Blog

MLS Regular Season

03 July 11:48 pm
Quote Sheet
Chicago Fire vs. San Jose Earthquakes
Toyota Park – July 3, 2013
 
Frank Klopas, Chicago Fire Head Coach
 
On how the team performed today
 
“I thought we played an excellent game. Regardless of the early goal, sometimes you get a little bit unlucky but that’s part of the game. I thought we played good soccer. Tactically the guys followed the plan that we discussed and we talked about. We created chances, we were dangerous…It was an exciting game and again we found a way to create chances and score some goals. It was an exciting game from both sides. They left everything on the field. It was an important game for us, being at home again. It’s been a tough stretch that we have to take one game at a time but starting with this one it is important to continue to play well and obviously getting the three points was big.”
 
On the team’s tactical initiative
 
“Zonally, the way San Jose defends, the one thing we talked about was looking to attack more out wide. Just looking to switch play all the time with movement from behind and if we could get moments on the switch where we could isolate Dilly [Duka] and Patrick [Nyarko] and have movement from behind to create numerical superiority, that’s what we were looking to do. I thought we moved the ball well, we switched, we were dangerous, and the guys put everything on the field and worked hard. All the ideas we talked about were enforced and I give credit to the guys. They left it all on the field and played good soccer. It was exciting for the fans and the three points is huge.”
 
On what the Fire does to prevent teams like San Jose from coming back
 
“San Jose did last year. They came back. They were up 1-0 and they came back. This is this year. The strikers that they have are a handful, they are very good in the air and you have to be very organized in the back. A lot of times, late in the game, they are a team that doesn’t give up. They are very good in the air, they are very good at winning second balls, and they just seem to have that belief. They don’t give up. We respect it and we talked about it, but it is never easy dealing with it in a game. Last year we gave up a late goal when they came back and scored in the 97th minute or something, but this time the team defended well all the way until the end.”
 
On the way San Jose’s late personnel changes effected his planning
 
“It was just two guys, pretty much [that we found out about late]. We knew the guys that were missing with their national teams so we knew that. Obviously with [Shea] Salinas being suspended, we found out today, so it was just basically two positions. [The plans] really didn’t change. Whether you start Lenhart or Jahn or Gordon I think they are pretty similar with their ability to be very good in the air and the direct play that they like to play. Some of the personnel was different but their approach to the game wasn’t going to change. So it was just one or two positions we weren’t really sure of until we got the game sheet.”
 
On Dilly Duka’s impressive performances in the last few games
 
“Players need time. It doesn’t happen overnight. Dilly has a lot of qualities and ability. You have seen some of the qualities that he has but right now he is doing so well. Not only his ability to make good decisions, hold the ball, and be dangerous. He is a great one-on-one player where he can beat defenders but now his ability, like the goal he scored, on the weak side making those runs, getting in position and following the play…but he’s only going to get better. I think it’s a matter of time to get his confidence, to get acquainted with the players, and all that cohesion that you develop. It doesn’t happen overnight. You have seen the qualities that he has and now we need to keep pushing his consistency. I expect a lot bigger things from him.”
 
On Patrick leaving the game because of his hamstring
 
“His hamstring was tight and he wanted to go a little more but we pulled him out. He didn’t tweak it or anything like that but we will have a better idea in the next couple of days. When he walked off and I talked to him he seemed to feel like he didn’t tweak anything but he was really tight to the point where maybe another sprint [could have made it worse]. You can see the second half he wasn’t really himself when he was sprinting or with his ability to recover back. It was bothering him and I think we took him out in time. I think we will see in the next couple days.”
 
On Paolo Tornaghi’s play tonight
 
“That position is never easy, especially when you need rhythm, you need games. I thought Paolo did well. It’s difficult when you don’t play in a long time to step in. I thought his ability to communicate and talk to the guys and stuff [was good]. He made some good saves. I thought he was good. He’s going to get better, obviously, with more minutes played. It’s a difficult position when you don’t have rhythm to go in and play. He’s an experienced guy even with his young age and I thought he did very well. He does communicate very well with the guys in the back and I think that helps.”
 
Mike Magee, Chicago Fire forward
 
On the result:
 
“Our soccer hasn’t been great at times, obviously we’ve been shooting ourselves in the foot, but we continue to get points since I’ve gotten here.”
 
On his player of the month award:
 
“I’m so excited that we got this win tonight, that’s all that matters.  We’re two points out of a playoff spot with a game in hand.  I know it’s too early to be counting points, but I feel like we are in control of our own destiny, so a win tonight is massive.”
 
