Fire 2 -- Houston 3: A tough loss in Texas

Everton FC v Chicago Fire

In a thrilling match full of injuries, controversy and goals, the Fire came out losers Sunday night, falling to the MLS leading Houston Dynamo 3-2 at Robertson Stadium.

The Fire - who saw their five game MLS unbeaten streak come to a close - couldn't catch a break all night long and fell victim to injuries and some questionable refereeing throughout the match.
The Fire's unlucky streak started in the 5th minute of play, when starting defender Gonzalo Segares went down with a leg injury and had to be replaced by Daniel Woolard.

The loss of Segares hampered an already beat up Fire back line - center back Wilman Conde wasn't able to play due to a hamstring injury - and Houston was able to take advantage, completely controlling the opening 10 minutes of the match before opening the scoring in the 21st minute of play.

Houston took the lead through forward Kei Kamara who - after finding himself completely unmarked just to the right of the six yard box - received a throw in, turned and blasted the ball past Fire goalie Jon Busch from a difficult angle.

Getting the first goal only seemed to add fuel to Houston's attack and the Dynamo doubled their advantage in the 37th minute when midfielder Ricardo Clark lofted a Brian Ching chip over the head of a charging Jon Busch from 12 yards out and into the back of the net.

The Fire wasn't able to respond before halftime and things looked very bleak for the team heading into the break. However, Head Coach Denis Hamlett's halftime speech seemed to motivate the squad and they came out a completely different side in the second half.

Chris Rolfe got the Fire back into the match soon after the break when - in the 46th minute - his right footed blast from 25 yards out slid to the right of diving Houston keeper Pat Onstad.

The Fire kept the pressure on after scoring their opener and they equalized in the 48th after midfielder Cuauhtemoc Blanco stripped Houston defender Julius James of the ball near the end line, then hit a lofted left footed cross to a sliding Peter Lowry, who thundered his volley home. The goal was the first of Lowry's career and - in my opinion - the best of the night.

Things slowed down for a few minutes after Lowry's goal but the Fire was hurt by bad luck again when Daniel Woolard - who had come on for an injured Gonzalo Segares - was lost to injury in the 60th minute.

With Woolard gone, Houston again picked up their attack and Brian Ching came excruciatingly close in the 69th minute, blowing a 1 v. 1 with Busch before hitting the ball over an open net. Finally it seemed like the Fire had caught a break but their luck ran out in the 83rd when defender Brandon Prideaux was whistled for a (soft) foul in the area, giving the Dynamo a penalty kick.

Midfielder Stuart Holden made no mistake with the spot kick, as he powered his effort to the right of Jon Busch and gave Houston the 3-2 lead.

The Fire wasn't done attacking though and in the 85th minute it looked like they had equalized again but Blanco's chip from the left side of the box hit the inside of the far post and (somehow) refused to go in.

Blanco's shot was the last real chance for the Fire but the game wouldn't end without another piece of controversy and Julius James' perceived tackling of an airborne Patrick Nyarko (who was attempting to head a Blanco cross) inside the box drew a PK shout from the Fire but the referee wasn't having any of it and the match soon ended.

Before I sign off for the night I wanted to pose a couple questions to you guys though...

**1 - What did you think of the Fire defense?**
After three consecutive MLS shutouts, the Fire defense was pathetic (at least in the first half) on Sunday night. The marking in the lead up to Houston's first goal was very poor and I know Denis Hamlett will not be happy with the way his backline performed. Sure, the Fire lost Gonzalo early on but that doesn't change the fact that there isn't any excuse for not marking your man...

**2 - What about the PK?**
For those of you who didn't see it, Houston's penalty was pretty soft. Granted, Brandon Prideaux's slide tackle did take Corey Ashe to the ground but it looked like Prideaux got the ball too and there really wasn't a whole lot in the challenge. Personally, I thought that referee Terry Vaughn could've let the challenge go but he isn't shy when it comes to PK's (see Fire at Chivas USA...)


