Coming off perhaps their best game of the year on Tuesday, the Fire kept momentum going Friday with a 1-0 victory over the San Jose Earthquakes at Toyota Park.
That’s right, I said a great game was followed by a win, which means the Fire has won two games in a row for the first time in what seems like 100 years at this point! Sure, one was in the Open Cup and the other in MLS but the last two times Fire fans have tuned in, they’ve been treated to victories.
Friday’s game wasn’t always the most exciting, but it could certainly be classified as a professional win. The Fire took their chances on offense without compromising the defense as has happened in the past. The result was an impressive 16 shots with seven on goal against only six shots conceded to the Quakes with two on goal.
And despite San Jose holding a 58 percent advantage in possession, the Fire always seemed in control of the contest.
The game got off to a sometimes painfully slow start with no team remotely threatening until David Accam set up a corner opportunity. Unfortunately, nothing came of that.
The Earthquakes had the best chance to open the scoring early when Johan Kappelhof and Sean Johnson had bad miscommunication, allowing the ball to get between them and bounce out to a wide open Matias Perez Garcia who somehow sent his shot well over a wide open net.
After that, it was the Fire who peppered San Jose with half chances before gradually turning up the pressure. It started with a Rodrigo Ramos shot from distance that was easily saved followed by a Khaly Thiam header off a long throw in that was also no issue for David Bingham.
But as the half wore down, the Fire found better chances. Kappelhof sent a long ball to Kennedy Igboananike who danced around a few defenders near the goal line. He then made a pass to an onrushing Joao Meira who sent a rocket from the top of the box right at Bingham. Bingham would be called on again right before the half ended as Igboananike latched on to a loose ball and fired a rocket of his own that was punched away.
San Jose’s only other chance in the first half was a header by Quincy Amarikwa off a deflected ball from Chris Wondolowski, but the header had little power behind it and was an easy enough save for Johnson.
Igboananike picked up right where he left off to start the second half, volleying a shot on goal that was saved. The Fire finally broke through in the second half courtesy of John Goossens, who notched his first MLS goal.
Ramos, who was active and excellent all game, sent in a cross aimed for Igboananike. However, Quakes defender Fatai Alashe got his head on the ball but his clearance was weak. The ball fell to Goossens who fired a shot first touch from the top of the box and scored after Bingham got a hand on the attempt but let it in.
Alashe would go on to have a rough half after allowing the goal, missing a tackle on Accam that could’ve led to a second goal but ended up hitting the side net and then drawing a yellow by pulling down Igboananike on the break. Alashe ended his night early after a clash of heads with Accam that sent Alashe to the locker room in the 88th minute.
The Fire had their most nervy moment of the half shortly after Goossen’s goal. San Jose went on the attack and Amarikwa managed to get in the box before laying off a pass to Garcia before falling. Garcia sent in a cross to Alberto Quintero who got a clean shot off from short range but was denied by Johnson.
Unlike Tuesday, the Fire never fell into a full bunker down mode as the game drew to a close. The team created more looks, including an Igboananike diving header that was saved, and the back line looked to send long balls to Accam who was trying to take advantage of a three-man back line on the counter.
Between Goossens first goal, Ramos’ excellent offensive and defensive performance and the controlled play both ways, the Fire should have as much confidence as they have had all season heading into a difficult July.
With 14 points in 15 games, the playoffs are still an extreme long shot. But the addition of Michael de Leeuw off the back of two strong performances could be a glimmer of hope and at the very least give the Fire a chance to show real progress from the first half to second half of the season.