It didn't look like it was going to be much different than the Chicago Fire's recent home efforts. They trailed 2-0 to the Colorado Rapids on a pair of second half goals by Omar Cummings. The Fire attack was non-existent and it was beginning to look like they would be shutout for the fifth time this season, at Toyota Park.
Denis Hamlett went to the bench and brought in some speed, in the form of Mike Banner, Justin Mapp and Patrick Nyarko. The Fire attack was immediately improved. Nyarko was pushing the issue up front, while Cuauhtemoc Blanco made things happen.
Blanco was taken down in the 18, and, with Pablo Mastroeni of the Rapids blowing sweet nothings into his ear, calmly beat Matt Pickens from the spot and the Fire were on the board.
Fourteen minutes later, the Fire were buzzing around the final third when a loose ball came out to Mike Banner. Banner was playing the left-back position due to injuries and internal problems the Fire are having on the backline. The youngster blasted one from twenty yards into the net and the score was tied at two.
There have been a lot of ties in MLS this season and it looked like the Fire had clawed their way to another.
But in added time, after a Nyarko shot was cleared off the line by the Rapids defense, Dasan Robinson got his head to a cross from Justin Mapp...put it past Pickens and the Fire had miraculously come back to gain the three point win and pull themselves withing one point of first place Columbus in the Eastern Conference.
Robinson will miss the game Saturday with D.C. United after he took off his jersey and swung it over his head while celebrating his game winner. He had received a yellow card previously in the match, after tripping the league's leading goal scorer, Conor Casey. Robinson did a tremendous job defensively on the Rapids forward all game long.
This just might be the win that propels this offense down the stretch. Just seven games remaining in the regular season.
The Fire will apparently be without Gonzolo Segares, (MCL sprain), and Tim Ward, (broken toe), for a little while longer. As for Bakary Soumare, it appears that after his altercation with Coach Hamlett at halftime of the Houston game, the Mali defender could be on his way to the French First Division.
Which is the better way to start the game with all of the questions on the backline?
Should Hamlett go with more of a defensive squad and go to the bench for offense like he did Sunday? Or, should Nyarko, Banner and Mapp get the call right from the start?
Let me know what you think!