Fire post league-high 10th draw


BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- The Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake played Wednesday's match as though each side was waiting for one mistake to pounce on. But that never came to fruition for either side as the Fire and Salt Lake wound up in a scoreless draw in front of 14,972 at Toyota Park.

Chicago and RSL grinded out the match, which had some moments of back-and-forth play, but featured very little on either offensive third. Chicago had a 4-2 shots on goal advantage, and Salt Lake did not post a shot on goal in the second half.

"It was tough at first for us," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. They're a team where their strength is in the middle of the field. I think we had a little bit of a hard time in the beginning. And I think when things settled a bit, we found the game a little bit better."

For the Fire, it was their 10th draw of the season, which leads MLS. Chicago moved to 2-4-10, and Salt Lake to 6-3-5. Chicago remains unbeaten with Klopas at the helm (1-0-4).

Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson had two saves for the clean sheet -- his fourth shutout in the Fire's past five matches.

"He's kept us in the game and gives us an opportunity to win," Klopas said of Johnson. "That position has a lot to do with confidence. He's young, and I think he's got tremendous upside. It's good that he's gaining confidence, because that's very important."

Johnson came up with a huge save in the 28th minute, turning away a Collen Warner shot. RSL's Robbie Russell crossed the ball in from the right side, and Fire defender Yamith Cuesta attempted to break up the rolling cross. When Cuesta missed, that gave Warner space from point-blank range. But Johnson reacted quickly to the shot and deflected it away for a Salt Lake corner kick.

Fire rookie forward Orr Barouch made his first start of the season as Cristian Nazarit served the first of his two-game suspension. Barouch has played in 14 of the Fire's 16 matches, but all 13 previous outings were off the bench.

"Orr is what I expected," Klopas said. "He's got very good qualities -- technical qualities. ... He doesn't get rattled and he looks for opportunities and moments like this."

The Fire offense found some life in the second half, posting three shots on goal in the final 45. In the 78th minute, RSL goalkeeper Nick Rimando came off of his line to stop a Marco Pappa attempt. The Guatemalan returned from national team duty in the CONCACAF Gold Cup, and Klopas brought Pappa off the bench for the final 20 minutes.

"He was fatigued a little bit," Klopas said. "I knew he wasn't going to be able to provide 90 minutes. Going into this game, with Dominic [Oduro] and Patrick [Nyarko], with their transition and pace out wide, we would be able to get at them."

Following Wednesday's match, the Fire honored former Fire defender C.J. Brown, who is an assistant coach for Salt Lake. Brown wrapped up his 13-year MLS playing career in 2010.

"You've been supporting us through thick and thin," Brown said to the fans who remained post-game. "It was an honor to play in front of you and play for you."

Analysis: The Fire and Salt Lake did not exactly light up the pitch and the scoreboard on Wednesday. RSL was content to get at least a road point, and Chicago did not find its form for most of the match.

Johnson continues to be a bright spot for the Fire. While he was not heavily tested, Johnson gets more and more comfortable in goal as the entire defensive group keeps limiting opposing offenses to a bare minimum.

The Fire struggled in the central midfield with Baggio Husidic and Daniel Paladini. Klopas admitted following the match that it took a while for them to find some sort of rhythm. Logan Pause was not available (hamstring strain/concussion).

Chicago is in the midst of a tough two-game homestand, with the New York Red Bulls next on the docket this Sunday. Unfortunately for the Fire, they hold a 1-1-5 record at Toyota Park. Chicago and Sporting Kansas City are the remaining MLS teams with one home win, and K.C. does not exactly count considering it has played only a pair of home matches thus far.