Well it is match day and I am going to do my typical updates, you will get my thoughts posted every 10 minutes or every time a major event happens.
Up first is the starting lineups: Chicago- Dykstra, Krol, Watson-Sirboe, Brown, Kinney, Banner, Conde, Pause, Husidic, Pappa and Dimitrov. This tells me that the FIre are doing as expected and going to play a very defensive minded style tonight.
Real Salt Lake will go with the lineup I thought they would- Nick Rimando, Robbie Russell, Jamison Olave, Nat Borchers, Chris Wingert, Andy Williams, Javier Morales, Ned Grabavoy, Will Johnson, Alvaro Saborio and Robbie Findley. RSL is going to go for the jugular early and often and it will be interesting to see how the Firedo with Conde in the middle. The bench for RSL is Fabian Espindola, Pablo Campos, Jean Alexandre, Collen Warner, Tony Beltran, Chris Schuler, and Kyle Reynish.
Well now that the King James drama is over, he is going to Miami. We can move on to what matters and that is what can RSL do in their 15th match of the MLS season? This match could go a long way to letting us know exactly what the rest of the season could hold, RSL has never beaten the Fire in Chicago, and only have one win over the Fire since joining the league. A win tonight would be the third road win for RSL this year, something they didn't do over the entire 2009 MLS season.
The players are out of the tunnel and ESPN 2 is in their final break and it should be kick off time in just seconds. OK, going to say the white RSL kits look great in HD. Early on both sides are attacking the ball well and Pappa plays it out for a RSLthrow in deep in their own end. The Fire end up with a corner kick, and Ned clears it out for the Fire throw in, good pressure from RSL as the Fire have to go back to the keeper to get reorganized. Still a lot of back and forth and RSL get into the final third but it goes out for a Fire goal kick.Javi steals it at midfield and fires a shot just pushed wide and out for a RSL corner kick. Javi takes it and Olave's header is off target and out for a goal kick.
Bothsides are struggling a bit with their first touch, and I have to admit the ESPN crew is surprising me as they are really doing a lot of talking up of RSL, and a huge run by Banner but it is just a bit long, hmm wasn't he one of my wildcards? RSL back on the attack and the pass by Saborio is broken up and the Fire take back over and are slowly moving the ball forward. A foul gives the Fire a free kick.but Nick clears it as some early pressure by RSL have the Fire a bit rattled.
more after the jump:
Pappa and the Fire get some possession and Banner fires a shot which is wide and we are still at 0-0. Both teams are still getting short stretches of possession, but RSL seem the more aggressive and so far the more dangerous despite Chicago taking more shots so far. RSL's passing seems to be getting a bit sharper as the match is progressing, a long ball it picked off by the Fire, who counter with their own long ball that bounces to Rimando. The Fire are tying to build their attack again and another long ball to Banner is just a bit too long yet again and RSL take back over.
Conde takes down Johnson and RSL get a free kick at midfield. Javi lines up to take it as RSL moves numbers forward, and a decent ball is cleared by the Fire and when it is played back in Olave is offside. Good long ball by the Fire but it is cleared out to the midfield but the Fire take back over and Pappa is leading the attack but ball is played out off the head of Hisidic.
RSL does a nice job of attacking are pressuring the Fire who have responded by playing with 9-10 men behind the ball, but so far it is working as RSL has had to settle for shots from distance. The Fire attack and get into the area but Will Johnson breaks that up and RSL go back on the attack. So far I have to say that Saborio hasn't been getting many touches on the ball and a cross by Wingert is cleared but the ball is bouncing around the midfield. Pappa finds some room and his shot is awful and rolls right to Rimando who picks it up.
RSL is doing a nice job of moving forward with numbers but so far the final passes and shots have been less than stellar and a good ball to Saborio, who brings it down and takes a shot but it is right to the keeper and the Fire take over but give it right back to RSL who move forward again but it goes back over to the Fire. The Fire look a lot more dangerous as they get numbers forward and Javi can't break it up but the shot by Kinney goes wide and back over to RSL.
RSL move forward with numbers but again the Fire pack their players behind the ball and break it up but as they try to play a long ball it goes right to Nick and RSL take back over. Wingert moves up and gets the ball moving as RSL has 9 players in the Fire half of the pitch but an bad pass and the Fire take over but their effort to get the ball to Pappa is stopped by the offside flag and RSL takes back over. A long ball into the area by Morales and it goes to Dkystra but his clearance goes right back over to RSL but they turn it over and the fire are on the attack but Russell breaks it up.
