Fire show improvement in tie at Colorado

John scores first MLS goal; Krol, Watson-Siriboe make starts

Jeff Larentowicz; Krysztof Krol

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It didn’t take long for Fire forward Collins John to net his
first MLS goal. John, who made his first-ever league start Saturday at the
Colorado Rapids, found the back of the net in the 26th minute when
he outmuscled a defender before coolly heading a Marco Pappa corner kick past
Colorado ‘keeper Matt Pickens.

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And while John’s goal wasn’t enough to give the Fire their
first win of the year—they tied the Rapids 2-2—it was an encouraging sign for
Chicago’s attack. The Fire’s offense was anemic in last week’s loss to New York,
and Saturday’s two-goal performance in Colorado was certainly a positive
change.

“The Rapids are
a very good team and it is very difficult to win here,” Fire head coach Carlos
de los Cobos said. “I’m satisfied with the work of the players. I’m only happy
when we win, but I’m satisfied.”

John, who was
very active in his first MLS start, was a big reason for the Fire’s improved
play in the attacking third. He put his speed, strength and finishing ability
on display and—if his first two games are any indication—he’ll have a very
solid debut season.

Despite the better play, the Fire attack has room for
improvement. They capitalized on their chances on Saturday, but they need to
create more opportunities. Neither of the Fire’s goals came from open play
(forward Brian McBride converted a penalty kick for the Fire’s second goal) and—just
like last week—the attack was slow out of the gate.

Defensively, the Fire looked average. Standout central
defender Wilman Conde missed the game with a left foot contusion, but that is
no excuse for the lack of pressure Colorado forward Omar Cummings faced in the
13th minute when he fired home the first goal of the match.

Cummings received the ball with his back to goal about 25
yards from net, took a heavy touch, turned, and ripped an excellent shot past Fire
keeper Andrew Dykstra. Never in that sequence did any Fire defender make an effort
to step up to the dangerous Jamaican striker. Needless to say, Cummings took
full advantage of the time and space.

Like their teammates in the attack, the Fire defenders also
came out of the gates a little bit slow. The Rapids had several near misses in
the first half—midfielders Jeff Larentowicz and Mehdi Ballouchy each put a long
distance shot just wide of the post—and they could have easily finished the
game with more than two goals. However, the backline clamped down in the second
half, severely limiting Colorado’s chances.

“The first half
they were pressing us and we were giving turnovers; we can’t give them that,”
Patrick Nyarko said. “In the second half we started playing some long [balls]
and it opened them up a little bit. We found that balance we needed.”

Defenders Krzysztof Krol and Kwame Watson-Siriboe joined
John in making their first league starts Saturday. Both acquitted themselves
nicely in their first MLS games. Krol looked quick and strong in defense and
showed a proclivity to get up the left flank. Rookie center back Watson-Siriboe
didn’t show any signs of jitters and handled Colorado’s dynamic forward duo of
Cummings and Conor Casey well.

“Usually we
tried to have myself go up for the head balls and have C.J. [Brown] get the
knockdowns before they reach Omar [Cummings],” Watson-Siriboe said. “We play it positionally, we
interchange, and we don’t do man marking.”

The Fire should be content with Saturday’s
result. Their play was better than it was in New York and a tie isn’t a bad
result at Colorado, where the Fire has always had trouble winning. However, it’s
important that the Fire continues to build on their play through training this
week, as anything less than a win in next week’s home opener against San Jose
would be a big disappointment.