Fire draw Real Salt Lake in midweek matchup

Midfield battle locks both teams in stalemate

Marco Pappa

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BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – The Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake played to a staid, 0-0 draw at Toyota Park on Wednesday night, with neither side conceding much in the way of chances and both teams showcasing their defensive discipline.

Real Salt Lake were vulnerable heading into the match without goalkeeper Nick Rimando, who sat out because of a shoulder injury. That left backup Kyle Reynish to start just his fifth game in goal for RSL. Fortunately for the Claret-and-Cobalt, the sixth-year pro didn’t have to make many saves.

OPTA Chalkboard: Midfield battle produces few chances for either side

Marco Pappa was the only Fire player to force a stop out of Reynish, as both teams' midfields did yeoman's work closing down space and refusing to allow clear-cut chances.

On the other end Sean Johnson had even less work to do, making two stops and rarely being called into action.

Early on, though, it looked like the home side would get one. In the fourth minute, a cross from Patrick Nyarko found Dominic Oduro wide open in the six yard box, but the forward’s point-blank header hit the crossbar and was cleared.

Pappa then had a chance in the 10th minute, but Reynish smothered his acute-angled shot.

Down the other end of the pitch, RSL began to come into the game a bit, as Kyle Beckerman and Ned Grabavoy forced turnovers and won second balls.

The best chance fell to Alvaro Saborio in the 28th minute, but the forward wasn’t able to connect with a cheeky chip from Javier Morales inside the six-yard-box.

Unfortunately for Salt Lake, that was their Argentine playmaker’s last significant contribution, as he came off soon after with a quad strain.

FULL LINEUPS AND BOXSCORE

The second half had the same general tenor, with the game devolving into a series of midfield battles. Johnson was called into action early with a diving save on a long-distance shot from Saborio, but nobody was there to clean up the rebound.

The closest either side came to breaking the deadlock was in the 50th minute, but RSL’s Paulo Jr. scuffed a wide-open rebound chance from six yards out.

The Fire made two offensive substitutions late in the game, inserting Federico Puppo and Rafael Robayo in the second half. But Chicago couldn’t muster many more scoring opportunities, and the one rebound Reynish gave up was cleared away by the ever-present Chris Wingert.

The Fire (3-2-3) were coming off a stirring last-second comeback win against Chivas USA, but they weren’t able to ride momentum from the win. Largely that’s due to a lack of punch up top – no forward has scored in the last eight games for Chicago, who host Eastern Conference leaders Sporting Kansas City on Saturday.

Salt Lake (7-3-2) were able to scrape out a point on the road without three key players for most of the match. They’ll close out a three-game, eight-day stretch when they head to Seattle on Saturday before taking a two-week break.

MLSsoccer.com Men of the Match

Rank Player What We Saw
1 Kyle Beckerman RSL get a lot of love for their style - as they should. But this is a team perfectly able to get a result playing ugly (which they did on Wednesday) and Beckerman's the main reason why.
2 Marco Pappa The Guatemalan still stops the ball too much, but at least he was in the mood to create some danger. Why the rest of the Fire didn't look interested in testing Reynish is a mystery.
3 Chris Wingert Wingert will never cause a lot of "oohs" and "aahs" with his play, but he's incredibly smart out there, and seems to have a knack for clearing away danger a half-step before anyone else can get there.