RSL slow things down a bit to get reorganized, but moving forward is tough as the Fire have 10 men behind the ball again and RSL turns it over as Wingert can't keep it inside the line. This could be a good time for RSL as the Fire have given up a lot of goals in the final 15 minutes of halves. A good ball to Findley but he fails to keep it but the Fire turn it right back over and Andy fires a great shot from 25 yards out, but the keeper is there. That was a good series and RSL have gotten the ball right back and are once again trying to get the Fire to come out to cover them but the Fire are playing a defensive style.
Robbie fires a shot and it gets past the keeper but the Fire are saved by the woodwork, and the follow up sees Findley making a run and going down in the box and the official is pointing to the spot and RSL will get their first PK of the year and Robbie will take it. Dkystra finally gets in the net, but Robbie puts it past him and RSL is up 1-0. Robbie may have sold it a bit but there was contact.
Well RSL have the ball again and are looking to open up some space but they give the ball over as Pappa steals it but his attacking effort was hampered by Will, and the shot was way off target. So two things have come true the Fire are giving up goals late in the half and the official is a factor. Robbie gets the ball in the area, and is alone with the keeper but he hesitates and the defenders close down on him and he is unable to get a shot off, that is a bit of a disappointment.
RSL are still in control of the ball, and they finally turn it over but the Fire do RSL a favor and give it right back on a throw in in their own third of the pitch. Javi with some fancy footwork, but RSL fails to get off a shot as we enter the minute of stoppage time. RSL again have the ball, they have dominated the possession in this half and they are passing it around and looking to kill off the half. They finally play a long ball but it goes right to the keeper and the Fire again turn it over but RSL's long ball to Findley is too long and the whistle blows and the first half is over with RSL up 1-0.
Well RSL dominated possession of the ball, but seem almost to be too deliberate as they try to build their attacks. Part of this is being caused by the Fire playing so many men behind the ball, but part of it is likely the knowledge that the Fire are fairly dangerous on the counter attack. I think RSL has to get more touches for Saborio, Williams, and Russell as that side of the field isn't being used as effectively. RSL gets the lead on a PK, their first of the year and it is hard to imagine that it has taken 15 matches to get one called our way. Robbie Russell did a nice job of selling the foul as the contact was there but perhaps a bit light for the PK call. Wonder if he learned that move in the US camp? Anyhow it is almost time for the second half, so here we go.
The Fire make a couple changes as Mapp and McBride are brought on, not sure who has gone off but Brian makes an impact as he tries to get turned against Borchers but he cant and his shot is wide. Pause and Dimitrov are the players who have gone off, it has made a huge change as the Fire are much more aggressive and effective as they get a shot, misses but a corner kick and Kinney gets his head to it but off the post and out for another PK as each team now have a shot that has gone off the post. The Fire are clearly playing better, but the action is stopped as Javi goes down and the training staff is out to check on him.
It will be interesting to see how Olave and Borchers deal with McBride. Javi is down again and slowly gets up, you have to wonder what is wrong with him? The Fire have possessed the ball almost the entire time since the half has started and out for another Fire corner kick. Banner takes the kick, he finds Conde at the far post but his header is off target and out for a goal kick, and you have to wonder how RSL will respond to the two changes by the Fire and the fact that they are now playing a much more aggressive and effective style. RSL finally get a little possession and a foul as Williams goes down and RSL will get a free kick from about 20 yards outside of the area. Javi lines up for it, but McBride clears it but the Fire struggle to get out of their own half. Finally they do but they turn it right back over to RSL and a great ball to Findley, but he can't do much with it but the Fire almost give it up in their own area. Mapp goes down as he goes shoulder to shoulder with Williams.
Ned gets called for the foul on McBride and the FIre get a free kick from just a couple yards outside of the area, Pappa takes it and it goes off the wall and out for a Fire corner, and another good ball but Kinney gets his head to it again but it also hits the post and the last 10 minutes have been all Fire. RSL make their first change of the match as Robbie Findley goes off and Fabi is on, but the Fire again are on the attack and it goes out for a RSL goal kick.
Mapp is making the RSL midfield look like Swiss cheese, and eventually they turn it over and RSL get a throw in at midfield and they need to find a way to get some possession but they turn it right back over, but the Fire falter and RSL is on the attack. Fabi gets to the edge of the area before turning it over but RSL get it right back but it goes out for a Fire throw in. I wonder if we will see Alexandre come in soon to boost the midfield with some fresh legs?