On preparing to face Kansas City on a short rest:
 
“We need to get our rest.  Tomorrow we have off, we’ll enjoy our Fourth and hit it hard preparing on Friday.”
 
Dilly Duka, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On his recent play:
 
“I feel like everything is just going well right now. In a sports career it’s all about moments, it’s a marathon so you have to stay positive and keep going.  I feel like we’re just in a good situation right now and playing confidently.”
 
On his goal and assist in tonight’s game:
 
“I think it was a goal we needed and a goal that was coming.  We put a lot of pressure on them, it finally came and it was a huge relief.”
 
Chris Rolfe, Chicago Fire forward
 
On his confidence scoring in back-to-back games:
 
“Scoring goals is always good for an attacking player.  The game against Orlando was huge for all of us.  I think Dilly [Duka] had great game then also, which translated into his play tonight.  He had a great game, I think Jeff [Larentowicz] played a solid game and overall I think it was probably our most complete game so far this year.”
 
Patrick Nyarko, Chicago Fire midfielder
 
On another comeback performance:
 
“It makes it exciting for our fans but we don’t need to put ourselves in that position to have to try and comeback.  We didn’t mean for it to happen again, it was a broken play right in to their hands.  We need to find consistency in not giving up the first goal.”
 
On Chris Rolfe and Dilly Duka’s recent play:
 
“It opens up everything for everyone because they have to worry about everyone.  They can’t double team because it leaves a guy open.  We got a lot of chances out wide today because they’re focused on everyone.  If they sensed the outside was crowded they’d double team the outside, then Chris [Rolfe] and Mike [Magee] got open.  We played a beautiful game today from the stand point of executing our game plan and breaking down the opponent.  We just hope to keep that confidence going for everyone.” 
 
San Jose Interim Head Coach Mark Watson

On the defensive performance:
 
“Well, first of all I thought overall the performance was pretty good.  We did a lot of good things tonight for a game on the road against a good Chicago team.  We created a lot of chances but we had a few lapses of concentration in the back and that is something you cannot do on the road and expect to get a result. “
 
On possible changes to the defense:
 
“It’s a work in progress.  We have had a lot of different line ups so we’ve been working with the players that we have in the time that we have.  We try to work on all the parts of defending-working as a unit, getting that understanding, making smart decisions on the ball.  It’s not something that happens over night and we will continue to work hard at it.”
 
On perhaps sacrificing the outside backs for a more defensive minded player:
 
“I think Justin [Morrow] and Steve [Beitashour] do go forward well.  We talk a lot about who should go and when and who should stay and when.  It’s something we work on a lot in terms of sending the right numbers forward and keeping the right numbers back to defend.  So we look at that all the time.  One thing I don’t think you can do is sit back and not send anyone forward.  That’s not a way to win a game either.  It’s about finding the right balance and we need to work on that. 
 
On the quality of the goals scored against the Earthquakes versus previous matches:
 
“Well, we are disappointed we lost the game.  We are going to look at the video and try to correct our mistakes looking forward.  But I thought the group was new, there were a lot of changes from the last game so we didn’t have a lot of time to prepare the team.  But we are disappointed with the result and we will keep working.”
 
On Brad Ring’s performance:
 
“I thought Brad did well tonight.  Brad’s a big part of this team.  I know he doesn’t play a lot of minutes but he’s already ready when we need him.  I thought he had a good performance tonight.  What we will do, as a coach, I never really want to speak what happened on the goals, I sit in a spot that has the worst perspective in the stadium on what happened.  I’m going to look at the video before I make any specific comments about the goals.”
 
San Jose Earthquakes Goalkeeper Jon Busch
 
On not coming away with points tonight even after missing so many players:
 
“We are obviously frustrated.  We worked so hard tonight on both sides of the ball.  It’s unfortunate not to come out of here two-two.  Magee miss hits a ball and Rolfe gets on the end of it.  Rolfe is a great goal poacher.  He does that quite a bit.  It’s just frustrating that you think you should get out of there two-two.”
On the defense conceding goals:
 
“I think without looking at the replay the first goal was very fortunate, he scuffs a ball and it somehow gets through two or three guys who are trying to block it and it goes into the corner.  And obviously the game winner-their second goal, Patrick Nyarko makes a good goal, I will give him that.  But the other ones are fortunate for them and unfortunate for us.  What can you say?  That’s the way the ball is bouncing right now.”
 
