As encouraging as getting a point out of yesterday's game in Portland may be - and it is, make no mistake, hugely encouraging - it still may be less encouraging than the individual performances contained therein. This was a young, untested XI, and everyone showed well; the kids showed verve and promise for future glories, while the vets demonstrated they could keep the whole thing stable and coherent in a downpour while surrounded by screaming fanatics.
To the ratings!
Sean Johnson - 7
Any remaining questions about Sean's shot-stopping ability must reflect stubbornness more than insight - Johnson is good for two or three highlight-reel saves a game. It's his communication and command of the backline where questions creep in; witness the embarrassing gaffe at the top of the box early in the second half, where the Milkman's obvious call-off was ignored by Soumare, leaving Will Johnson with a clean look at an open goal that he steered fractionally wide. On a crueler day, we're talking about that moment as the one that cost us a point.
Gonzalo Segares - 6
Perhaps it was Portland's no-wingers lineup, but Segares' left flank was seldom troubled by the Timbers on a day when they seemed to want to funnel everything into the middle. Gonzo's passing was troublingly scattershot, though, and except for taking deep throw-ins, he seldom got forward in support of the attack. Sega's general attacking zone, an angled underlap toward the penalty area, was also the favored launching pad for both Joya and Shipp, meaning 13 stayed very wide on the times he got forward.
Bakary Soumare - 8
Soumare nearly saw this rating cut after he and Johnson combined at the top of the box for the Brain Fart of the Day - but, luckily, this time Baky's once-a-game mental mistake didn't cost the Fire a goal. That aside, the Malian center back was outstanding - forceful but clean in the tackle, astute to the dangers around him, and dominant any time the ball was in the air. His passing percentage was horrible, but frankly the passes he was trying - lofted 70-yarders behind the defense, on turf, in a driving rain storm - were the very definition of ‘hopeful.' He's paid to snuff out attacks, not start them, and he surely did the former.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado - 7
There's still adjusting going on with the center of defense, but the basic structure looks solid. Hurtado sweeps up behind, plays clean, simple passes, and marks out ghosting runs from midfield. Remember all those times the Timbers broke in behind our high line? Me neither.
Lovel Palmer - 6
Like Gonzo, it seems Palmer's task this week was to think defense first - but completing five of 14 attempted passes is less ‘defense first' than ‘defense only.' Still, Lovel's rugged physicality did blunt the impact of Michael Harrington on the overlap; the Timbers left back did not complete an attacking pass in the final third all day. This on a day when both teams were turned obsessively inward; in the ensuing fullback v. fullback battle, neither side really even looked for advantage.
Benji Joya - 6
Playing - like fellow rookie Harrison Shipp - in a loosely-defined outside-midfielder role, Joya had difficulty making his presence felt on the ball. With Alex playing high up the field, near the striker, the 20-year-old had no foil to combine with coming forward. The freedom given the pair in attack made for some interesting puzzles in space, but Joya's directness and cheekiness seemed blunted a bit. On another day, perhaps, his early energy meets with more success, and he grows into the game.
Matt Watson - 7
Watson played a thankless, grinding role as space-eater and water-carrier, running relentlessly to close down angles while seldom touching the ball. Watson's ball-hawking gave Larentowicz enough support to keep Big Red's head up and looking for a forward connection. When Chara or Johnson would turn with the ball, they'd find their first, easiest outlet marked out by Watson, again and again. And his 35-yard screamer was the best-struck ball of the day, a swerving knuckler that Ricketts had to parry out for a corner.
Harrison Shipp - 6
While Shipp was just a half-touch here or there away from a lot of highlight reels, he also showed his inexperience, at times seeming to anticipate far more time on the ball than he received. That said, his understanding of space and movement without the ball can be outstanding, and his first touch is immaculate - watching him kip the ball away from the heavily laboring Harrington in the penalty area was a particular treat. Still, more productivity, more of a cutting edge, will be necessary to truly make a mark on this level.
Jeff Larentowicz - 6
Currently laboring under the ‘You Ain't Armas!' difficulty which every Chicago Fire destroyer has to endure - Big Red played, by my eyes, a composed and professional 90 minutes yesterday.. He used the additional screen provided by Watson to better connect with the attacking lines, while organizing a Fire defensive shape which made things difficult for the hosts. The internet disagrees, citing Larentowicz's failure to step up and cut off a centering pass from Valeri to Nagbe in the sequence leading to the tying goal. YMMV.
Alex - 7
Some see Alex's surging runs through the center of the park and want to christen the Brazilian our new #10 - and he, like Big Red, thrived at the freedom Watson's presence afforded him - but Alex's game isn't subtle touches and seeing what no one else sees; it's industry, and desire, with just enough craft to get him through. In other words, an 8, not a 10. That said, he played a good game of 8-in-10s-clothing yesterday, swerving into gaps and combining with Amarikwa.
Quincy Amarikwa - 8
It's hardly a surprise what Quincy brought in his first start for the Fire - exactly what he's brought as a supersub for two-plus years: A cleverness borne of relentlessness in the fight for the ball, tremendous balance and explosiveness, and a simmering stew of frustration for defenders tasked with marking him. Some have sneered at the hit-the-brakes move which Amarikwa used to win the penalty, but that option was there because Q's lightning-quick turn left Paparatto flat-footed and a yard adrift.
Patrick Ianni - 5
Gamely defended the right flank for the final 25 minutes or so, and did himself little shame in the run of play. Did fade into the center on the winning goal, which is hardly surprising for a career centerback - but it left Fernandez unmarked, and the rest was history.
Juan Luis Anangono - 6
El Serpiente seemed motivated by the time on the pine, displaying more touch and verve in a short sub appearance than in last week's start in Los Angeles. Forced a save from Ricketts in the dying minutes.
Patrick Nyarko - 1
Holy crapcakes, who dosed Nyarko? Did someone show him The Wall Saturday night? He seemed to have mistaken Chara for walking hammers. Once he comes back down (rest and hydration, brother, and remember: stay in your room!), he'll want to forget this as quickly as possible.
Have a different take? Think Armas crapped better d-mids than Larentowicz, or something? There's this innovation called ‘comments.' There, doesn't that feel better?