The Fire are now doing what RSL had done in the first half, passing the ball and looking for spaces in the defense and they are dong well, but RSL get the ball, but Fabi fires a shot it goes high and out for a goal kick. RSL's streak is now 470 minutes without giving up a goal, and they can thank the post that robbed Findley in the first half, as it did the same thing to the Fire in the second half. Fabi plays a ball into the area but Javi isn't able to get to it as Dykstra grabs it, RSL need to slow down and connect some passes, and force the Fire to run after them. A good ball to Banner but Olave pushes it away and out for a corner kick, but Olave is down and holding his knee but he gets back up.
The corner is cleared but not out of danger and a ball across the area, and once again Olave is down and as he gets back up he is limping and you have to wonder when the change will be made. I think Beltran in and Russell moves into the middle, as clearly you don't want Olave to get hurt. Another corner for the Fire, a yellow for Johnson, the corner is cleared by Borchers, wow a bad ball by Olave that goes out for a corner instead of to the keeper. Banner takes it, and it Conde fails to do anything with it but the Fire keep possession, RSL dodge a bullet as Rimando gets a hand to just push the shot away from the goal and RSL clear it but the FIre are back on the attack. Wow Borchers is cut above his eye and bleeding and you now have both central defenders in rough shape. Conde clearly got him with his head, and right now RSL is down to 10 men, and RSL will need to be careful, Pappa to Banner, and eventually to McBride but he misses the goal and RSL is reall dodging bullets right now. Fabi makes an attack but Fabi goes down easily in the area and missed a wide open Saborio, and the Fire are back on the attack but out for a RSL goal kick.
A handball called on Javi and the Fire will have a free kick about 15 yards outside of the area, and Borchers is going to try to get back in. Andy Williams goes out for Jean Alexandre, and Nat is back in the match before the free kick, it goes into the wall and the follow up is blocked by Javi and RSL get a throw in. Fabi turns the ball over but Jean gets it back but no support and it goes back over to the Fire. The Fire are now slowing down and looking to force RSL to respond and lose their shape, but RSL is doing OK and Javi makes a steal and is fouled by Conde, who has to be close to getting a card in this one, a free kick but RSL is looking for some possession instead of going directly to goal, wow a good ball by Johnson but Borchers is in the area and not sure what to do, and his pass to Saboio isn't completed. Jean has made a couple big plays since coming in and is doing a nice job of attacking the ball and creating havoc.
10 minutes left in the match and the Fire are once again in the RSL final third but they are unable to do much and it goes out for a goal kick. RSL is doing a better job of attacking and trying to get some possession, a turnover lets the FIre attack but they go all the way back to the keeper in order to restart their attack. Long ball broke up by Olave and all the way back to Dykstra, Mapp plays a ball into the area but nobody can get there and out for a goal kick. Tony is going to come in for Saborio as RSL is going to try to protect their 1-0 lead as the clock gets close to 85:00
The fire are making a change Bone in for Husidic, and the Fire turn it over in the midfield and now RSL will look to slow down and keep possession. This match has clearly been one in which each half has been very different, RSL was the superior team in the first half but the Fire have really been the better team in the second half. Fire throw in deep in the RSL half of the pitch, Olave clears and the Fire get it right back, Banner goes down as Jean gets the ball and RSL is countering and holding the ball in the Fire end of the pitch.
It goes out and the Fire get the ball back after RSL ran 2 minutes off the clock, and now the question will be how much stoppage time and can RSL hold on? A bad turnover by the Fire, but a whistle on Fabi for a handball, and then he kicks it out and gets the yellow card. Jean breaks up the Fire attack and the Fire settle for a corner kick, and 4 minutes are going to be added on, but RSL clears it out of danger but the Fire keep the ball. Javi steals it and works it to Fabi who doesn't go to the corner but attacks and is lucky to not turn it over as RSL get a throwin.
So I am going to say that Jean has been huge since coming on, and Javi gets fouled just outside of the area on the end line, and RSL is trying to simply run the clock out and it goes over to the Fire. You know it is funny that Jason said after the San Jose match that you sometimes have to be happy to get points when you don't play your best and whatever points RSL get out of this one will be those types of points.
Well the 4 minutes are up on the clock, and the Fire are almost out of chances and they are too slow to restart the play and the whistle blows and RSL get the win. Their 5th clean sheet, and the steak of 498 minutes without giving up a goal, and their first regular season win at Chicago and RSL get to the midpoint of the season with a 9-3-3 record. It wasn't anything pretty, the second half was ugly, but RSL have their 3rd road win of the season.
OFF MY SOAPBOX