On working on being a team that is harder to break down defensively:
 
“We just need to keep working.  We weren’t as organized as we would like to be.  We got broken down.  Tomorrow we will look at the tape and makes some adjustments for the weekend.  We have to keep battling and keep organized.  When we are hard to break down we are in every game.  The guys worked their tails off tonight-blocking shots and doing the dirty work.  They are a dynamic team with Rolfe and Magee up top, they test you, they spread you out and for the most part we did very well dealing with them.  There are just a couple plays we could do better on.”
On looking forward against New England and getting some reinforcements:
 
“We’ve got enough talent on this team no matter who is in the lineup to get results on the road, no matter who is missing or suspended.  We’ve got enough talent, that is why the built this team deep.  And the end of the day, we have to get results on the field.”
 
San Jose Earthquakes Defender Jason Hernandez
 
On whether giving up three goals is a fair indicating of their performance tonight:
 
“Um, yes and no.  I think we put in a great effort and did a lot of good things but at the same time, we made mistakes that we got punished for.  I think their first goal was a bit of a muff shot and their third goal was another duff shot that went right to one of their players who was running into its path.  You can call it unlucky but the bottom line is, these are plays that decide a game and we are coming on the wrong side of it more times than not.”
 
On whether he thinks San Jose is getting tougher to break down:
 
“To be honest, I think a lot of games this year we haven’t been completely exposed and look like a flustered or weak defensive team.  I think through the course of a match, I think there are a handful of mistakes that are made and you either get punished for them or not.  I think last year we didn’t get punished for them, and this year we are getting punished for them every single there is a break down.  Unfortunately we are doing a lot of the right things, but we can’t keep the ball out of the net.  That’s the game.”
 
On missing 5 starters:
 
“Any time we set off on a road trip and are missing 5 starters from the match before, you are behind the eight ball already.  We are lucky we have a good team that has guys that can fill those holes.  But it’s a battle.  It’s going to take another strong effort mentally and physically in Boston and we’re going to have to keep grinding and push for a win because time is running short.”
02 July 2:05 pm

It was May 25 and I sat at Section 8 Chicago’s watch party at A.J. Hudsons, slightly distraught.

Despite seeing the Fire put in a fantastic effort in the always difficult climes of Rio Tinto Stadium I sat there in disbelief, surrounded by Fire supporters far more vocal in their dismay after witnessing Real Salt Lake’s Alvaro Saborio put the home side ahead 1-0 in the 78th minute.

The feeling was one I remembered -- the same aching pit in the stomach I’d felt nearly the entire game a week earlier in Philadelphia and then a week before that when the Fire had dominated but still found a way to lose at home to the Union.

I sat there for six minutes telling myself “Hey, we just pulled of a trade coup in acquiring Mike Magee” and “Bakary Soumare is going to help improve our back line immensely.”

Thankfully it took just six minutes before I felt good again and it was all down to an unlikely hero and an even less likely play as Quincy Amarikwa came flying through to volley home an improbable equalizer in the 84th minute.

Hudson’s erupted and though the game would only finish as a draw, it certainly felt like a win.

Fast forward five weeks and the Fire find themselves in the semifinals of the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup, just five points out of a playoff spot with two games in hand and on an eight-game unbeaten run that began that night on the Wasatch Front.

Four days after escaping Rio Tinto with a point, Magee would tally his first goal in a Fire shirt just 11 minutes into his club debut. All but about 1,500 people in Rock Hill, S.C. nearly missed it as my laptop carrying the YouTube stream crashed right at kickoff of the match.

As I sweat buckets there was something about the way my computer rebooted itself that told me things were going to be okay. Yes it took 11 minutes to get the feed back up but it returned just in time for anyone that held out hope to see Magee nod home his first Fire goal.

Every night since first suiting up that night in front of a small crowd in South Carolina, Magee has tallied for the Fire. Soumare has brought stability to a back line that has given up less than a goal a game in its last eight outings.

No doubt their acquisitions have helped the turnaround but it’d be wrong to say that the team didn’t already have a decent setup in place.

Along with their play, offseason acquisitions Jeff Larentowicz, Joel Lindpere and Dilly Duka have all contributed in a big way over the last month, complimenting the consistent performances of Patrick Nyarko, Gonzalo Segares, Logan Pause and Daniel Paladini.

Having never previously tallied in the U.S. Open Cup before 2013, Chris Rolfe has found a bit of a goal-scoring touch in the tournament, scoring three goals in as many games so far in this year’s competition.

