So we didn’t qualify for Russia 2018 this week but neither did any of our MLS rivals. There is always next week people. Below you will find a brief recap on all games involving Eastern Conference teams besides our match with Montreal. To read up on the Fire’s past game, click here. Let’s jump to the rest of the games.
Toronto 0, Sporting KC 0
Despite getting Jozy Altidore and Michael Bradley back from the USMNT, only Bradley started the match for Toronto. Jozy was severely missed by Toronto as they went about knocking the ball around with no real target man up front. When Jozy came on he made an instant impact and Toronto had some real chances to break the deadlock. There were some clear chances missed by the home side and they won’t be happy with just a draw in what was their home opener.
Seattle 0, Atlanta 0
Another high-flying Eastern team was held to a draw in this one. This was always going to be the biggest test for Atlanta’s hot start, as going out to play in Seattle is never easy. Atlanta started the game without Miguel Almiron - who started for Paraguay in their loss to Brazil this past week - and Josef Martinez, who will miss several weeks due to injury.
For all the talk of Atlanta’s young attackers, their defense has been equally impressive. This was a solid road point for Atlanta, as Seattle was dangerous throughout. It was really fun to watch two former Fire players Harry Shipp and Joevin Jones link up on Seattle’s left side. They were arguably the most dangerous players throughout this game.
NYCFC 2, San Jose 1
San Jose jumped on NYCFC early. There was a poor back pass from Andrea Pirlo to NYCFC and former Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, Johnson managed to clear wide but the ball was mis-controlled and San Jose pounced on it to score a very early goal. NYCFC responded immediately. A ball from out wide came into David Villa and he tricked the entire San Jose defense with a clever little pass to put Jack Harrison on goal. Harrison’s shot was just good enough to beat the San Jose keeper who nearly parried the ball away. NYCFC found the winning goal in the second half with some really nice combo play. Again, the ball was played into Villa who made an equally clever pass in this build up. Eventually the ball was played over to Tommy McNamara who had an open net to pass into.
DC United 2, Philadelphia 1
Philadelphia gifted DC the first goal in this one. The Philadelphia keeper played a lobbed ball out wide to his left back, Fabinho, who was off balance and not ready for the pass. His header fell right into Lloyd Sam who played the ball into DC striker Jose Ortiz. His shot took a big time deflection into the back of the net. The second DC goal was scored from the PK spot by Luciano Acosta. I would have to say it was a questionable decision to give the PK for a hand-ball; DC may have been lucky to get their second. Philadelphia took the initiative in the second half trying to get back into the game and had the majority of the chances. Eventually CJ Sapong tapped in a goal off of a rebounded shot by Alejandro Bedoya. Bill Hamid made a couple of big saves to keep DC in front down the stretch.
Columbus 2, Orlando 0
This one was all Columbus and early on this season they have to be one of the bigger surprises in MLS. They continue to play well and have a bunch of attacking options to call upon with Federico Higuain, Justin Meram, Ola Kamara and Ethan Finlay. Newly acquired Kekuta Manneh will only add to that. Justin Meram scored the first goal after a long pass on a counter put him 1v1 with the Orlando keeper. Orlando was trying to get an equalizer when Antonio Nocerino gave the ball away. Columbus was ready to spring on the counter and again the ball found its way out wide to Meram who cut inside onto his right foot and scored. Columbus looked compact defensively and dangerous on the counter. The Fire defense will have their hands full this upcoming weekend.
Houston 4, NYRB 1
This was the surprise score line of the weekend. NYRB had a disappointing draw at home last weekend and I fully expected them to go to Houston and get a result. Bradley Wright Phillips scored the opening goal after Sacha Kljestan slipped him in. Houston equalized immediately though. Alex (yes, that Alex, former Fire player) put in a great ball to Dylan Remick whose powerful header beat Luis Robles. Cubo Torres then scored from the spot after the referee called a PK. After watching the replay a couple times it looks like it was a great tackle and an incorrect call.
Cubo led the Dynamo onslaught all day. Torres scored Houston’s third and fourth goals as well to net a hat trick. The third was produced by a hockey-style screen in front of Luis Robles. Torres hit his shot straight at the goalkeeper but it looked like Robles did not see it until late. The ball went straight off his palms and into the net. The fourth was a late free kick from a dead ball. Robles again got a hand to Torres’ shot but couldn’t keep it out. In the end I believe Houston definitely deserved the three points but it wasn’t as lopsided as the score would suggest.
Portland 1, New England 1
New England was fresh off the spanking they put onto Minnesota last week, but going to Portland is a difficult task for the best of sides. The Revolution put a little early pressure on Portland but once the Timbers settled in they took control and produced the majority of chances. A really bad clearance by Chris Tierney wound up in the path of Diego Valeri who scored a spectacular goal on the volley. The second half was a lot more of the same. Although New England did have some decent possession they failed to really threaten the Portland keeper or make a telling pass. That was until a cross from wide created some chaos in front of the Portland goal. Jake Gleeson failed to get direct the ball out of danger and Lee Nguyen pounced to bury a goal from close range. Ultimately a really good point for New England on the road.
Hot (Time) Take
You always like to take care of business at home given how hard it is to get results on the road in MLS. Having said that, I do think the point the Fire earned this weekend is valuable. Simply put, I believe the wooden spoon Fire would have lost this game in past seasons.
Given the circumstances of a trigger-happy referee giving out cards left and right I was happy to see our guys play until the last whistle to earn a draw that they absolutely deserved. There were two notable debuts, with Bastian and Daniel Johnson both making their first appearances for the Fire. I am excited to see what both can do throughout the season.
If you look around at the teams in the East this weekend, the results were mixed and all over the place. Toronto won’t be happy drawing at home, while Atlanta is likely more than happy with a point taken in Seattle. Jesse Marsch and the Red Bulls have a lot of work to do. Their youth movement isn’t off to the greatest start but there is certainly a learning curve in getting those youngsters to consistently perform each week.
NYCFC and Columbus have been the most consistent of the bunch recently. Even when David Villa isn’t scoring, he impacts each and every game. Since their loss in Houston, Columbus has won three straight games. As mentioned earlier, the Crew just have so many options to throw at a defense and you never really know where the damage may come from. The Fire host Columbus this weekend in Bridgeview and it is a crucial game for us against an Eastern Conference rival. Halting their win streak and perhaps launching our own would be an excellent statement.