Saturday, September 12, 2009

Chicago scores a point at Rio Tinto

DSCF3091 In a game that saw two injury depleted sides battling it out for either a playoff spot or playoff positioning, the Chicago Fire used a first half goal to score a tie against a Real Salt Lake. With his team missing several key members coach Jason Kreis turned to a make shift midfield that featured Clint Mathis and Andy Williams in spots usually occupied by Captain Kyle Beckerman and Javier Morales. The change up seemed to be okay for Real at first as they were able to compete in the midfield against the Fire and hold some possession but then disaster struck. Mathis sprained his ankle and after sitting on the bench with a trainer for five minutes he determined that his night was done.

Jean Alexandre came in for him in the 15th minute and while he made a few good defensive stops his team seemed to suffer every time they tried to work the ball up the middle. Whether it was a lack of trust from his teammates in passing him the ball or Jean’s fault for not moving to where his teammates could get him the ball, the only way Salt Lake was able to play the ball forward was over the top to Pablo Campos. Campos for his part did a decent job trying to hold up the ball and flick it on to Robbie Findley and Fabian Espindola. The lack of service out of the midfield proved too much though as the team was unable to string together any quality attacks.

Chicago on the other hand seemed to benefit greatly from their advantage in the midfield. They continuously pushed the ball forward and kept pressure on the back four for RSL for the duration of the first half. They used that advantage to put several shots across the goal and nearly converted a few of them. Probably their most dangerous early chance was a Brian McBride header from about a yard out. To the relief of the Salt Lake faithful he some how hit it well over the bar, a mistake he doesn't make often from that range. In the end it wouldn’t matter as his team scored soon there after. Chris Rolfe looked dangerous through out the first half and in the waning minutes he managed to convert a cross from Marco Pappa into a goal. Rolfe, who was positioned between two Salt Lake defenders at the penalty spot, some how managed to chest a cross down in front of him and, lunging for it, managed an off balanced shot that beat RSL keeper Nick Rimando. The teams would go to the half 1-0.

Kreis must have seen the futility his team was having trying to work the ball thru the air and lit into them at half, as they came out in the second half trying to work the ball forward on the ground. The biggest change to force this was the substitution of Pablo Campos for Yura Movsisyan. Yura, not know for his prowess in the air forced the team to play to his feet instead of over the top. 15 minutes later Kreis would also pull Alexandre out and sub in Javier Morales to try and get some more creativity in the attack. It paid off Immediately as RSL was able to string together several passes and, about ten minutes later, Andy Williams found Jamison Olave running up the middle of the field about 10 yards from the mouth of the goal and Jamison, shooting with his first touch, drove in a beautiful shot leveling the score. The cross for Andy was a thing of beauty, having to travel about 30-35 yards to find Olave in stride.

The final 20 minutes played out with RSL pushing for the game winner and Chicago content to sit back and try to run out the clock. The Fire did try their luck with a few counter attacks keeping the Salt Lake defense honest. Salt Lake also did their part to keep Chicago on their toes, the best chance they created was probably a Yura shot that would clang off the post.  Both Keepers would be tested late, Rimando making a game saving stop in the 88th minute and Jon Busch stopping an Olave header on the line in the 3rd minute of stoppage time. The 1-1 tie is a great result for Chicago as they moved closer to locking up a playoff spot but for Real salt lake it hurts their chances of reaching them. If team GM Garth Lagerway is to be believed they will now need to win 3 of their remaining five games to squeeze in at the end.