Fire record first MLS victory since April

Fire record first MLS victory since April
June 3, 2013, 8:30 am
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Len Ziehm

Granted the opponent was lowly D.C. United, but the Fire got exactly what it needed in the first game of a four-game homestand on Sunday.

The Fire had been winless (0-3-1) in its last four Major League Soccer matches. That dryspell ended with a 2-0 victory, and that’s not all.

In the first 11 games the Fire (3-7-2) had trouble finding a goal-scorer. Now that shortcoming seems corrected. Mike Magee, acquired from the Los Angeles Galaxy last week, scored his second goal in as many games. Clearly the Fire now has a go-to guy as well as a much-needed new look.

Magee, who grew up in Chicago but left early in his high school days to pursue soccer opportunities, and Bakary Soumare were both acquired in recent trades and Sunday marked their first home match since joining the Fire. Soumare has played three matches as a center back, Magee two as a striker. In those three matches the Fire is unbeaten – a 1-1 draw at Real Salt Lake, a 2-0 win in the Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup and Sunday’s romp.

Don’t get too excited. The Fire is still eight points behind the Philadelphia Union, which holds the fifth and last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. And, United isn’t the power it was in the early years of MLS or even when first Fire captain Peter Nowak was its coach.

Nowak, who retired as a player after five seasons with the Fire, was a coaching success at United and in the U.S. national team program but was dismissed as coach of the Philadelphia Union midway through the 2012 season. He watched Sunday’s match with Fire owner Andrew Hauptman. The D.C. squad isn’t what is used to be, owning a 1-10-2 record – worst in MLS. United is winless in its last 11 matches and scored in just two of those.

Still, the Fire was in bad need of a win and got it. The only goal needed came quickly. Joel Lindpere’s free kick was eventually put into the net by United defender Nick DeLeon in the ninth minute – an own goal.

Magee got his goal in the 85th off assists from Patrick Nyarko and Maicon Santos.

Nyarko and Magee are just getting used to each other.

"It’s hard getting used to speed," said Magee. "I’m not fast, so I can’t relate at all."

"(Mike) is such a smart player," said Nyarko. "I catch myself looking at him and his movements as a play develops to see what he wants me to do with the ball."

The Fire played without captain Logan Pause, injured in the Open Cup win. Alex got the midfield start in his place with Daniel Paladini replacing him in the 74th minute.

An equally interesting personnel decision came when Klopas called on Santos, who was with D.C. last season, to relieve Chris Rolfe in the 68th minute. Santos, who has had a shoulder problem in recent weeks, got the call ahead of Sherjill MacDonald, who had been the starter up top most of the season even though he’s still without a goal.

MacDonald’s role with the team will definitely change now that Magee’s aboard and scoring.

"He’s a quality player who’s going to make our team a lot better," Klopas said of Magee.

Soumare’s presence has stabilized the back line, which had missed the experience of German veteran Arne Friedrich. He’s still nursing hip and hamstring injuries but his absence doesn’t seem so critical now.

"To start (at home) with a win and clean sheet couldn’t have been scripted any better," Soumare said.

The homestand continues on Saturday when the Portland Timbers visit. This match could create a first for this season. Klopas has had to use 12 lineups in the first 12 games in an effort to find one that works. Now he may have found one.