I was not confident as I walked into Toyota Park after going to the Grand Dukes (highly recommended) with my friend Mike for a bite to eat before the match. I couldn't help but feel that the Fire were going to get killed on Sunday night. I just thought that FC Dallas, one of the best attacking teams in the league, was going to walk all over the frail defense of the Chicago Fire. Boy, was I wrong - the game ended up being a classic trap game where the heavy favorite loses out to the underdog.
The game started out fast and it was David Accam who pounced on an FC Dallas mistake by Matt Hedges for the first goal. Jason Johnson tried playing a through ball to Accam which came to Hedges, who bumbled the ball. Accam took it straight into the box and slotted the ball past Dan Kennedy in the 3rd minute. "Here we go," I told Mike. "The Fire are going to try and defend a one-goal lead for 87 minutes."
So the possession game started and FC Dallas was all over it. They controlled the ball and looked as they were patiently building their attack as the Fire sat back and tried to counter with every opportunity that they could get. The thing about all the FC Dallas possession - they were passing well in their defensive third of the field and the middle third but absolutely nothing was happening in the final third. Was it that Matt Polster and Razvan Cocis were stopping the FC Dallas attack? Yes, but it also seemed as though the FC Dallas players were not interested on the night. That's the way the first half went with few chances from either side.
The second half started much the same, with FC Dallas controlling the game and the Fire countering when they could. Things could have gotten ugly for the Fire when late substitute Matt Watson lunged in on a two-footed tackle with studs showing on Rolando Escobar which earned him a straight red card. Now up a man, Dallas still controlled possession after that and looked more dangerous - but it was the Fire who delivered the hammer blow. David Accam brought the ball into the box in the 85th minute and lost it, but Kennedy Igboananike out-hustled Kellyn Acosta to the ball. Acosta was not expecting KI to be there and ended up fouling him in the box, which led to Shaun Maloney slotting away the PK for his 3rd goal of the season.
That's the way it ended, a 2-0 victory and another year with the Brimstone Cup. It wasn't the Fire's best game in terms of control - they looked to counter all game long, which gave Dallas 64% of the possession and a 477-271 passes-completed advantage. In any case, it was three points and if all goes well tonight, the Fire could end the weekend only 3 points out of a playoff spot.
Man of the Match, from many options
My man of the match has to go to Matt Watson ... just kidding.
This week it could've gone to David Accam for his pace a creating havoc in the offensive third, or Kennedy Igboananike for his hustle most of the second half, or Matt Polster or Razvan Cocis for keeping the Dallas midfield at bay, or even Jeff Larentowicz for stablizing the Fire's back line.
For me, though, it had to be Harry Shipp. I just felt that he had more of an impact than people realized, reading people's thoughts about the game. He didn't score or assist, but he did lots of little things. There were a few times where he was able to dribble out of trouble while on the wing, his cross field passes were spot on, and he was more active on the field than it seemed. He opened space for other players by his movement and he didn't even have to touch the ball. Hopefully going forward he will be able to put his stamp on the rest of the games this season, as he is our future and can become a legend at this club.
And a few more thoughts
- Speaking of that Matt Watson tackle, yesterday MLS handed down an additional game to his suspension. So he will miss the away games at Portland and Philadelphia.
- As Jeff Engelhardt wrote Wednesday, the Fire have received a formal offer for Shaun Maloney, and have since turned that offer down. My take is that the "final piece" to Yallop's puzzle has not been that influential on games as he was talked up to be. In 12 matches, he only has three goals and two assists, which is not nearly the amount of production that is needed from him. I say if the price is right, sell him and really invest in a stronger 'piece of the puzzle,' someone younger and (in all honesty) better. Look at the 26-year-old Sebastian Giovinco , who leads the league lead in goals with 16 and has 10 assists in 21 games. That is the kind of impact that a DP should have, and that is the kind of DP that the third-largest market in the United States should have.
- Earlier on Wednesday, US Soccer held the draw for the right to host the final of the US Open Cup - and guess what, the Fire actually won a blind draw. If the Fire beat the Philadelphia Union in next Wednesday's semi-final match, they will host the final on September 30th. We all remember what happened when the Fire hosted a US Open Cup final back in 2006.
- Lastly I'll end on a note for Andrew Hauptman (intern, clip this for him!): Take a look and see what Atlanta United FC has planned for their training facility. Why have you not invested similarly for your players and staff? Why is it that other teams around the league, like Montreal, and SKC, and Houston, and NYRB ... you get my point ... are investing to give their players (and in some cases their academies) these kind of facilities, and Chicago is just falling by the wayside? (In your answer, avoid mentioning the northside FirePitch thing; that's a rec-league tent, not a professional training facility.)