The Fire continue to shoot themselves in the foot by not giving themselves an opportunity to succeed. Late goals allowed, sloppy defending, and listless offensive displays have been a staple of the team's 2010 season so far. Today's match was no different. This time Wilman Conde was again the culprit. Conde continues to pick up senseless yellow cards by charging carelessly into opposing players and putting his team at risk. The play which led to his second yellow card and subsequent red card ejection was dubious due to a dive on the part of Ned Grabavoy and some circus clown officiating by Jorge Gonzalez, but the bottom line is Conde absolutely CANNOT put himself in a position to grab a player in the box especially when he is already playing with one yellow card.
The red card ejection forced the Fire the play a man down and essentially took the steam out of any hopes the team had of breaking Real Salt Lake's home unbeaten streak. As it stands the 23 game run is a new MLS record for unbeaten matches at home. The Fire's window of opportunity for post season play is growing smaller and smaller. The window is about to shut.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - There was nothing he could do on the penalty kick although he did guess right. Johnson was solid again, although it says something about the squad when your goalkeeper is constantly the highest rated player on the pitch.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Back from serving a two game red card suspension. Didn't do much on the offensive side other than provide an errant long distance shot in the second half. Not much action on his side for Real Salt Lake attackers though.
D Dasan Robinson (5) - Not a bad effort considering that Conde's ejection necessitated his moving to center back in the second half. Missed a few tackles while on the right side but no real errors resulting in any dangerous RSL chances.
D CJ Brown (5) - It's difficult to judge a team when playing a man down for an entire half since the initial game plan is thrown out the window. Brown was okay in the middle of the defense unlike his partner at center half.
D Wilman Conde (3) - Remember when Conde was considered one of the best defenders in MLS? His 2010 season has been nothing short of terrible highlighted by one mistake after another. Conde once again placed his team at a severe disadvantage with a shambollic attempt to defend a fairly harmless looking Ned Grabavoy run into the area. A 24th minute half hearted attempt to play a bouncing ball resulted in a Robbie Findley chance on goal that could have been more dangerous if Findley had not tried an ill advised chip shot. If he's playing for a new contract or hoping that his play will inspire a European or South American team to offer up big dollars for his services he's going to be woefully mistaken. The Fire currently have a contract extension on the table. Now I'm wondering if going in another direction may be a better idea.
M Logan Pause (5) - Pause wasn't bad but there's a mile of difference between RSL's holding mid and the Fire's holding mid.
M Bratislav Ristic (6) - Ristic played well at right mid before being forced to right back after the ejection. He was active, took on defenders, tried to play through balls, and drew fouls. A nice yet unspectacular debut.
M Marco Pappa (4) - Once again invisible for long stretches of the match while playing on the left side. Pappa has yet to learn how to play without the ball or get himself into a position where he has an opportunity other than a long distance left footed blast. His passing left alot to be desired as well. After missing the last four matches his return was highly anticipated and he provided little to justify the anticipation.
M Freddie Ljungberg (4) - In a match like this a team needs their designated players to step up and take charge. There was nothing of the sort from Ljungberg. It's not that he didn't appear to try, he just wasn't getting the ball and when he did, he did nothing with it other than attempt to dash around two or three defenders. He was also playing too high not allowing himself an opportunity to collect the ball from the back....not that the Fire's back five would have actually gotten it to him. He was subbed out in the 60th minute for Calen Carr.
F Collins John (5) - John had a few good touches and may have had a chance to draw a penalty kick if he would have hit the ground as easily as some RSL players before being subbed out at half time. I probably would have preferred that he stay on the pitch while his strike partner was subbed out. I'm struggling to remember the last time a Fire forward received a pass in a position to score. Anyone?
F Nery Castillo (4) - The Nery Castillo that practically dominated the Gold Cup in 2007 appears to be a memory. You'd be hard pressed to notice he was even on the pitch after the 70th minute. He was the lone forward in the second half. Offsides calls, turnovers, and general ineffectiveness seem to be standard fare so far in Castillo's short MLS career.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Seemed to look a little more like his pre-injury self after coming on to start the second half for John. His 78th minute shot that was wide left was sadly the Fire's best chance of the second half.
M Calen Carr (5) - Came on for Ljungberg in the 60th minute but didn't get much done in the attack other than a failed attempt to hook up with Castillo at the top of the box in the 89th minute.
M Mike Banner (5) - Substituted for Pappa in the 85th minute and ran around for a little while.
Next Match - "So you're saying there's still a chance!"
The Fire return home next Saturday to face the Seattle Sounders. Needless to say, this is a must win game at home against the team currently holding the eighth and final playoff spot. If the Fire are to hold on to any slim chance of qualifying for post season three points is an absolute must.
I'm not saying it's a good chance but there is still a chance. That being said, I feel like Jim Carey in the film classic Dumb and Dumber when assessing those chances.
Telefutura's jumpy and incredibly annoying picture quality has been a problem all season that has not been addressed. The issue supposedly lies in the national feed technology to local cable providers. Whatever the issue is, it's ridiculous that it has not been corrected yet.
Fire Communications Coordinator Franco Sui-Yuan filled in admirably on color commentary for Batata on AM-1200's spanish language radio broadcast.