On Fire: Injuries, tactics, a slip prove Chicago's downfall
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — The Houston Dynamo were able to rest 10 starters last Saturday, four days before Wednesday's 2-1 Knockout Round win over the Chicago Fire, because they already knew their fate.
The Fire, however, weren't afforded such a luxury. And that hindered players like Pável Pardo, who missed six straight games before Saturday's 1-1 tie against D.C. United, and Patrick Nyarko, who was diagnosed with a strained oblique muscle about a month ago.
"Because of the circumstances, that's why I went 90," Nyarko said. "I was really struggling with my injuries. The last month has been really, really, really painful. ... The three days wasn't really enough, but you have to play the game."
Pardo was uncertain heading into the game whether he'd be able to put together his second 90-minute game in four days, and he left the game in the 60th minute on Wednesday.
"I think he felt a little heavy-legged and we so we made the sub," head coach Frank Klopas said.
MacDonald struggles to stay onside
The Fire just weren't in sync throughout Wednesday's match, and Sherjill MacDonald wasn't able to take advantage of Houston's high line. The Dutch striker was called offside three times in the first half.
"They played very high. They played higher than all of the teams I played in this league for some reason," MacDonald said. "I think I was too eager to get the ball. Maybe I should have waited a little longer. With my speed, I could have waited a little longer."
MacDonald said there was plenty of blame to go around for the constant offside calls.
"I tried to make the runs, it was bad timing. Some occasions, I thought maybe I could've gotten the ball faster," MacDonald said. "Those are things where, sometimes in New York I made the same run and I was not offside."
Pause out early
Klopas decided to sacrifice offense for defense down 1-0 at the half, removing captain Logan Pause and inserting attacking midfielder Alex.
The Fire were burned almost immediately, allowing a second goal in the 46th minute after a turnover in midfield.
"We needed to push the game," Klopas said. "We had our tactic to get on the ball, to try and move the ball forward more. It kind of sucked because we made the change and gave up the second goal right off the bat. So it took a while for it. And when you are 2-0 down you need to push the game, and we did."
Alex eventually reduced Houston's lead to a single goal with an 83rd-minute goal.
Pause said he didn't try to affect Klopas's decision about his removal.
"I don't think I need to lobby," he said. "Obviously I want to be out there, but I don't think anyone needs to hear it from me. It was a tactical shift that was for the best of the team, which I'm not going to argue."
Jalil Anibaba was defending Will Bruin on a 12th-minute corner kick when the forward quickly changed directions, causing the second-year right back to slip, allowing Bruin to score on an open header.
"The ball got whipped in and I slipped," Anibaba said. "I just slipped."