Published on March 12th, 2017 | by Ryan Voyles0
Fire ride fast start to 2-0 win over Real Salt Lake
Two weeks into the regular season and the Chicago Fire is looking like a team that has yet to be told it is no longer the preseason. Normally that might be a bad thing, but not for the Fire who seem to have found a way to finally carry over their stellar preseason form into the regular season.
For the second straight week, the Fire gave their fans a taste of what could be as they took the home opener against Real Salt Lake, 2-0. With the midfield pairing of Dax McCarty and Juninho, the Fire was able to control most of the chances in the first half and were clearly the better of two sides.
Despite a record-low temperature for a home opener, the Men in Red started hot in the 11th minute with one of the more curious goals one will see this season. While everyone on the RSL side was protesting what would have been an offsides had Michael de Leeuw, not the challenging Stephen ‘Sunny’ Sunday, made the pass, Nemanja Nikolic was able to slot the ball past an unprepared Nick Rimando to put the home side up 1-0.
The lead was doubled just five minutes later when Arturo Alvarez decided to take on the entire RSL backline himself. The winger cut inside and split a pair of defenders before launching the ball from just outside the box. The shot deflected off an RSL defender and went past a flat-footed Rimando to give the Fire the most dangerous lead in all of soccer.
The Fire’s dominance in the first half gave way to a whole lot of bend-not-break defending in the second half.
As if allergic to possession, the Fire did all it could to allow RSL to get back into the game, as the visiting side essentially camped out on the Fire’s side of the field for the final 35 minutes or so of the game. Thankfully for the Fire, they were able to benefit from injuries to Joao Plata, who did not play Saturday, and midfielder Jordan Allen, who left in the 26th minute with a quad injury.
Despite the pressure, goalkeeper Jorge Bava was required to make only one save on a Kyle Beckerman shot from distance as the defensive pairing of Johan Kapplehof, Joao Meira and Brandon Vincent – with a boost from a defensively active de Leeuw – prevented RSL from getting any serious looks at goal.
With four points in two games, it can be easy to overlook some questions about just how good this Fire team can be this season. As noted, RSL has been ravaged by injuries so far in what was already likely to be a transitional year. A week after drawing 1-1- with the Fire, Columbus Crew went down to the Lonestar State and got manhandled by Houston. But I’m not sure a Fire team in recent memory would have been capable of taking advantage and getting points in these matches. In fact, it is the best start for Chicago in years. The Fire has not reached four points in two games since 2012.
The Fire will look to continue the solid start in their third and final match of March next Saturday when they head to Atlanta United in what will be a stiff test.