Fire Put Crushing Blow on Montreal Impact
The Chicago Fire put on a display of powerful attacking capability en route to a 3:0 demolition of the Montreal Impact on Saturday. The soggy, miserable conditions at Toyota Park seemed to have a bigger effect on Montreal than on the home side. The Impact looked ready to pack it in by halftime.
Coach Frank Yallop must have liked what he saw in the starting 11 versus Columbus last game because he trotted out the same formation once again. The attacking quartet of Harry Shipp, Shaun Maloney, David Accam and Kennedy Igboananike ran the Impact ragged; former Fire centerback Bakary Soumare was frequently on the receiving end of Fire pressure. Razvan Cocis and Matt Polster were a bossy pair in the middle of the park, leading their team to an incredible 89% passing accuracy. Jon Busch earned his second straight start between the pipes, intensifying the competition with Sean Johnson at goalkeeper.
Montreal turned a few heads earlier this spring when they reached the final of the CONCACAF Champions League. The winning form that earned them second place in that tournament, however, has not translated well to the MLS season, as they came into the contest in dead last in the Eastern Conference.
The Fire came out and pressured Montreal’s back line from the outset, and giveaways by the Impact were frequent. Once the Fire put their foot on the gas, they never relented, and the overrun Impact hardly put up a challenge. Jon Busch’s 83rd shutout of his career may well have been one of his easiest, as none of the Impact’s 11 shots found the target. Busch’s biggest job of the night was choosing where to place the ball on goal kicks.
Chicago broke out on top after 13 minutes and did so in impressive fashion. Igboananike controlled the ball in the deep left corner. When Soumare slipped, Igboananike quickly slid to the inside and played a diagonal ball back to Shipp 15 yards from goal. Shipp’s first touch was masterful, taking him past the flat-footed Laurent Ciman and it also set him up to send a screamer into the top corner at the far post.
Despite the miserable conditions, the Fire played the ball rapidly and skillfully, quite possibly finally fulfilling Yallop’s pre-season hopes of a possession-based style of attacking.
As if being down 1:0 away wasn’t enough of a burden for Montreal, Marco Donadel went bonehead, committing two bookable offenses in the span of 14 minutes. After his late and brutal slide tackle into Polster, Donadel was sent to an early shower. Donadel’s reckless challenge showed a decided lack of professional discipline.
The Fire made it 2:0 just before the break. Maloney slipped a nifty pass to Accam at the top of the box. Soumare was an easy mark for Accam’s stutter step fake and the winger easily glided past him. Soumare made a desperate attempt to recover ad his lunge took him right through the back of Accam’s legs, resulting in a penalty kick. It was a foolish challenge, as Accam, despite getting past Soumare, had a bad angle from which to shoot and had no real opening. Jeff Larentowicz did the job from the spot, sending Evan Bush the wrong way.
The Fire maintained their sizeable territorial advantage in the second half and it was only a matter of time before they would rack up a third tally to put the result beyond any doubt. In the 72nd minute, Evan Bush’s short goal kick went right to Cocis 40 yards from goal. Cocis played a first-time pass to Igboananike, who took on Soumare immediately. Soumare was slow to react and gave away far too much space. Igboananike used surgical precision to bag his first MLS goal to make it 3:0.
The Fire took a bad Montreal team to the woodshed and gave them a hellacious beatdown. It was not so long ago that the Fire would play down to the level of an inferior opponent. It’s that kind of approach that gets a team 18 draws in 34 matches, as was the case in 2014. Have the 2015 Fire turned a corner
OTF contributor George Gorecki has been involved at amateur levels of soccer as a player, coach, referee and administrator.