McBride, Mapp burn brightest for Fire

De los Cobos changes it up, gets first MLS win

In his first three games as head coach of the Chicago Fire,
Carlos de los Cobos proved that he isn’t afraid to shake things up in the
starting lineup.

The rookie MLS coach previously made the majority of his
week-to-week changes in the back line, keeping the pool of starting midfielders
and forwards relatively stable from game to game.

<p>Watch: <a style="color: #336699; font-weight: bold; text-decoration: none;" href="http://www.mlssoccer.com/content/highlights-dc-vs-chi">FULL MATCH HIGHLIGHTS</a></p>

But for Saturday night’s match at D.C. United, de los Cobos
switched things up in the attack. He started midfielder Justin Mapp in favor of
forward Brian McBride and switched from the familiar 4-4-2 formation to a
previously unseen 4-5-1.

And while some of de los Cobos’ earlier changes didn’t
exactly pan out, his managerial decisions worked to near perfection Saturday,
when the Fire picked up their first victory of the young season by defeating
the still winless D.C. United 2-0 at RFK Stadium. 

De los Cobos' most effective lineup change
might have been the decision to bench McBride for the opening 75 minutes of the
match.  The 37-year-old veteran looked
far from his best in his three starts to open the season, but he did very well
in a substitute’s role in this one, setting up the Fire’s first goal and
scoring the second. 

Just as impressive as his assist and goal was McBride’s willingness
to chase after balls in the attacking third. The famously fit McBride looked quick while hustling after D.C.
defenders and applied a lot of defensive pressure on United.

De los Cobos also did
well to give Mapp his first start of the season. Mapp, who hadn’t made an appearance in the
first XI since last October, looked good on the wings Saturday night. He made several dangerous runs down the line
and did well while tracking back, notching a couple of excellent tackles. 

The match was Mapp’s most complete performance in quite some
time, and if he’s able to repeat his strong showing in the future, de los Cobos
will have some difficult decisions to make. 

One decision that should no longer be difficult for de los Cobos
is who to start at left back. Polish
defender Krzysztof Krol made his second start in three matches Saturday night
and looked good. Krol did well against
D.C.’s attackers and made a couple of very nice runs down the wing.

His overlap of  Mapp -- and subsequent dribble down the left
sideline -- in the 74th minute looked particularly dangerous and he
did nicely to end his venture into the attacking third by drawing a free kick
from a threatening position. 

Another bright spot for the Fire was winger Patrick
Nyarko. For the fourth consecutive game,
Nyarko posed great danger to the opposition’s defense, and the determination
and hustle he displayed while setting up the Fire’s first goal was
impressive. 

Unfortunately for the Fire, Nyarko came off due to injury in
the 84th minute. It was
unclear what the specifics of the substitution inducing injury were, but he did
feel the brunt of a head-to-head collision only six minutes before coming
off. 

Sill, there's always room for improvement. The team
certainly could have done better with their shooting and de los Cobos will want
to run through some finishing drills in training this week. The Fire won’t be able to get away with
squandering good chances when they take on Houston next Saturday at Toyota
Park.