavel Pardo did not start.
Orr Barouch: Barouch came on in the 60th minute and had a very productive half hour on the field. He was able to win headers and created a very solid chance for Rafa Robayo late in the game. He also blasted a shot over the bar. He did put himself into good positions and was very solid overall.
Rafa Robayo: Was invisible for the first 25 minutes of the game. Got steadily better after that. Looked significantly more comfortable once he moved up to take Grazzini's attacking role in the midfield. He did play the whole 90 and was able to help see out the game at the end with some very solid defensive plays in the box.
Corben Bone: HE PLAYED!
Ugly win with a lucky break that all Fire fans should take. I can't find much to complain about other than the continued issues on set pieces. I hope that the pairing of Anibaba and Berry will start to gell which help in reducing the goals off of set pieces. All in all a solid win and a much needed three points. The beat rolls on, Saturday at Columbus. See you all there!