This isn’t to say the eight-game unbeaten run has all been pretty. There have certainly been moments (see the first half against Portland) where we’d like to see more from the Fire and many times where goalkeeper Sean Johnson has had to come up huge to ensure the positive run.

But just as it seemed the Fire couldn’t get any bounces to go their way at the start of 2013, the karma, minutia, or maybe just the soccer gods seem to be smiling down on a team that wasn’t quite punching their weight at the beginning.

Now that I've suffiently set a jinx, yes the Fire are still 5-7-3 and yes, whether in the league or the Open Cup, plenty of work remains to be done to dig out of the hole from which they started the season. Depth needs to be built in the back and up front but it's still worth saying again, what a difference five weeks can make.

02 July 10:06 am

After the weekend off, the Fire head back on the field Wednesday night against the San Jose Earthquakes with the team looking to extend its eight-game unbeaten streak to nine (LIVE 7:00pm CT on My50).

San Jose played late Saturday night against LA and came from two goals and a man down to win 3-2. Both teams are still on the outside of the playoff spots looking in but are moving in the right direction. Here are some things to look out for from a tactical perspective Wednesday night.

Gold Cup changes – Both San Jose and the Fire missing players – who will it affect more?

Both the Earthquakes and the Fire will be missing players due to CONCACAF Gold Cup commitments but in terms of sheer numbers, San Jose is certainly hit harder. The California club is sending four players to compete while goalkeeper Sean Johnson is the Fire’s only representative.

The Earthquakes will also be without center back Victor Bernardez who picked up a red card against LA.

READ: "July is my moment" says Paolo Tornaghi

The losses of last year’s MLS Golden Boot winner Chris Wondolowski and dynamic midfielder Marvin Chavez are especially tough and San Jose will certainly be relying even more on strikers Steven Lenhart and Alan Gordon Wednesday.

Paolo Tornaghi is no stranger to the Fire net but will be looking to put in a better performance than his last MLS outing, giving up four goals at home to Chivas USA back in March.

Still, Tornaghi is an excellent goalkeeper and could easily be starting for another team in MLS. With Sean Johnson missing for the better part of a month, this is a chance for the former Inter Milan ‘keeper to really step up and force coach Frank Klopas into making a tough decision on the starting job once Johnson returns.

Keeping an eye on the outsides – Morrow and Beitashour are attacking threats

When you have strikers who are good in the air like San Jose has with the likes of Wondolowski, Lenhart and Gordon you want your wide players to be able to put a good cross in. The Earthquake’s wing backs can certainly do that.

Rolfe, Tornaghi Preview San Jose

Both Justin Morrow and Steven Beitashour enjoy getting forward and their crossing ability is outstanding. Thankfully Gonzalo Segares did not get called into Costa Rica’s Gold Cup squad and his battle against Beitashour will be one to watch on Wednesday.

Beitashour’s numbers are certainly down from last season where he recorded six assists but he is still a player the Fire cannot allow space to cross the ball into the box.

In the ‘Quakes last away match against D.C. United last month, Morrow got forward a lot more than this past weekend’s match against LA. The outside backs attempted a combined 13 crosses in that match compared to only seven in the LA match.

Limiting the number of crosses should be a goal for the Men in Red on Wednesday night.

Tightening up at the back – important for Berry and Soumare to get their positioning right

With the possibility of both Lenhart and Alan Gordon starting for San Jose, both Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry must be prepared for some bruising physical battles.

Another thing the central defenders must keep an eye on is their positioning. An overlooked aspect of the Fire’s 5-1 victory over Orlando City in the U.S. Open Cup quarterfinal last week was the amount of good chances Orlando had, especially on 1v1 duels with Sean Johnson.

READ: Could Victor Pineda's first team debut be in sight?

The Orlando strikers were able to get as many chances as they did due to some positioning errors by the Fire’s central defenders. Better communication between the pair, the back line and goalkeeper as a whole should correct this problem.

This will also be Tornaghi’s first match playing with Soumare so it will be interesting to see how good the players’ communication with one another is.

At times Berry and Soumare make it hard for themselves with some lackluster positioning which resulted in them having to make up ground and make some last ditch tackles, something we saw against Orlando on more than one occasion.

Though Gordon and Lenhart are more about physicality than movement, I look for the Fire center backs to tighten up a bit on Wednesday and continue to improve on their less than one goal a game against average during this current eight-game unbeaten streak.

Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from Patrick Nyarko and “Magic” Mike Magee

29 June 11:32 am

If you're like me, you might have spent your Friday night away from a television, meaning you missed the second episode of MLS Insider on NBC Sports Network. 

