There's just something about this team. Going into the locker room at halftime, I figured there was no chance of a win, and was ready to settle for a point. To say the Fire looked a step slower and less urgent than Impact de' Montreal would be an understatement. But then in the second half, they scored twice, and just like that, the narrative changed. These are games, we can now see in retrospect, that championship quality teams win. 72 hours after playing a hard fought match, tired and hard traveled, they scratched, clawed, and yes, played some beautiful soccer. At halftime, one could believe and hope, and point to the several come from behind wins the Fire have this season, but no one could have predicted the 3-1 scoreline at the end of the night.
It became apparent very early on that Montreal came to do the Fire wrong tonight. Within the first 15 minutes, they made sure everyone would be going home with a gallon of milk courtesy of Sean Johnson. The Fire also burned themselves with giveaways and Davy Arnaud was a nuisance.
The Fire back line was weak for the most part and a lot of it was from the center of the field. The A-Team was out of it, and we found out why in the 41st Minute as "The Gargan" was released for Arne Friedrich, who left with tightness in his neck. "He wasn't comfortable," said Frank Klopas after the match. "We took him off pretty early on because he was having pain in his ability to turn, and he couldn't go."
This retroactively explains the goal that Montreal scored in the 21st minute of play.Nelson Rivas launched a ball headed on to Hanssoun Camara on the right side. He flicked it on to Marco Di Vaio, who quickly cut on Arne Freidrich, who would have normally cut sharper, but his neck pain wouldn't let him. The former Bologna man slotted it home against goalkeeper Sean Johnson. 1-0 Impact.
The Fire didn't spark to life until the 30th minute. And the Men in Red didn't score until 4 minutes later. Logan Pause received the ball from Jalil Anibaba, who up until that point had been god awful at right back.
It's been said over and over this year, but Jalil Anibaba is not a right back. And it was proven again when Friedrich came out. Jalil had a good game at center back after the substitution. And until this point his crosses were sub par at best. However, he found some magic after the captain returned the ball to him. He placed the best ball of the night right onto Sherjill MacDonald's head. And the number 7 placed it in the back of Troy Perkins' net.
Seconds later, Chris Rolfe was feeling it, forcing the Impact keeper to make a diving save. And then on the other side, Jalil Anibaba makes Sanna Nyassi miss.
The second half started similarly to how the first went. A lot of Montreal, not a lot of the Fire. Then the Fire started rolling once again. Patrick Nyarko flashed a ball across goal, but no one was on the back post. Chris Rolfe looked to play in Mackie for his second of the night in the 56th minute, but it was not to be.
The go ahead goal came in the 60th minute after an extended period of back and forth in the midfield. And it came off a defensive blunder from Nesta. After putting pressure on a free kick, Alex pounced on a lazy pass, and after a one two with El Flaco, put it across his body into the upper 90 with a gorgeous piece of skill. It was definitely a goal of the week candidate.
From then on, it was all Fire. Jessie Marsch attempted to attack strongly, bringing in former Fire player Justin Mapp, but it was to no avail. "We tried to make some changes to insert some attacking energy, and while we are doing that, we give up the third [goal]," Marsch would lament post game. "It's frustrating because this was an important match for us. In the second half we feel like we gave it away."
The third goal he's referencing was a direct result of the 3 man back line Jessie Marsch was forced to play. As Chris Rolfe was sprinting down the sideline with the ball, Dominic Oduro (subed on for Sherjill MacDonald) ran to the near post, letting Alvaro Fernandez slip into space in the middle of the box to find a perfect pass from Rolfe. Flaco proceeded to slide it in just inside the right post, as cool as you like. Game Over.
The Fire wern't done threating however. In the 90+1 minute, Dominic Oduro was played through on goal, but was called offside (replays showed it was the correct call).
In the end, the Fire won a game they looked like they had no business winning at halftime, but they rallied for 2 goals in the second half and put it to bed. Just like champions are supposed to do.
-The three goals tonight came from three mid-season acquisitions. Credit to the Fire FO for bringing in players who were ready to contribute right away and were match fit in order to do so.
-You may have noticed that recently required midfielder Wells Thompson was wearing the number 15 instead of the 2 he was given by the club. He said he changed jersey numbers "Out of respect."
-Arne Freidrich was subed off as a precautionary measure for neck tightness. He will be evaluated tomorrow, however Frank Klopas thinks he'll be back for Saturday against Columbus. "We will evaluate tomorrow, but the good thing now is that we've got the whole week to get ready. I think he'll be ready. He's having some pain and some difficulty turning, but I think it's something we can take care of over the next week."