The last five regular season matches between the Fire and the Crew have ended in 2-2 draws. This one also could have ended in the same manner if the Fire had not blown several chances to at least put a shot on goal and make Columbus goalkeeper Will Hesmer work. The Fire managed a total of 16 shots but only 2 of them were on goal. Columbus managed only 3 shots on goal but they finished their chances.
Patrick Nyarko will need to find the scoring touch at some point this year if the side is to seriously contend for even the eigth playoff spot. So far noone other than Marco Pappa has shown the ability to actually find the back of the net.
The Crew's first goal came from Andrew Dykstra's bobbled attempt to coral a through ball. Dykstra's inability to consistently and efficiently handle the ball on crosses, shots, and through balls is beginning to make a defense for Jon Busch's release seem very dubious. "You can put the first goal on me. The guy went through my arm and then the ball and made it tought for me and maybe I should have come in harder." said Dykstra after the match.
In a telling stat that illustrates the Fire's frustrating inability to finish chances, all three goals on the day were scored by Columbus since Chicago's lone tally was an own goal by Frankie Hejduk. The second Crew score was another reminder of the Fire's other major downfall so far this year. Sloppy defending at inopportune moments. Eddie Gaven's service into Jason Garey was perfectly placed between Wilman Conde and Krzyzstof Krol to give the Crew the lead and the game. "On the second goal, it was just a matter of repeated mistakes that we've done before", said Dykstra "not marking up when we've needed to and doing what needs to be done off the ball". Allowing a goal so soon after a fortunate break to tie the match that late in the half is inexcusable but par for the course so far this season.
GK Andrew Dykstra (4) - Only called upon to make one save throughout the entire match. In only his second season in MLS, Dykstra must develop presence and hands quickly or risk continous failed comparisons to Busch.
D Wilman Conde (5) - Other than the Garey goal which was the result of a perfectly weighted pass, the Columbian defender was nothing more than just okay. We may have seen a sign of things to come when Conde was moved to defensive mid in the 84th minute in an attempt to spark some sort of attack.
D CJ Brown (5) - Brown does exactly what he's asked to do. Stay home and defend.
D Dasan Robinson (5) - Robinson faired nicely while breaking up a few Columbus attacks near the sideline in the first half but his inability to support out of the back is painfully obvious and highlights what Tim Ward can do from the right back spot.
D Krzyzstof Krol (5) - His attempts to get forward resulted in several misplaced crosses. He, along with Conde, was the victim of the second Crew score.
M Marco Pappa (5) - Was active for most of the match but the activity resulted in little real accomplishment in terms of dangerous chances. Started on the right side, moved to the left to start the second half, and alternated playing centrally with Banner and Nyarko in De Los Cobos' futile attempts to generate something offensively. Provided a pass into Nyarko in the 60th minute that Nyarko should have done better with (a weak off target header was the result).
M Logan Pause (5) - Pause has played respectably of late but his offensive shortcomings are further exaggerated by the Fire's lackluster offensive output. The Fire are basically playing with 5 defenders when Pause is on the pitch. This is not always a bad thing but he may be a casualty of a line up shakedown if De Los Cobos continues the Conde at d-mid experiment. He may move to right back, as we saw today but that will provide little support from that side.
M Baggio Husidic (5) - Provided the dangerous cross which resulted in Hejduk's own goal. Had a few opportunities to place a shot on frame but failed to so so. Changed position in the midfield throughout the match. Played next to Pause at times but also came forward at times while Banner played next to Pause.
M Mike Banner (5) - Provided a pass to Nyarko in the 65th minute that could have been converted but wasn't. If Mike Banner is a regular starter for the rest of this season, the Fire are in serious trouble. Banner provides the effort but he is realistically not more than a substitute flank midfielder and certainly not a central midfielder.
Patrick Nyarko (5) - Continues to be involved in dangerous opportunities but his inability to finish is maddening. He's been excellent all year but consistently missing the net will ensure that the team will have no worries about Nyarko departing for greener pastures when his contract expires. His shot wide in the 74th minute after a Pappa back pass sums it up.
Brian McBride (4) - He's receiving absoultely no service of even minimal quality but the Fire's marquee forward provided one shot taken (which was off the mark) for the entire match before being subbed out for Stefan Dimitrov in the 86th minute. That, in and of itself speaks volumes.
Kwame Watson-Siriboe (5) - Came on in the 84th minute for Robinson in a bit of a puzzling substitution. If you're making a move to supplement the attack, why change a defender for a defender? Conde was moved foward as a result. A more sensible move might have been the insertion of Corben Bone for Pause or a defender.
Stefan Dimitrov (4) - Came in late for McBride. The Fire are woefully lacking at the forward position.
As a whole I've graded most players with a 5 since the effort was not terrible but it also was not impressive. A 5 marks the middle of the road, which is where this team stands at the moment. Not good enough to seriously challenge but also not bad enough to be terrible. (For an example of terrible...please see New England Revolution).
De Los Cobos post match comments
"Many times we learn by making big mistakes. We made two big mistakes in defense and many in attacking, because we had the options. It's very hard and difficult to win that way. I am sad for my players because they made a big effort, but to win we have to leave everything on the field and not make little errors."
The Fire's next match is Thusday night at home against the defending MLS Cup champions, Real Salt Lake. RSL demolished the Revolution 5-0 on Friday night.
The Fire is in desperate need of help at foward and the need for a true central midfielder is still a glaring one. Jeremiah White's trial is apparently over and a contract will not be offered. Julio Martinez' vacated roster spot may be filled by Bratislav Ristic but that's not exactly the type of move that will excite anyone. Frank Klopas needs to address the team's needs by the time the transfer window opens on July 15.
If a player capable of making a major impact is not added to the squad this team will struggle to compete for the eigth and final playoff spot due to the strength of the Western Conference. It's painfully obvious that the side as constituted is not good enough to defeat the better teams in MLS. The season still has not reached the half way point so there is still time....but the clock is ticking.