No fears though, catch the full episode featuring the Houston Dynamo's 2006 MLS Cup championship, a segment on FC Dallas keeper Raul Fernandez and the best and worst moments of the past week..

Tune in or set your DVRs for MLS Insider, Fridays at 6:30pm CT. You may see a Fire player featured quite soon...

24 June 3:03 pm

The Fire start sluggishly and give up an early goal thanks to some sloppiness. The first half runs its course with a series of dreary long balls, and very little else worth mentioning. The second half begins, the Fire come out a totally different team. They move the ball quicker. They even the game. They continue pressing. They take the lead. The second half develops into a series of counter attacks on one end and dramatic blocks, saves, and misses on the other. The game ends, the Fire players celebrate.

Sound familiar? After almost carbon copy games against Colorado and in Columbus last week (not to mention similar feeling games against Portland and RSL), the Fire games are becoming something like the works of one of those airport authors - the characters change and the setting is different, but the arc remains the same.

Not that we’re lacking any drama. These comebacks are scintillating, and we deserve it after those early games that were, frankly, difficult to watch. Now Fire games are chaotic, fun spectacles.

I was pining for a hockey-like empty netter on Saturday when all possible counterattacks flamed out and, yet again, we never got the insurance goal that would let us relax and enjoy the last few minutes of the game. Just like Wednesday against Colorado, the Fire survived Columbus thanks to some great work by Sean Johnson in goal, some miscues, and a few fortunate bounces.

Of course, every comeback is different, and this time there was no Klopas Gambit. There weren’t major changes in shape or personnel. What was different was who stepped up to change the game.

Last week we talked about Jeff Larentowicz really driving the Fire upwards, and literally the first play of the second half, the play that set the tone for the ensuing comeback, was of Larentowicz tackling Oduro hard at midfield.

But all of a sudden it looks like the Fire have depth all over the place. Players that struggled to make an impact at the beginning of the season are proving their worth. Joel Lindpere had two beautiful assists, Dilly Duka was arguably player of the game Saturday against his old team, and with Magee about as hot as a player can get, it’s no surprise the Fire are charging up the table.

VOTE: Dilly Duka for MLS Goal of the Week!

The attitude in the locker room has to be refreshing. After the game on Saturday, Magee said, “We know we can battle and we fight for each other, that’s the hardest thing in soccer.” Despite the slow starts and the stressful endings, the Fire are building something.

Let’s enjoy it with another look at Duka skinning and megging Chad Barson.

24 June 11:36 am

Sunday's announcement of Arne Friedrich's retirement was a tough one to take but the Twitterverse did a great job to pay tribute to the two-time German World Cup veteran's illustrious career.

Here are some of our favorite tweets from Sunday:

22 June 11:54 pm

Select shots from the Fire's 2-1 win over the Crew.

Credit: USA Today Sports Images

21 June 8:54 am

The Men in Red extended their unbeaten streak to six games across all competitions on Wednesday night (4-0-2), coming behind to defeat the Colorado Rapids 2-1. Columbus notched a big win against Montreal last time out and face difficult trips to Kansas City and LA after the Saturday’s home game against the Fire.

Here are some things to keep an eye on from a tactical perspective in this big match for both teams (LIVE Saturday 6:30pm CT on My50).

The turnover game - both teams will look to pressure each other’s back line

In the Crew’s most recent loss to the Union earlier this month, the Ohio team had major problems retaining possession when put under pressure. The Union forwards, especially Jack McInerny, did not allow Columbus time on the ball and the pressure led to Philly getting on the score sheet.

Johnson, Rolfe Preview Columbus

As we know, players like Mike Magee, Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko are excellent at putting pressure on the opponent’s defense and this will be important on Saturday night.

On the other side of the coin, the Crew like to deploy the high pressure tactic too, with former Fire player Dominic Oduro often hunting down defenders and not allowing them time on the ball.

READ: Berry recovers from blunder with winning goal vs. Rapids

In the Crew's 2-0 win over the Montreal Impact last weekend, Oduro stole the ball from a Montreal defender before slotting home the Crew's second goal in the 22nd minute.

Fire defender Austin Berry had an unfortunate incident in Wednesday's match against Colorado where he was stripped of the ball allowing rookie Deshorn Brown to give Colorado the lead.

In a game that is expected to be very tight, the team making the least mental mistakes could end up on top.

The battle on the left side - Duka/Lindpere vs Anor

Columbus winger Bernardo Anor won many plaudits for his performance against Montreal last week on his first start back from a horrible ACL injury.

