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Saturday, January 18

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Fire Mon Apr 27 2009

Like the KC Game in Reverse

It's getting hard to know what to make of this year's Fire team, but they still haven't played in a boring game this season. Last week they played some of the best soccer seen in the league and managed to throw away a two goal lead in the final eight minutes. This week against the Columbus Crew, they played their worst soccer to date and managed to come back from two goals down in the last five minutes.

Most of the match looked like a continuation of last season's Eastern Conference Final. The Crew dominated play, Blanco and McBride were anonymous, and nobody, but nobody, on the Fire was capable of defending Chad Marshall on a set play. Last year Brian McBride was assigned to the big defender, this year the Fire switched it up and stuck Bakaray Soumare on him. The result was the same, with Marshall shaking off Soumare to score the Crew's opening goal and looking like a threat every time Guillermo Baros Schellotto sent the ball his way.

His failure on set pieces was just one part of a rough night for Soumare, who looked more uncomfortable in the back than he ever has for the Fire. Combine that with Jon Busch's blunder on the second goal and those alarm bells about the state of last season's league-best defense are ringing louder than ever.

Fortunately, thanks to a soft red card, the Fire went a man up and didn't have to do much defending in the last fifteen minutes. Coach Denis Hamlet took Soumare off for a midfielder and fielded a very attack-minded 3-5-2 formation. The move paid off. Mike Banner added a much-needed spark on the wing. Brian McBride, despite his quiet game, continued his streak of scoring against his former team (4 goals in 3 games) with a header at the far post. Then Chris Rolfe showed why he should be in the starting lineup with an amazing play to set up the game-tying goal from Gonazalo Segares that combined his characteristic hustle, heart, and mind-bending creativity and vision.

The result means the Fire are the only undefeated team in MLS. Though with only two wins to go along with their four ties, it's hardly the best record in the league. There's obviously more talent on the team than we've seen in years and they've done just enough not to lose a game this year. But the question remains, what's it going to take for them to put it all together for 90 minutes at a time?

 
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