Crucial showdown

Dan Kelly: Fire face must win vs. Toronto FC

It’s the little things that add up, and right now for
Chicago Fire, that’s what’s crushing this club’s postseason hopes.  Saturday’s draw with LA was another
match that got away late.  This
group has to figure out how to properly close out a match and they have to
start tonight at home against Toronto FC.

TFC comes to town having lost 1-0 at FC Dallas Saturday
night – a game which saw Dallas extend its unbeaten streak to 13 matches.  They are two points and two spots ahead
of Chicago, but have been aided by playing two more matches then the Fire. 

Away on international duty, the Reds of Toronto FC were
without Dwayne De Rosario, Julian De Guzman, and Nana Attakora against Dallas,
but should make it back to the pitch for Wednesdays match.  Martin Saric will sit out with a yellow
card accumulation.  Toronto has
been hampered by injuries and an abysmal road record, notching just one victory
away from Hog City.  Coach Preki
felt his shorthanded club played and competed well against Dallas, but they’re
not getting any luck around the goal.

Going into tonight, the Men in Red will look to avenge their
4-1 loss back on May 8 at BMO Field, 
but there are bigger issues at hand, namely getting needed points, in a
must-win match.  Remembering the
past late game follies, but not dwelling on it, the Fire are doing  more right than wrong, now they just
need to work on their timing. 

Collins John sparked and burned his club last match with
late game heroics. Entering the match in the 82
nd minute, the
Dutchman scored a gorgeous goal off a free kick in the 88
th minute,
but didn’t help his cause or the club’s with a silly premature celebration
receiving a yellow card for taking off his jersey during the celebration.  Three minutes later, Los Angeles
leveled the match from an Omar Gonzalez header. 

Los Angeles is arguably the best club in MLS this season,
and they have a lot of winners on their side that were probably motivated by
John’s antics. Coming into the match having lost two consecutive league games
for the first time this season, they certainly seemed all business after John’s
goal. If not for Sean Johnson making a huge stop late, the visitors might have
left with the win.

The good to take away
from Saturday:

Chicago played with poise and patience after losing Gonzalo Segares
to a red card in the 21
st minute.  Wilman Conde seemed to settle the backline down, and Sean
Johnson was again brilliant, stopping Donovan’s penalty kick.  Collins John showed his tremendous
talent with the free kick, now, I say let’s see more. 

Logan Pause continues to do the unheralded dirty work in the
middle, and seems to be aided by the return of the fiery veteran John
Thorrington.   Steven Kinney improves
each match and after sitting out Saturday with yellow card accumulation, it
sure will be nice to have a refreshed and rested Freddie Ljunberg running around
entertaining the home fans.

In his fourth appearance for the club, Nery Castillo had his
best match in a Fire uniform, finally showing some of his world class talent. It’s
going to be interesting to see how effective, and how long Castillo can go
against Toronto following a quick turnaround from Saturdays match.  

Patrick Nyarko is going to have to factor into the offense
more frequently if this club is going to go on a run.  His confidence needs to come back, because all of a sudden,
his speed is not nearly as noticeable as it was earlier this season before he
missed time with a concussion.  

Bottom line, moral victories are pointless now, this group
needs to come together, and do it immediately.  They have the talent, now we will see if they can get hot at
the right time, and run with it to the playoffs.