In yet another night of missed opportunities, the Fire squandered one of the "games in hand" against their playoff competitors by dueling to a frustrating 0-0 draw at home against a team with a 1-8-1 road record.
The Fire's best opportunity to score went out the window when Freddie Ljungberg somehow missed a clear 1v1 break away chance against Stefan Frei in the 48th minute. Several shots on the Toronto net later in the second half provided chances but none decidedly dangerous. Toronto was not much better offensively mustering only three shots on goal for the entire match.
The Fire's 3-4-3 formation never quite materialized as a true 3-4-3 since Mike Banner was dropping back consistently at left back. The three forward formation also resulted in Nery Castillo seeing more time at left midfield than forward. In any case, the attempt at a more offensive minded starting eleven resulted in an outcome similar to those throughout this entire season, namely frustration.
GK Sean Johnson (7) - Continues his outstanding performance. His best save of the night came in the 74th minute as a Mike Banner botched clearance resulted in a close range Toronto shot that Johnson koncked away. The clean sheet was good and the marking was decidely better but the season is ticking away and Johnson will be one of the bright spots if the team fails to qualify for the playoffs.
D Steven Kinney (5) - Was fairly sold in back but didn't provide much going forward. Overlapping runs by Fire defenders are few and far between these days. Toronto's wide players were reasonably contained throughout the match but I'm not sure if that was excellent defending or just bad offensive play from the visiting side.
D Dasan Robinson (6) - Was probably the Fire's best defender throughout the match while playing center back. Cleared most of the aerial attempts into the area and handled just about every attack in his direction.
D CJ Brown (6) - Brown took several hard knocks throughout the match and played with a large bloody knot on his forehead and an abrasion on the left side of his head. Marking on Toronto set piceces was improved tonight.
M/D Mike Banner (5) - A missed clearance in the 74th minute almost cost the Fire the match but Johnson was there to bail him out. Banner started out briefly at left mid before spending most of the match actually playing the left back spot. At some point he must do a better job of actually maintaining possesion to warrant continued playing time.
M Logan Pause (6) - Reasonably solid again as Toronto's attack seldom seriously threatened. DeRosario was held to one long range shot.
M John Thorrington (5) - Seemed to struggle a bit tonight and was subbed out at halftime for Conde. The reason for the substitution was apparently cramping.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Several long runs drew Toronto fouls in dangerous positions but the final touch or run into a truly threatening spot never materialized. Provided a through ball to John that resulted in the only real chance of the first half. Drew two Toronto yellow card fouls but his crossing was ineffective.
F/M Nery Castillo (6) - His best performance in a Fire kit to date, which was also an improvement on the LA match. Started the game briefly playing on top with John but immediately moved back into more of a left midfield role where he doesn't seem as comfortable. His best moments came after Ljungberg was subbed out and he was able to get forward as the central attacker.
F Collins John (5) - Managed to get a head on several crosses and corners but none resulted in true scoring chances. His low hard shot in the 15th minute provided the Fire's first offensive threat of the night. Subbed out for McBride in the 82nd minute. Had a chance for a clear break away in the second half which was incorrectly called offside.
F Freddie Ljungberg (4) - Easily his least impressive effort since joining the team. His game seemed a little off and as a result was subbed out for Calen Carr in the 75th minute. His miss in the 48th minute was one of those "wow" moments that can deflate a match. I would dare say that Chad Barrett may have actually finished that chance.
M Wilman Conde (5) - Replaced Thorrington in the attacking mid role at half time. Wasn't bad but had a tendency to rely on long balls and lengthy switches too often.
F Calen Carr (6) - Seemed to be one of the few players on the pitch with a true sense of urgency. After coming on in the 75th minute for Ljungberg he provided some spark if nothing else.
F Brian McBride (5) - Played the final eight minutes after coming on for John but didn't really factor into much of the play.
Needless to say the road match in Philadelphia on Saturday is another must win situation for a team who may have seen their playoff hopes fade with a draw tonight. The best chance for the Fire may be catching a Seattle side which will be faced with Champions League and US Open Cup matches over the next several weeks. Seattle is at home against Real Salt Lake tomorrow. Any chance of catching a streaking Colorado may have been blown tonight. San Jose is at home against FC Dallas on Saturday.
Fire Post Game
Carlos De Los Cobos addresses formation changes, dwindling chances, and Marco Pappa's role upon his return. Listen to the full post game press conference here.
I'll have more on Bob Bradley's USMNT comments tomorrow.
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