If I could I would just give everyone 10 gold stars because I am still on Cloud 9 from that performance.
The Fire played their best game of the year Saturday and looked like an exciting, attacking side that could challenge for a playoff spot and even make some noise in a postseason. While as a fan I want to bask in that moment of glory, we all must realize it is but one moment in a long season. The Fire will have challenges ahead. The first challenge might just be this bye week coming up that is stunting some serious momentum. Make no mistake that a trip to Montreal on April 18 is no easy task. Though without Porter and Mapp, that trip may still hold some reward for our Men in Red.
Regardless, this is about the butt-kicking Chicago put on our other friends from the north in Toronto FC who failed to get the job done even with the golden trio of Michael Bradley, Jozy Altidore and Sebastian Giovinco.
Here is who got it done.
XI: Shaun Maloney - It never felt so good to write this man's name. Saturday is the performance we have all been waiting for. Coming off a goal-fest trip with his native Scotland national team, Maloney returned to Chicago with renewed confidence and it showed. His back pass to Joevin Jones that set up the first goal has been playing in my head nonstop. His goal to even the score at 2-2 was just as masterful. If Maloney plays like that, the Fire are going to be legitimate.
X: Harry Shipp - He should have won Rookie of the Year last year and he is the front runner for Sophomore of the Year. He amazed again Saturday with moments of fleet footed trickery and exceptional vision. He picked out Maloney on a cross field pass before the Scotsman danced his way to a goal and he set up the captain on a bit of a "fake out" free kick to deliver a second assist on the game-winning goal. Shipp does so many little things right it is almost impossible to list.
IX: David Accam - For as good as Shipp and Maloney were Saturday, perhaps none of it would be possible without the defense-stretching ability of Chicago's favorite Ghanian. Accam was a lightning bolt Saturday, getting behind the defense time and time begin despite being self-admittedly 90 percent healthy on the day. Accam would have likely been the top-ranked player had he not wasted a couple strong chances. Fact is, if he puts himself in those situations, the Fire will benefit in a big way even if he does not convert as much as he should.
VIII: Joevin Jones - Wasn't challenged much defensively, but was a dynamo on offense. He looks the part of a center forward at times with his offensive capabilities, which were in full display on the Fire's opening goal as he slotted a low shot to the far post past Joe Bendik. I think Jones is a fine left back, I think he could be a solid left winger and I think he might just be able to play in a striker position in a 4-4-2. What I'm saying is there is no reason for Jones to not be on the field.
VII: Adailton - I've been tough on our resident Brazilian from time to time because of his inability to progressively lead to something positive. He's never been a weak spot, but he never really was a bright spot in my eyes either. That changed Saturday. He consistently shut down Jozy Altidore and was an absolute eraser in the back. I don't think the Fire would need even that level of performance from Adailton each week to succeed, but I think he is capable of it.
VI: Jeff Larentowicz - Honestly I would have put the captain ahead of Adailton if not for his once-again mental lapse that led to Toronto FC's first goal. Too often Big Red is in a poor position that leads to an inadvertently bad play such as the LA Galaxy opener and again Saturday. But the difference this time was his absolute beautiful shot to give the Fire the lead and ultimately the win. The captain performed to the level of his title with a bomb off a set-piece from about 25 yards out that had me doing a double take. He was solid defensively aside from the lapse. If he can eliminate those crucial missteps, it would be a huge gain for the Fire.
V: Matt Polster - I have been tough on the rookie out of SIU-Edwardsville, but he silenced me Saturday. He played the role of defensive midfielder with just as much mental focus and physical prowess. Instead of the overzealous challenges we've seen in recent weeks, we saw calm and collected challenges time and time again. He picked a great time to show well as Víctor Pérez will be breathing down his neck. For now, it would be tough to remove Polster from the starting XI.
IV: Quincy Amarikwa - Worked hard, hustled, hustled some more, etc. Same kind of thing you expect from Quincy with just as much incredibly frustrating wasted chances and off-target passes. I don't know that Kennedy Igboananike is the answer, but when Mike Magee is healthy, I think he waltzes into the starting striker role if Amarikwa continues to perform at the current level.
III: Chris Ritter - Technically this is Michael Stephens' spot, but he left the game in the 8th minute after an injury. I can sum up Ritter's performance in the following conversation I had with my wife who attended the game with me.
Wife: Isn't that the guy we didn't think was very good last year?
Me: Yes, but he has improved gradually with more playing time.
Wife: Yeah, I guess I can see that. Still not that good.
I like that he is on the team, I just don't need him playing more than 30 minutes generally.
II: Jon Busch - He was fine I guess, but there was something about both goals that left me feeling he could have done more. I know there was a deflection on the first, but he just seemed flat footed on both occasions and a little unsure of himself. I like my Jon Busch energetic and aggressive and he didn't seem either of those things Saturday.
I: Eric Gehrig - NOT A RIGHT BACK!!!!!!! And that's about it. I mean he was tortured time and time again and gave up all sorts of space on that first Toronto goal. Because ... HE'S NOT A RIGHT BACK!
Kennedy Igboananike - He looked better than recent weeks but no better or worse than Amarikwa. I'm not sure he will catch on though he still has plenty of ability to make it happen.
Víctor Pérez - Looked pedestrian if not vulnerable. I put absolutely zero stock in his performance though as he came on extremely late and has barely worked with the team. He is very likely still the much better option over Polster, but it could take two to three weeks before I would pull the trigger on that switch.