The left-footed Venezuelan started on the right against the Impact and will be looking to build on that performance against the Fire Saturday night.

On the same side of the field, coach Frank Klopas will be choosing between former Crew winger Dilly Duka and veteran Joel Lindpere for the start.

Dan and Kevin Talk Crew

Duka played his best game for the Men in Red against Colorado on Wednesday night as he was able to get in 1v1 situations on numerous occasions and earned the penalty that equalized the match.

Lindpere has yet to fully live up to the high expectations put on him by Fire fans after his move from New York this offseason.

With the team in the middle of a 4 games in 11 day stretch, a start for Lindpere seems plausible.

Getting back into the stating XI in a huge Eastern Conference showdown could be the perfect motivation for Lindpere to put in a man of the match performance on Saturday night.

Dominic Oduro - A striker with a point to prove

With seven goals to his name this season, Dominic Oduro has landed on his feet in Columbus after his trade away from the Windy City. Oduro also seems to have developed into a more complete striker since his move.

The speedy Ghanaian’s patience on the ball has resulted in him making better decisions and linking with his midfielders more instead of going alone and trying to score.

What has impressed me about Oduro since the trade is his move away from a reliance on his right foot to a player that is comfortable shooting with both.

READ: The Influence of Jeff Larentowicz

Fire fans will remember Oduro's hot and cold finishing but on his day, he can be unstoppable. The Fire have held Oduro scoreless in two matches already this season but at home, the Ghanaian will be aiming to prove a point and it is up to the Fire defenders to keep him quiet on Saturday night.

Prediction: 2-1 Fire with a brace from midfielder Alex

Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.

20 June 3:03 pm

With all the talk of "Magic" Mike Magee and his ridiculous five goals in five games since joining the Fire, it was always likely that other players would be overlooked.
 
But as much as Magee (or maybe because of him) we’ve seen other players step up and contribute to the Fire’s season-saving June. Midfielders like Alex and Daniel Paladini mitigated the effects of losing Logan Pause, defenders Jalil Anibaba and new addition Bakary Soumare stabilized what was a less than sturdy backline, and up front, Patrick Nyarko, Chris Rolfe, and Sherjill MacDonald selflessly put in the work supporting Magee.
 
But perhaps the most influential non-Magee on the Fire this season has been Jeff Larentowicz. The veteran was brought in this offseason and immediately won a spot in the starting line-up, a spot he proved he deserved with his signature tackling, distribution, and even a game-winning goal early in the season.
 
 
On Wednesday night against Colorado, Larentowicz showed once again why he’s become the platform on which the Fire’s recent surge was built (see his heat map to the right).
 
It was his harrying and tackling that helped change the momentum of the game after Colorado’s early goal (see his 30th minute tackle, and the effort he put in to win a goal kick in his own box a few minutes earlier). Later in the second half, as Colorado pressed to equalize, his header just wide was the Fire’s best chance. 
 
Maybe one ten minute period showed it best: His skill in the 71st minute won the Fire a corner and diffused pressure; his block in the 78th maintained the Fire’s lead.
 
And just like his eagerness this season has led to some ups and downs (including that unfortunate red card at Montreal), his early yellow card for diving in a little over zealously threatened to hamper his effectiveness. Would he hesitate to tackle out of fear of his second yellow?
 
Nope. It seems like he doesn’t let anything shake him off. We’ve talked about “Magee Face”, that expression of all the emotions a soccer game can summon in a person, all the heartbreak and endeavor and passion. “Larentowicz Face” is the opposite. It’s stone cold. It’s not hashtag material. It’s focused and determined and sort of scary.

 


 

That’s why his reaction after his miss in the second half was so endearing. As Fire fans and the My50 announcers celebrated what looked like a goal from certain angles, Larentowicz reacted with unadulterated frustration and anger. In his mind, he should’ve scored, he knew he had it, and as a leader by example, he couldn’t contain the flash of the expectations he has of himself. It was a totally honest moment.
 
As the game Wednesday progressed, Fire fans licked their lips at the prospect of Magee (and later MacDonald), Nyarko, and Rolfe running through wide open spaces in the Colorado defense.
 
But none of the counterattacks panned out. In the end, what defined the end of the game was a little bit of luck, sure, but mostly it was the plucky work of the Fire as a unit, withstanding the pressure and closing it out. Nobody represents that more than Larentowicz, and you could read it on his face.
 
Onwards. Three points. Who’s next?

Ben Schuman-Stoler is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @bsto.