The Chicago Fire have won two of their last three MLS games, extended their home unbeaten streak to seven across all competitions and lifted themselves out of the Eastern Conference basement.
Wednesday was a good night.
Sure, there may have been a little ref luck involved. A seemingly good goal from Dom Dwyer was waved off early in the game and Michael de Leeuw’s goal came on a quick restart that maybe should never have happened as it sounded like the referee blew the whistle twice.
But you can’t tell me the Fire has not been on the wrong end of that luck in the past, so you’ll find no sympathy from me. The Fire has not won two of three MLS games since April 2015 when they put together an unexpected three-game win streak that followed the season-opening, three-game losing streak. I’m not going to let some questionable officiating dampen this moment of glory.
The accomplishment is even more significant considering the victory came against Sporting Kansas City, a team that was unbeaten in five and coming off one of their best performances of the year on Saturday. In previous similar challenges, the Fire would have considered a draw a good effort. But they managed to go the extra mile Wednesday thanks to some outstanding individual efforts.
Let’s rank who had the best game.
XI: Razvan Cocis - I haven’t always been crazy about Cocis in the No. 10 role, but he was dynamite Wednesday. The Romanian midfielder made great runs early on, including the key pass to de Leeuw for the Fire’s lone goal. But even more impressive was his relentless defensive work as he cleared multiple crosses and corners out of the box and blocked a couple key shots.
X: Michael de Leeuw - If you score the game-winning goal in your first ever start at home, you get ranked high in my book. The Lion had a lot of expectations coming to the team in July and he hasn’t disappointed. He was calm and cool on his easy tap-in finish (not a given for Fire strikers) and he helped relieve the smothering SKC pressure by drawing a few fouls on the break to let the team reset.
IX: Sean Johnson - The Milkman did not have to do much Wednesday, but when he did he was huge. Johnson made a great save on a Brad Davis free kick and an even better reaction save on a Dwyer header in the closing moments of the game. He also had a good night in punching out the multiple corner kicks that came flying in. He rose to the occasion at every big moment.
VIII: David Accam – Once again Accam’s speed was a difference maker Wednesday. His constant breakaway threat broke the SKC pressure at times and he generated the best chances of the second half. He put a modest shot on goal, nearly found John Goossens on the break and sent a corner to Thiam that just missed connecting. He remains the engine that makes the team move.
VII: Khaly Thiam – In a game that got chippy and physical after the de Leeuw goal, it was Thiam who was willing to mix it up. The game often got muddled in the midfield but Thiam was knocking players off balls and getting his feet into passing lanes just enough to make life difficult for SKC. Even when he turned the ball over in a dangerous moment, he tracked his man all the way back and drew a foul of his own. Overall a smart game, even with drawing a yellow.
VI: Jonathan Campbell – Campbell was busy all game with the pressure SKC was bringing and he did a good job of positioning well and even drawing a few fouls to slow the play. He had a key header clearance over Johnson’s net during a scary scramble and showed the poise he often displayed earlier in the season.
V: Brandon Vincent – Quite frankly, without Vincent’s quick thinking to send in a long ball on the restart, de Leeuw never scores and the Fire could be looking at a draw or a loss. It was sort of an average game from Vincent after that, shielding players at times and doing well but he also let Saad Abdul-Salaam have quite a bit of room to operate. But the key pass matters most and he delivered.
IV: Matt Polster – First game back in a month for the stalwart defensive midfielder. He didn’t have his usual impact but he was by no means bad in this one as he also played a role in absorbing the pressure without breaking. It was good to see him out there again and I’m sure he’ll get more comfortable as he gets his game legs back.
III: Michael Harrington – Being ranked this low might seem harsh, but Harrington was just fine Wednesday. You don’t pitch a shutout with that much pressure coming at you if everyone doesn’t help out. He had a great run up the right side early in the game and almost found Cocis on a cross, but he also vacated his flank late in the first half and Connor Hallisey found Jacob Peterson at the top of the box for a shot that went off the post. So that was scary.
II: Joao Meira – He committed three, THREE, fouls that led to dangerous free kick attempts including two late in the game that Davis nearly converted. It would have been heartbreaking. But Meira also made a great sliding tackle from behind on Dwyer to stop a potential scoring opportunity and blocked a Dwyer shot from near the six-yard box. I just wish he stopped fouling right outside the box.
I: Arturo Alvarez – He just didn’t do much. I don’t know what else to say. He missed on passes too often and turned it over. John Goossens, who subbed on for Alvarez, was much more effective in much less time. Just a rough outing for Alvarez.