Photo by Jeff Vorva
The Chicago Fire’s Kennedy Igboananike flies during a header against Montreal on Saturday. He later scored the team’s only goal in a 2-1 loss to Montreal.
What the Chicago Fire could use is a Didier Drogba.
The 38-year-old, who has been keeping himself out of most Montreal Impact games this year because he didn’t like playing on artificial surfaces, came into the natural grass of Toyota Park Saturday in Bridgeview against the Fire in the 50th minute of the game and his team down, 1-0.
He made an impact for the Impact.
Six minutes after getting in the game, Drogba tied the game up with a goal to shift the momentum around. And in the stoppage time after the 90th minute, Ignacio Piatti scored for the Impact in the 2-1 victory in front of an announced crowd of 14,509.
The tide of the game turned when the legendary Drogba finally stepped onto the field and part of the blame goes to the Fire players.
“We weren’t mature in this game,” said Fire coach Veljko Paunovic, whose team fell to 1-2-3. “He came into the game and we were impressed by him. He’s one of the best players in the world. I love him. He’s a great guy. But we have to understand that we have to respect ourselves as well as our opponents.’’
The Fire seems to have a Drogba-like game-changer in David Accam but he missed his fourth straight game due to an injured left knee. The Fire have a week off and Accam said he hoped to be back for the April 30 home game against D.C. United. He added that he hoped to start practice this week.
Paunovic said in March he hoped that Accam (who led the team with 10 goals last year and had two goals and an assist in the Fire’s first two games this year) would be back April 2. But Accam, who hurt the knee against Orlando City March 11 said he was told he could be out six weeks.
“It’s coming along like we thought it would,” Accam said.
Kennedy Igboananike scored his team-leading third goal at the 29-minute mark for the Fire and having him and the speedy Accam back on field at the same time could cure some ails for a team that is struggling to not only score goals, but to even get shot attempts on target. The Fire has seven shots on goal in the past five games.
“That’s something we are working on,” Paunovic said. “It’s one of the areas we have to improve.’’
There is talk that the Fire will be getting some more offensive firepower in May, but having an Accam/Igboananike combination as soon as possible should give the offense a lift to try to match a solid defense.
Chicago Fire goalie Matt Lampson was bummed out about his team’s 2-1 loss to Montreal on Saturday but he did have a few good words about the defense breaking a team record.
In the 37th minute of the first half, the team broke its record of 356 straight minutes without allowing a goal (set in 2009) and boosted it up to 411 before 38-year-old Didier Drogba put one by Lampson on a play that the goalie blamed himself for.
“That is the very definition of ‘bittersweet,’ ’’ Lampson said. “Ultimately we lost the game. But the streak – that’s 100 percent credit to the guys in front of me. Our guys are always throwing their bodies in the way. That record shows the caliber of defense that we have and the character of the guys we have. It’s a nice feather in the cap, but you want three points. And we didn’t get them.’’
Former Fire midfielder Henry Shipp, who was traded to Montreal in February for cash and composed an emotional open four-page letter to Fire fans, got off two shots – one on target – in 45 touches against his former team. Shipp opened the season with two assists in two games for the Impact, which improved to 4-2-0.
Some eyebrows were raised when a fan ran onto the Toyota Park field and interacted with some of the players and appeared to take a photo of himself with Impact star Didier Drogba. The fan ran off the field on his own and back into the stands when security finally started to chase him. The fact that the fan was not chased by security personnel while he was on the field had some observers surprised.
“It is concerning,” Fire coach Veljko Paunovic said but wouldn’t elaborate.