So last night was fun wasn't it? When I started writing this I thought the only thing I'd be able to say was "and then that was awesome". So prepare yourselves. Everything below the jump is going to be a giant thing of positivity. Well almost everything. The negativity isn't even really that bad. Somehow I manage to prattle on for a while so join me for the fun.
The Fire had a great first half. The offense was clicking on all cylinders. The early goal was marked by a fantastic finish from Patrick Nyarko. He hit that like he hits his passes and was able to slot it through Tally Hall's legs. Hopefully this leads to Patrick finding his groove as a finisher. He should be all about placement, considering his pin point passing abilities. At the minimum Patrick should be good for 3 goals just based on his excellent pace, effort and positioning. A fantastic game from Patrick. What does he have to do to get some sort of notice from Europe? It is a crime that Marco Pappa has gone overseas but Patrick hasn't. Nyarko is the more complete player of the two. Defensively sound, full of effort on both ends of the field and a terrific passer. Their loss is our gain. Hopefully Patrick stays in Fire red for a long, long time.
The passing was very good tonight. Dan Paladini had his best game since entering the starting lineup. Full of nice touches, good decision making, and an excellent finish. As long as Dan can keep making good decisions he will see the field more. Flaco Fernandez was also very good. Outside of his finishing he played well. Excellent defensive positioning in the second half. The Fire had great shape against the Dynamo attack after going up 2 goals. Fernandez was a big part of this. Keeping Houston from abusing you on the wings is one of the keys to beating them. The Fire were able to shut that down for the most part. Fernandez was a large part of that. Offensively his passing and movement were very good. The goals will come as long as he keeps putting himself into good positions.
Sunday's performance was the complete opposite of the game against DC. EVERYONE had a good game. There was not a single player who did not contribute in some aspect of the game. Sean Johnson was back to being his stellar self. Making a few truly spectacular saves in the final 15 minutes of the match. The defensive spine reclaimed its spot as one of the best in the league. Johnson, Friedrich, Berry, Pardo and Paladini were all excellent and helped to neutralize Brad Davis who was rendered almost invisible. In particular I wanted to note the performance of Arne Friedrich. His calmness in the face of danger is amazing. Several times he was able to calmly gain possession of the ball and flip a nice, neat pass out to an open Fire player. It was really fun to watch if you are a fan of defense.
Offensively things were back on track. Pardo directing things out of the back working primarily with Nyarko (who was in acres of space most of the evening) who then initiated the offensive attack. Chris Rolfe looked better this week. Finding space a bit more easily and getting off a few outside shots. One quibble with Rolfe is that there were a few occasions where he could have made a run into space behind the defense and he did not. Instead he preferred to wait for the ball at his feet. With Rolfe's great quickness and ability to get a shot off fast I'd like to see him make those runs when the passer is clearly waiting for him to go. Happened on more than one occasion. Hopefully this gets sorted out.
MacDonald was solid. His size was an asset against the Houston defense as they were forced to pay attention to him. Just his presence and effort on the field pay dividends even when he isn't getting a lot of goal scoring opportunities. His scuffed shot got him an assist on the Paladini goal. While not the prettiest or most deliberate of assists it shows that getting into good positions pays off. Another solid match from him and his presence as a starter continues to be a good thing for the bench. Dominic Oduro is starting to look like his old self. His blazing speed was back in top gear tonight. He blitzed the Houston defense 3 times in the final 10 minutes. He was able to create opportunities for other players by making excellent decisions and then hitting great passes. The cut back pass to Fernandez was a thing of beauty. He hit a similar pass to Alex who was able to finish off the post. Dom also earned a free kick right outside the box (and a yellow as well). A night full of impact for Oduro. I hope he embraces the roll of instant offense off the bench because he looks like he can play that part perfectly.
The substitutions were well timed, unpredictable and tactically sound. The early sub of Alex for MacDonald was a solid adjustment to the play at hand. MacDonald was going to have limited impact as a high lone forward. Dropping Alex into the midfield allowed for an injection of a physically tough player to disrupt the Houston flow. Alex was also to make a couple of had runs towards the Houston end, releasing pressure on the defense. The great goal at the end of the match was a nice way to finish off a good night for the Brazilian. Dom for Patrick was another good move. I already touched on Dom's great evening. Getting Logan Pause on for Rolfe for the last 5 minutes and change of the match was a solid defensive substitution. Logan looked solid during his first action since his injury. He did not appreciate a throw in from Anibaba and was very vocal about his displeasure after it. Good example of Logan's leadership on the field.
Basically I liked all of the things the team did during the Houston game. Even the goal they gave up was one of those scrappy in front of the goal things that Brian Ching excels so well at. it isn't a crime to give up set piece goal to Houston. You just try to limit there chances and be a goal or two up on them just in case they do score off of one. So Kudos to all involved. Great effort and a nice night to be at Toyota Park. Now rest up, go to Toronto and win in 10 days.