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Fire Mon Apr 08 2013

Fire Finally Win After Miserable Start to Season

When Chris Rolfe shanked an early penalty kick in Sunday's game against New York, it looked like Fire fans were in for another long afternoon. Thankfully, a sneaky header from Daniel Paladini and two late goals from new striker Maicon Santos gave Chicago their first win of the season.

It's been an unexpectedly bad start to the season for the Fire. There was every reason for optimism. Despite a disappointing first-round playoff exit last season, the core of last year's team stayed together and a few key additions made their midfield look much more competitive. Then the Fire lost three of their first four games, only managing a lucky 0-0 tie with Kansas City to avoid four straight losses.

What happened? Preseason injuries to German defender Arne Friedrich and captain Logan ...Pause, combined with the retirement of Cory Gibbs and Pavel Pardo left the Fire with a very inexperienced back line, and no real leadership to help bring the new players together.

And those new players? The Fire revamped their midfield in the offseason, bringing in midfield tough guy Jeff Larentowicz, Estonian sparkplug Joel Lindpere, talented misfit Dilly Duka, and got the rights to US International winger Robbie Rogers.

As tough and rugged as Larentowics was when he was my third most-hated player on New England (Taylor Twellman, Jay Heaps coming in at one and two), he is equally slow and clumsy in a Fire shirt. He hasn't been helped by a failed partnership with Lindpere, who plays pretty well on the left side of midfield, but doesn't do enough defensively when lined up in the middle. Despite the change of scenery from Columbus, Dilly Duka still looks talented, and still looks like a misfit.

The Robbie Rogers deal didn't work out either. Shortly after the Fire acquired his rights, he retired and came out of the closet. Fire fans have been supportive of Rogers, writing a post to let him know he'd be welcome with the Fire if he returns to the game, and I'm not the only person to wonder why the Fire as an organization hasn't given a similar public comment.

This Sunday, it finally looked like things were getting back to normal. Logan ...Pause's return to the lineup added a lot more organization and cohesion in the midfield. Sherjill MacDonald, who has struggled mightily after he apparently showed up to preseason badly out-of-shape was subbed out in favor of Brazilian striker Maicon Santos, who promptly scored two goals.

I wouldn't get too excited about Santos. He's bounced around the league for years due to inconsistency. And honestly it sounds dumb, but other than the two goals to singlehandedly win the game on Sunday, he didn't do much else. Hopefully, at the very least, this will give MacDonald the kick in the pants he needs to get back to the sort of form he showed last season.

Three points at home to an Eastern Conference opponent might just be what's needed to kick the season back into gear. With ...Pause back and Friedrich reportedly on the mend, maybe we'll look back on this as an early-season blip similar to champion LA Galaxy's last year. Then again, Patrick Nyarko and Gonzalo Segares went down to injuries this weekend. It might be one of those seasons.

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acehoodz / April 8, 2013 5:38 PM

I thought our captain logan pause was badly needed. Paladini was awesome though!

Steve G / April 8, 2013 5:47 PM

I didn't get why Paladini wasn't immediately in the starting lineup when ...Pause went down.

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