Fire blank Rapids for second straight win
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. -- Don't look now, but the Chicago Fire have put together a stretch of victories.
Dominic Oduro and Cory Gibbs each netted a goal and Chicago topped the Colorado Rapids, 2-0, on Saturday in front of 15,211 at Toyota Park.
It marked the first set of back-to-back wins for the Fire (4-7-15, 27 points) since the 2010 season, when they topped D.C. United and the Houston Dynamo on April 17 and 24, respectively.
While the Fire are building some needed momentum, the team knows it has to make up for some lost ground in getting back into the playoff picture.
"It's one game," Fire interim head coach Frank Klopas said. "The guys are not satisfied. We're not satisfied. This is behind us. We have to look at this match and look at the good things and what we have to improve."
Oduro tallied his team-leading ninth goal in the 17th minute for a 1-0 advantage. Fire midfielder Pavel Pardo played the ball up and Oduro ran past Colorado's Tyrone Marshall and placed a low shot to the left side of the goal past Rapids goalkeeper Matt Pickens.
Gibbs garnered his second goal of the season in the 36th minute, heading the ball in off of a Sebastian Grazzini cross to take a 2-0 lead. Pardo also assisted with a perfectly placed ball over a pair of Rapids defenders to Grazzini. Grazzini saved the ball just before it went out of bounds and crossed from the left side to Gibbs.
"I was a bit disappointed in myself last week and that (30th-minute) miss against Toronto," Gibbs said. "It dwelled on me all week, and I said that if I have that chance again, I'll do my best to put it away. Grazzini played a great ball in."
Chicago was in complete control over Colorado (10-7-11, 41 points) during the first half, and the defense held tight the rest of the way.
Daniel Paladini came up with a huge block in the 84th minute to keep the shutout intact. Sanna Nyassi had a sure goal, but Paladini cleared the shot off the line.
"When Orr (Barouch) came in, we switched roles -- I was supposed to be on the six-yard box," Paladini said of that sequence. "We switched to where I would be on the post. I just held on the line until the ball was cleared and kept that lead."
Paladini was brought in to open the second half after Pardo left with a calf strain. Pardo's status is uncertain for Tuesday's Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup semifinal against the USL Pro's Richmond Kickers at Toyota Park.
"With the calf, we'll have to see (Sunday)," Klopas said. "I know he came in at halftime and it was bothering him. With the game Tuesday, we didn't want to really push it. We'll evaluate and see how he feels."
Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson made four saves for the clean sheet, and Pickens made five saves for Colorado. The Rapids had a whopping 10-1 advantage on corner kicks, but Chicago's defense kept Colorado off the board.
Chicago built off its 2-0 win over Toronto FC the previous week and there is a bit of a step within this club after doubling its victory total in the span of two matches.
"That win last week definitely pushed the players' confidence levels -- Oduro, Grazzini, everybody -- and they worked hard in training on certain things and it paid off," Gibbs said.
Analysis: The Fire ended Colorado's six-game unbeaten run (4-0-2), so clearly Chicago has found some momentum as it heads into a bit of a break from MLS play.
All of the damage was done in the first half on Saturday, and it goes without saying that the positive early starts will continue to cash in some victories. Though the amount of corners allowed was a negative trend, the Fire defense held its ground from start to finish. Even with an obstacle of playing without Pardo for a half, Paladini stepped in with a huge block in the final 10 minutes.
That the Fire did not post a shot on goal in the second half and botched several other scoring chances were complete afterthoughts because Chicago had its lead and maintained it.
A strong start and a complete defensive effort -- it sounds so simple, but with the Fire, they have endured so many matches where a lapse cost them a win.
Saturday was another step in the right direction for the Fire, but there still is a long way to go.