The Chicago Fire Reserves defeated the Colorado Rapids Reserves by a score of 3-1 on a sunny mid-August afternoon at the Toyota Park practice field today. Much like the first team, the reserves conceded the first goal before retaliating with three unanswered goals from Daniel Paladini, Dominic Oduro, and Victor Pineda.
One of the big stories before the game started was who would play in the holding midfield role(s). Alex and Corben Bone started as the two holders with Paladini playing as the attacking mid flanked by Pineda on the left and rookie Tony Walls on the right. Another notable appearance was Steven Kinney who returned to the field in what seemed like ages who started at center back instead of the right back role he played before the injury. Instead, Dan Gargan played right back and wore the captain's armband. Mike Videira started as the other center back beside Kinney and rookie Hunter Jumper played left back. In what looks to be a neck and neck battle for the backup goalkeeper spot, Jay Nolly got the start and went the entire 90 over Paolo Tornaghi.
The first half saw the Fire do well to control the game, but never consistently threaten the Colorado goal. This would come to backfire when Colorado scored against the run of play. After a set piece fell harmlessly to Nolly, Chicago sprang forward on the counter attack. Oduro mishandled a pass and gave up possession when Fire players were transitioning forward. Andre Akpan collected the ball and ripped a long range shot past a stretching Nolly for the first tally of the game.
The lead did not last too long, though, as a give and go between Oduro and Paladini unlocked the Colorado backline. Paladini ran forward with the ball in the midfield and could have shot from 25 yards out. Instead, he found a streaking Oduro making a diagonal run to the left of Colorado goalkeeper Steward Ceus' goal and charged through the space in the defense. After collecting the return pass from Oduro, Paladini sent a 10-yard tight angle shot across the face of goal and off the far post to tie the game 1-1.
The home side would have to make an early substitution when Alex went down after a fairly innocuous string of events. After a spending some time on the grass, the Brazilian playmaker shuffled off the field and would not return. Chicago FIre Academy player Marcus Epps would replace Alex who failed to make a strong impression throughout the game. The injury to Alex is nothing very concerning as his exit was only a precaution.
The first half went well for the Fire, but the second half would go even better. Kinney would send a long ball from the back to Oduro speeding down the right flank. After muscling himself in front of his defender, Oduro managed to place a shot past Ceus to give the Men in Red the lead.
Pineda would add insurance to that lead as he received a pass from Bone and slalomed through the Colorado defense before finishing well with a hard shot to Ceus' left side. The goal was one of many highlights from the Homegrown player. Pineda usually plays well in reserve games, but today was a breakout performance as he was easily one of the best players on the field shutting down opponents with strong tackles and linking up with fullbacks or midfielders all game long. If performances like today's are consistent, Pineda's opportunity to get some first team minutes is only a matter of time and may even happen this season.
With a 3-1 advantage, Chicago played the game out keeping possession and tightening up on defense. Colorado didn't threaten much throughout the rest of the game as the Fire Reserves held on to collect their third win of the campaign.
As pointed out earlier, Victor Pineda had a great game at left midfield, right midfield, and even holding midfield.
Daniel Paladini was all over the middle of the park attacking in the midfield before Alex went out with injury where he dropped back to hold for the rest of his time on the field. Based on his performance today and his exit in the 68th minute, I think he will get the start beside Pardo in the dual holding midfield role.
Dan Gargan showed his experience shouting directions to his backline and sending perfectly weighted long balls across the field. Gargan's ability on the ball is rather strong and should unseat Jalil Anibaba for the starting right back spot on the first team lineup.
The rest of the backline of Jumper, Kinney, Videira and Nolly as goalkeeper made a collective effort to minimize chances from Colorado. Nolly made a great diving save in the second half to deny Akpan another long range goal. Jumper manages to get forward well, get in good positions, and tackle well, but his speed and physicality need a little bit of work before reaching solid MLS level.
Dominic Oduro had a goal and an assist, but had a hard time holding up play and keeping possession in the lone striker role as has been the case throughout most of the season. With the Fire moving away from the counterattacking approach, Oduro may find his super-sub role to be a better fit and offer more opportunities to score.
The Fire Reserves will take on the league leading Houston Dynamo Reserves on September 10th in Houston. The Fire Reserves are in fourth place in the group with a 3-4 record seven points behind the leaders. The last home game will be Tuesday, September 18th at 10 am vs. FC Dallas Reserves.