BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. – In a match that had all the makings in the early going of another Fire defeat, the Men in Red turned around in style, running away with a 3-1 come-back victory over New York Sunday afternoon at Toyota Park.
The reasons this one could have been a loss were many: Missing starters Gonzalo Segares, Patrick Nyarko, Dilly Duka and Arne Friedrich, conceding the first goal for the fourth time in five matches this season or Chris Rolfe hooking his 24th minute penalty kick to equalize wide left all might have been culprits.
“When he missed that, it seemed like ‘that’s kind of our season right now,’” said Fire midfielder Daniel Paladini. “Leading up to that we were dominating I thought and we got that penalty and thought ‘OK this will get us back in’. That happened but we got a goal back before halftime and it was a little bit of relief.”
Modest in his nature, Paladini failed to mention it was him who equalized just before the break as a gust of wind allowed him to beat Red Bulls ‘keeper Luis Robles to the ball in the 44th minute.
“I made the run but he hit a perfect ball and the wind caught it. I knew I was going to get there before the goalie. So, home field advantage,” he jokingly said.
HIGHLIGHTS: Fire 3, Red Bulls 1
Coming just before the break, Paladini’s goal did wonders for the team’s morale according to Fire forward Sherjill MacDonald.
“It was very big. We gave up a stupid goal on a corner kick. That felt terrible, when he scored just before halftime it was great. We felt very confident going into the second half.”
In the second frame, the team continued to create and patiently waited for their opportunity even as Red Bull star Thierry Henry entered around the hour mark.
Henry gave the Fire their biggest scare of the second half with his blinding effort off the right post in the 69th minute but stayed annoynmous for much of the rest of the game.
The match would finally turn when Paladini again provided the danger, slipping Maicon Santos up the left into the box before the Brazilian coolly finished past Robles.
The Fire put the match on ice six minutes later when Paladini’s free kick was headed across goal by Jeff Larentowicz to pick out Santos for an easy tap-in at the right post.
“It feels nice,” said Santos. “Not just for me but the whole team. It feels nice to get three points at home and do that for the win. The two goals are a bonus for me. The team winning is the most important.”
Playing in a less normal position at right midfield, Paladini was a part of all three Fire goals and earned Man of the Match honors as he continues to show fine form in 2013.
Santos tallies 700th Fire Goal and Game Winner
“Danny’s got quality and when we’ve called him to step in, he’s done it,” said Fire head coach Frank Klopas.
“He’s a guy that’s pushing because he needs to be on the field and playing. Guys like that, whether they’re on or off, when they get a chance to come in, they contribute and I think that’s the depth we’re trying to create within the team. He definitely had a very good game today.”
Paladini refused to take individual plaudits saying “I think we matured as a team today. It was probably the most fun I’ve had in a long time. It’s a team effort and it felt good.”
For Klopas, the win relieves a bit of pressure felt from the team’s winless start over the first four games of the season.
“I know the quality we have and what we’ve shown so far wasn’t an indication of the group we had,” he said. “I feel good because for sure, when you win a lot of things are solved and more than anything, just the pressure because maybe you try too hard and everything. I could see the guys up to this point – they cared a lot and I think sometimes it’s just keeping it simple is the most important things.”
The team will have a week to hopefully get the likes of Nyarko, Segares, Duka and Friedrich back to health before heading to Houston for Sunday’s clash against the Dynamo.
While the win is nice, Klopas won’t let the team get too far ahead of itself.
“It was great and important, but we have to be even keel. When things weren’t going our way, we never changed. There was a lot of panic by a lot of people, but we won our game and its fantastic. Now it gives us the energy to work even harder.”