A quick glance at the Fire team sheet Thursday night sent a certain shock to some in Fire nation.
It wasn’t Wilman Conde’s appearance in midfield or Brian McBride beginning the match on the bench, but rather two rookies in Steven Kinney and Kwame Watson-Siriboe starting on the backline against defending MLS Cup Champion Real Salt Lake.
Starting on the right in reserve of the injured Dasan Robinson and yet-to-be fit Tim Ward, Kinney’s first-ever MLS appearance was at the very least memorable. The Norcross, GA locked down the right side of for much of the match and contributed more than any other Fire player, hitting Nick Rimando’s left post first in the 48th minute, then the right in the 57th as the Fire looked to respond to Robbie Findley’s 40th minute penalty kick.
“I’ve never hit two posts in my life,” said Kinney following training at Toyota Park Monday. “It was unfortunate that it didn’t fall for me. Mikey [Banner] put it right on the money both times. It was just unfortunate that neither went in because it would have been a great story to tell.”
It’s still quite the story. I can think of few players, let alone defenders that I’ve seen hit the post so spectacularly twice in a match – it’s almost more of an accomplishment than scoring a goal, but only counts for anything in a story.
In a way, the two efforts symbolize what’s transpired so far for the Fire in 2010: a lot of effort, within inches of many more points and within shades of being a very good team in Major League Soccer. Kinney and Watson-Siriboe’s performance in the back should provide encouragement for the future and certainly gives the coaching staff the belief that both rookies can be counted on when call upon.
“I thought they both had a very good night,” said assistant coach Mike Matkovich Monday. “Obviously Steven was very good coming forward. You could see his confidence grow as the game went on. For Kwame, this was his second start in a league game and he was decent. Neither of them hurt us and on the day they were both steady. We’re looking for them to build off the performance with the understanding that the key to being good at this level is doing it every week, every month, every year.”
Though his first MLS game, the appearance wasn’t his first for the Fire as Kinney appeared against Legia Warsaw in May’s Sister Cities International Cup and the week before in the U.S. Open Cup match against the Charleston Battery.
“It was just good to finally be out on the field in an MLS match,” said Kinney. “Matko [Mike Matkovich] told me, ‘We have confidence in you going out there because of the way you’ve been playing in practice, so go and try to show yourself.’ Kwame and I were fortunate to have C.J. [Brown] right next to us and that was a big held in getting us through because he’s such a leader in the team. I’m really happy with my performance, it’s just unfortunate we didn’t get the win, but it was definitely good to be out there.”
Kinney will welcome the possibility of more competitive matches as SuperLiga 2010 begins this Wednesday at Toyota Park against Mexican Primera Division side Monarcas Morelia. The Fire came within inches of winning the tournament’s 2009 edition and will look to redeem themselves against a tough array of Mexican and MLS sides this week.
“Anytime there’s a purse or a cup you’re playing to win,” said Matkovich. “That’s the nature of the business we’re in. We’ll step on the field to try and get to the semifinals. We saw from that point how close we were to winning – anything can happen in a competition like this one.
Kinney echoed his coach’s comments.
“We go into every game with the same attitude. We come out and try to play strong and get the win. We know Morelia is a very good team and I think overall we’ve played pretty well this season too, the main things is making more of chances fall in the back of the net.
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