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  • The match was very frustrating. I would have loved a point... and if the PK had not been called and Houston ended up 2-2, it would have been their fault for not winning. They dominated too much of the game and had too many unbelievable opportunities that they did not put away. This game very easily could have been 5-2.

  • Also, I will say that even though we now have an entire back line of injured defenders (Conde, Ward, Segares, and Woolard), I'm not sure that Brandon Prideaux should be on the pitch. His performance this year has ranged from mildly acceptable to absolutely horrible. The PK tackle would not have been necessary (and it wasn't anyhow) if his man hadn't blown by him 15 yards up the pitch. Prideaux had a horrible game during against Tigres (SuperLiga Final), and he had a horrible game against Club America. (Those two especially stand out.) I've found myself consistently complaining about him as he's been torched by one man or another all season. I'm sure he's a nice guy and he works hard, but the skill level isn't there. I think it's pine time.

  • Don't worry about Prideaux he's retiring after this season anyway.

  • In reply to Adam25:

    I'm most concerned about the potential damage as we're waiting for him to close out the season. He's gotten burned in big games, when it counts. This loss probably cost us a reasonable chance at the Supporter's Shield. More play like that and we might end up losing an MLS Cup.

  • In reply to Adam25:

    Why is no one mentioning Woolard's miscues on defense? He was awful last night, and his lack of marking led directly to Kamara's goal.

  • In reply to Adam25:

    I'll agree that Woolard wasn't any good last night. Does that make it better?

    I've heard and read that we're considered the deepest team in MLS with all of our defensive and attacking options. But when we're without a few of our regulars, we seem as deep as a single ply square of wet toilet paper sometimes.

  • In reply to Adam25:

    Rather than looking at the negative- what an amazing first MLS goal for Lowry!?

  • In reply to NicoleHack:

    Well, it was the first quality play I've seen from Lowry in a competitive match for the Fire ever. Now if only that awesome goal could erase Brandon's play - dang, there's the negative again.

  • In reply to NicoleHack:

    Yes let's ignore the negative and reality while we're at it. Comeon folks, turn that frown upside down and for God's sake Nicole, break out the damn orange slices already!

    Next game let's not even keep score and let everyone who dresses out to play.

  • In reply to Adam25:

    Hamlett should consider a new starting 11 and stop depending so much on player that have international duties. Have some bench players record some minutes...

  • Fire never had much luck against Huston anyway. Fire didn't control the game so Huston was running the game all night long. It was a bad call on the refree side, that was not a scoring oppurtinity and you could see clearly he got to the ball. Will see what happens next week...

  • I love hime but I'm starting to really question Baky's role in the team down the stretch. Far too many mental breakdowns this year. I fear his brain is already off playing the French First Division or someplace. The Fire really didn't miss his absence in the second half.

    This squad is starting to look really thin with all of the names (potentially) on the shelf this Sunday.

  • Baky isn't looking as good as billed this year for sure. Maybe selling him off for money is the right call for the team. Last thing we need is a defensive version of Mapp.

    We need Conde a lot more than management would admit.

    Prideaux is awful and has gotten burned more than few times lately (vs. Tigres and Dynamo) and needs to be benched so he can retire faster. Where is Robinson? If not him, then put Tim Ward on the defensive wing.

    McBride's absence and leadership is hugely missed.

    Looking at all the players we stand to lose if don't don't step up and pay them after the season (in addition to unloading Mapp) points to a RBNY-esque 2010.

    Andrew - trade Mapp to get him off the payroll and re-sign Conde, McBride, Segares and Rolfe. If we can't sign Blanco again, go find us a Schelotto. And of course, Fire Denis and go out and hire Mariner.

  • In reply to fireman451:

    Andrew is not interested in Fire I bet he will sell the team at the end of this season or next.

  • In reply to fireman451:

    What is the word on McBride's recovery?

  • In reply to Adam25:

    Looking like he'll be back around mid-October. It's still early in the rehab process though so a lot could change.

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