October 6, 2012
SHOWING HIS WORTH
MacDonald trumps NY DPs
HARRISON, NJ—The New York Red Bulls might have three of the highest-paid players in Major League Soccer, but Sherjill MacDonald showed what he is worth to the Chicago Fire on Saturday, scoring in the 65th and 78th minutes for a 2-0 win that gave the Fire sole possession of second place in the MLS East.
"I felt that he played well in other games but his ability today to be able to hold the ball, and to be able to make good runs, timing runs," said Fire Head Coach Frank Klopas. “Also, you got a guy like (Chris) Rolfe and other guys and (Daniel) Paladini that can play those through balls. Look, obviously you’re one up and they’re pushing the game and we just have to be smart with the ball. But he was super tonight in a big game and made a difference."
MacDonald snapped the scoreless tie off a breakaway, charging into the penalty area with a half-step edge on defender Heath Pearce and coolly slotting the shot over rookie goalkeeper Luis Robles, who had come off his line and gone to ground. Chris Rolfe set the play in motion with a pinpoint ball through the Red Bulls defense from just inside midfield.
MacDonald doubled the Fire lead off a through ball from Daniel Paladini, perfectly timing his break through the three-man Red Bulls back line and, while New York’s players screamed for an offside flag, again chipped the ball over Robles, this time 16 yards from goal.
"Today we kept the zero for a very long time," said MacDonald. "Then the game opens up. I got some good passes from Daniel (Paladini) and (Chris) Rolfe as well. We did a good defending job today as a team and that’s why the spaces opened up at the end and you get the chance."
Saturday’s win, combined with a Columbus Crew tie or loss against conference leaders Kansas City on Sunday, would guarantee the Fire a spot in the MLS Cup playoffs.
"It was a very big win because we lost the last two games," MacDonald explained. "We talked in the team, we talked to going back to the basics and defending well and we did that today so I’m very proud of the team that we kept the zero."
While the Red Bulls gave Fire ‘keeper Sean Johnson a few anxious moments, they put only one shot on goal, a header by Tim Cahill in the 57th minute that Johnson handled easily. German defender Arne Friedrich came up big for the Fire in the 27th minute, darting in to block Thierry Henry’s point-blank shot from in front of the goal. Otherwise, the Red Bulls were their own worst enemies, with Dax McCarty, Kenny Cooper and Henry all missing the mark despite open looks at goal.
"It’s just a big win. It’s very difficult to play in New York," said Klopas of keeping the Red Bulls scoreless. "There’s a lot of quality in their side and you knew it was going to be a big match at this point in the season, there was a lot on the game. I’m just very pleased with the way my team responded."
The Fire, meanwhile, were all over Robles from the opening kickoff. In the sixth minute – the witching hour for a Red Bulls team that came into Saturday’s game having surrendered early goals in four of their last nine games – Robles mishandled a long shot by Rolfe, grabbing up the rebound just ahead of Patrick the onrushing Patrick Nyarko, who vaulted over the Red Bulls ‘keeper and into the goalmouth. In the 33rd minute, Nyarko and Robles collided off the right post while contesting a teasing pass from Alvaro Fernandez.
Fernandez came up with one of the Fire’s best chances of the first half in the 44th minute, soaring over flat-footed defender Brandon Barklage for an open 10-yard header that was inches over the bar.
Chicago kept the momentum after halftime, almost forcing two early Red Bulls own goals, the first by Cooper as Daniel Paladini’s free kick pingponged through the six-yard box, and then by Markus Holgersson as he cleared Nyarko’s sharp cross form the right side.
In the midst of an otherwise forgettable day, Robles came up with the save of the game in the 52nd minute, standing tall to parry Friedrich’s point-blank eight-yarder away from the net.
"Looking back on both goals, we had a breakdown in our back four and those are type the type of goals that we need to avoid if we really want to make it into the playoffs," said Robles. "I’d have to look at the replay the first one it looked like a tough call, maybe he was offsides, but he did well, he finished well. And then the second one, I mean that can’t happen, it’s just the way it is."
The loss, coupled with DC United’s 1-0 win over Toronto FC earlier on Saturday, drops the Red Bulls to fourth place in the East at 15-9-8 (53 pts).