This was my first journey to RFK this season, and boy did I pick a good one. It sure did feel right for this to be a battle for first place, because United and the Fire did look like two of the best teams in MLS tonight. Great atmosphere in the stadium.
Just a shame for a really well-played competitive match between two good teams to be influenced so heavily by the officials. In the end though, the two soft penalty calls balanced each other out. D makes a good point about the symmetry in the officiating. I'll wait until the video highlights are posted online, but in person, I didn't see a foul worthy of a penalty in either case. The difference tonight though, was in the goalkeeping.
1. Ladies and gentlemen we have a goalkeeper! Josh Wicks earned us 2 extra points in this match, not only with his penalty kick save on McBride, but also on a couple other point blank saves, and total control of the box on corner kicks.
2. It wasn't just Wicks though that held Chicago to one goal. The strong defense of Marc Burch and Dejan Jakovic also helped preserve the victory. Brian McBride is the best aerial attacker in US Soccer history, and Burch was marked up against him on every corner and free kick. Great job. Jakovic singlehandedly shut down numerous scoring opportunities, including quite a few from the speedy Nyarko.
3. Christian Gomez isn't going to let the starting central attacking midfield job get away from him that easily. Dude was awesome tonight. It's been far too long since we've seen United score directly off a free kick like that.
4. All of the loud side was buzzing in response to the play of Boyzzz Khumalo after he entered as a second half sub. He put in some hard work during the final minutes to keep Chicago honest.
5. Despite missing Emilio, Tom Soehn did well to put together a great starting XI. Wallace had another strong match in central defensive midfield. And the subs did well to close it out (finally we saw the reapperance of the 4-4-2!) Soehn was also smart to switch Fred and Quaranta after Rolfe and Pappa had already switched, and Pappa was clearly abusing Fred.
1. While putting in a good effort whether on the wing in the first half or up front in the second, Santino Quaranta should have made the final score 3-1 if he was able to finish off Khumalo's perfect cross late in the match.
1. I had a good view of Fred's multiple giveaways in the first half. It wasn't pretty. I think the only passes he completed were backwards to Burch.
Ah, first place. It feels good. This team is really starting to come together. We all were counting on United to score plenty of goals in 2009, but now that they have an above average starting goalkeeper, along with maybe the best center back in the league, this team could be in for a very good year.