Ninety minutes, Triple-digit temperatures and no goals.
A scoreless draw had to be expected when the Wizards and Fire took the field on Sunday. Aside from the sweltering heat, neither team was going to be taking many chances in this key Eastern Conference clash. The tie leaves Chicago chasing New England and Columbus atop the East and leaves KC trailing the playoff pack.
SBI correspondents Thad Bell and Stephen Wattles took in the action on Sunday and shared their thought with us:
With McBride on the way, Fire takes a road point
By STEPHEN WATTLES
Before Sunday night’s tilt in Kansas City, it had already been a big week for the Fire. With Cuauhtémoc Blanco’s star shining brightest in Toronto and news out of that same city that Brian McBride is now on his way to fill the striker hole that has been holding this team back, Fire fans have every reason to be puffing out their chests at the moment.
Even though it will be nearly a month before one of the US National Team’s best ever strikers dons Fire red and retakes an MLS field, the benefits of his arrival are already paying off for the Fire. That of course being the fact that the player heading to Toronto is Chad Barrett and so there was no way for Dennis Hamlett to start, or even play, Barrett on Sunday night or ever again.
The players in the starting line-up, minus McBride, were very close to those that Fire fans will expect the rest of 2008 and the question of whether the addition by subtraction will hold us through the next month was ready for its initial test. First on the Chad Barrett Memorial Hot Seat: Tomasz Frankowski.
As for the game itself it was fairly easy to predict as soon as the game time weather conditions in Kansas City flashed across the television screen. When ‘it feels like’ anything north of one hundred degrees you can count on a low scoring slower paced game and I wrote down on my pad one goal should do it tonight. As it turned out it would have been more than enough and the scoreless draw was nearly a mirror image of last week’s contest.
The Fire enjoyed the better of the possession but didn’t create too many truly dangerous chances and Kansas City seemed a little more dangerous and likely to score on the chances they created. As usual this year, John Busch stood tall every time the Wizards came forward and thwarted every one. Considering the fact that he was many Fire fans biggest concern at the outset of the season, the level on which he has proved he can be depended is astounding.
As for the Chad Barrett Memorial Race to back-up McBride (and maybe score a goal before he arrives), Frankowski did little to indicate he is the answer. Second in line was Patrick Nyarko who received thirty minutes of playing time and did plenty to move to the front of the race, and in my opinion earn his first MLS start next week. He made several good runs, showed the ability to quickly settle and shoot with power, set up several chances for others, and even made a couple plays helping out defensively.
Otherwise the Fire turned in a collection of solid but unspectacular performances. Perhaps the player whose stock rose the most was Brandon Prideaux’s and he wasn’t even in Kansas City. Diego Gutierrez was reasonably ineffective as a wide midfielder and if nothing else Prideaux’s presence in the line-up pushes John Thorrington into the midfield, though he played admirably making several key interceptions while filling in on the back line.
As a whole the draw against the hottest team in the league on their own field is a good result and will continue to keep the Fire ahead of the chasing pack. Unfortunately, I don’t have much expectation for next week’s match-up besides more of the same with Blanco on the shelf due to card accumulation, on one of a number of ridiculously soft yellows handed out in this one. Though it could be a good time to rest those creaky knees and get ready for what will hopefully be a great last couple months and a run to a title fueled by one of Mexico’s greatest and one of the US’s greatest playing together.
Another match, another draw as Wizards still chase playoff spot
By THAD BELL
Hot summer night, game against the Fire, heated rivalry, too easy of a cliché to use.
Blanco MLS All Star MVP
Jimmy Conrad MLS All Star Captain
That would be one way to have advertised this game, but there was not much need to build up this match. The sold out crowd knew who they came to see. Chicago had a good traveling section at the game and I could even hear them once in awhile.
When playing teams like the Fire, the Wizards seem to always do a good job of containing the opponents’ stars for most of the game. There seems to always be that little lapse that allows the other team’s main guy to score or at least have one great assist.
As you can imagine, it had to be a priority for the Wizards to contain and shut down Blanco if possible. The team practiced ways of minimizing his influence on the game and it worked. Yeah, he got a few good passes off but other than that he was harmless. Michael Harrington marked him out of the game in the first half and when Blanco moved to the other side, Jack Jewsbury treated him the same.
While Conrad did not have to face off much with his fellow All Star, he did anchor the rest of the defense that only allowed a couple of dangerous shots all day.
The KC midfield seemed to play better as the game went on. Roger Espinoza gains confidence with every minute he plays and looked like he would get his second goal but could not quite finish. Kurt Morsink continued to settle into the middle and showed why his Coach has faith in him. Davy Arnaud tirelessly makes runs on the right side despite the heat. Sasha Victorine has been so close to scoring for the last few games and it is becoming painful to see him just miss.
Josh Wolff and Claudio Lopez have continued the tradition (at least this year) of playing well enough to almost get a goal. Both managed to get opportunities, but neither could put it in the net. Perhaps more time together will build that chemistry and I am sure it will improve, but will it be enough?
Kevin Hartman gets his seventh shutout. Okay Jon Busch did too but I don’t care about him too much. Kevin was only tested hard a couple times but came up big every time.
The Wizards are undefeated in the last 6 games, but only 2 of those are wins. Kansas City really needs to win these at home and stop giving away 2 points. On the positive side, both Blanco and Diego received yellow cards and will have to miss their next match. Hopefully their loss will lead to the Fire losing and make it easier to catch them in the standings.
Overall not a bad game, but now we need to turn Coach’s “exciting attacking soccer” into exciting scoring soccer; and that will be exciting winning soccer.