Crucial showdown

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 82nd minute, the Dutchman scored a gorgeous goal off a free kick in the 88th 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 21st 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.