Fire 1-Revolution 2: No Luck in New England

New England Revolution v Los Angeles Galaxy

The Fire headed into Sunday's Game 1 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals at the New England Revolution knowing that they couldn't afford to give the Revs many set piece opportunities.

"We have to limit their set pieces," Fire Head Coach Denis Hamlett said earlier this week. "[We have to be careful on] throw-ins and corner kicks because they do well with those."

But the Fire wasn't able to control New England's dead ball opportunities and they paid the price for it, surrendering two goals off of set pieces to fall to the Revolution 2-1. The loss puts all the pressure on the Fire, who now needs a victory in next Saturday's series deciding Game 2 just to have a chance to advance to the Eastern Conference Final.
The Fire started the game off on the right foot, controlling a lot of the early possession and getting some early opportunities of its own. After nearly connecting on a series of half chances, the Fire broke through in the 17th minute when Revs keeper Matt Reis deflected Marco Pappa's cross into the path of midfielder Chris Rolfe who one-timed a 10 yard effort into the top corner.

The Fire nearly doubled the lead just three minutes later when Brian McBride collected a cross from the right wing and fired a 15 yard shot off the left post. This near miss would come back to haunt the Fire who let New England gain some momentum in the 25th minute when Jeff Larentowicz caught Jon Busch out of his net but saw his shot from distance rebound off the left post.

After hitting the post, New England started to turn the tide of the match a little bit, defending much better against the Fire and controlling more of the possession. New England's better play culminated in a stoppage time goal - that not only knotted the game at 1, but also gave New England all the momentum heading into the second half.

The Revs got the opportunity to tie it up after Fire defender C.J. Brown fouled midfielder Sainey Nyassi 20 yards out on the right flank. Fellow midfielder Kenny Mansally stepped up to take the free kick and his delivery was excellent - picking out Osei with a hard left footed curler just in front of Fire keeper Jon Busch. The Ghanaian Osei made no mistake with his header, neatly flicking his shot into the top netting.

After the break the Revs continued to create chances against a suddenly shaken-up Fire team. However, Chicago's back four did well to clear out most of New England's chances and there weren't any major opportunities for either side until the 60th minute when a Nyassi cross found Kheli Dube inside the 6. Fortunately for the Fire though, Dube was unable to control the chance and the ball was safely cleared away.

The match's next opportunity came 11 minutes later, when Fire rookie Baggio Husidic absolutely blasted a half volley from 23 yards off of the crossbar. Baggio's shot then cruelly deflected off the bar and down towards the goal line - but it couldn't quite sneak over to give the Fire the lead.

New England took advantage of Baggio's near miss in the 75th when Shalrie Joseph capitalized on a loose ball in the box after a Mauricio Castro corner and put a bouncing ball in the back of the net - giving the Revs the lead for good.

Now the Fire have to come home to their personal house of horrors Toyota Park and hope they can pull out the win against the Revs. A one-goal victory would move the match into extra time (and possible penalties) and a two (or more) goal win would propel the Fire into the next round. Anything less and the Fire go home for the winter.

Here are a few questions I wanted to leave you guys with.

**1 - How disappointed are you with the result?**

Though the result is undeniably disappointing, I'm not all that down on how the Fire played this afternoon. I thought they played a pretty good game but got a little unlucky throughout - as the McBride and Husidic near misses illustrate. Brandon Prideaux and Baggio Husidic unexpectedly made very solid contributions and it's good to see those two play well. Unfortunately for the Fire though, their big name players didn't do enough and Brian McBride and Cuauhtemoc Blanco didn't do a whole lot (especially in the second half).

**2 - What's your level of concern heading into Saturday's Game 2?**

I'm pretty concerned. Toyota Park has been a house of horrors all season long for the Fire and (as I mentioned above) they need a win to have a chance of getting through to the next round. The Fire definitely have the talent to pull out the win - but I have my doubts they won't fall victim to the same mistakes (set piece goals, inability to finish) that have plagued them all season.

So, that's all for now but I'll be back tomorrow with much more coverage of the aftermath of this game and the rest of the MLS playoff scenario.

Comments

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  • Sam, you really thought the Fire played well? That was one of the worst second halves I've ever seen a team play! They couldn't control the ball at all, let alone string passes together. Why Blanco was not subbed after 60 minutes is a mystery; he was awful. The Banner/Segares sub was idiotic: first, Segares hasn't played forever, and it showed; but second, why not take off Blanco, Husidic or Pappa and move Banner up into the offensive midfield? That would have been a much more efficient use of subs. And taking Rolfe off for Mapp? Unbelievably stupid.

    But hey, I'm not worried. As soon as the Fire is bounced out of the playoffs, Hamlett will surely be fired and these numbskull moves will cease.

  • In reply to tribhater:

    I probably went a little far in saying they played "pretty good." I do still think that the Fire played a solid first half and though the second half certainly wasn't good, I wouldn't call it horrible. They have certainly played worse halves this season and they were only a few inches away from walking away from the game with at least a point.

    As far as the subs go, I completely agree that the Rolfe for Mapp sub was bad. Segares for Banner I'm not so sure. Banner was starting to get torched by Nyassi and -- assuming Hamlett wants to start Segares on Saturday -- he would want Gonzalo to get some match experience prior to that. Granted, the playoffs isn't the best time to get an injured player's feet wet but Banner wasn't really getting it done. And though Blanco was not playing well -- and a subbing him off would've been completely justified -- he is one of the few players on the Fire that has the ability to create a goal scoring chance all by himself. That alone almost (key word almost) warrants keeping Temo in the game.

    All in all, I would agree I went too far in saying the Fire played "pretty good." However, I don't think they played too horribly and at times (especially in the first half) I thought they looked good.

  • In reply to tribhater:

    Hey, let's send Denis to New York? It worked with JCO. He doesn't pay enough attention to realize that it actually is an important game so we should start the best players, Segares.

  • In reply to tribhater:

    I was fairly happy with the way they started the game and gave Hamlett some credit for coming out and trying to appy pressure and not play for the tie. That being said they stopped doing that in the second half and did nothing to adjust to New England's second half attacking strategy. The substitutions made by DH were again nonsense. This Revolution team is not very good and should be a team the Fire can defeat.

    Unfortunately the match-up behind the bench (Nicol vs. Hamlett) is heinously one sided.

  • In reply to tribhater:

    The only good thing about this result is the fact that we're now one game close to firing Hamlett. I feel sick to my stomach after giving up the game like we have so many times after scoring first. The defense has really fallen apart after the second half, or after the fight.

  • Hamlett is such a lier after the score they played for a tie. I just hope we have better luck puttinf the ball in the back of the net next week.

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