All of the promise and optimism generated by an enthusiastic start to the season during the first three matches seems to have been wiped away just as quickly by an error prone Fire defense whose latest disappointment includes today's home loss to the Los Angeles Galaxy B squad. The Fire can cling to the fact that the team continues to claw and fight in every match despite three consecutive losses but that will only carry them so far.
After failing to take the lead in the first half when Gaston Puerari and Gonzalo Segares both narrowly missed break away opportunities, LA took advantage of yet another defensive miscue to take the lead just before half time. After a 42nd minute throw-in the entire Fire back line attempted to play two Galaxy strikers offside. The entire back line that is with the exception of Jalil Anibaba. The rookie right back stayed back far enough to keep Chad Barrett onside and the former Fire forward turned the mistake into a 1-0 Los Angeles lead.
"Jalil gave the option to the opponent because he was dropping too much in the box. This is the situation we need to correct. He didn't follow the other guys and gave the option (chance) to the LA player," said Carlos De Los Cobos after the match.
De Los Cobos also told media after the match that Jon Conway would continue to start in goal ahead of Sean Johnson for the time being. Listen to his entire press conference here.
Los Angeles essentially placed the nail in the coffin in the 72nd minute when Omar Gonzalez headed home a Miguel Lopez corner kick giving the visitors a 2-0 lead. Central defender Cory Gibbs was not on the pitch at the time of the goal after leaving the field with an injury just a minute before the goal was scored. Gibbs did not return and will be evaluated tomorrow by team doctors.
After Dominic Oduro gave the Fire some hope with a beautiful run and finish in the 89th minute the Fire came close with two corner kick chances. The score was too little too late again and the Fire have an uphill battle ahead of them after a 1-3-1 start to a season which began with some optimistic play. If the team's positive attitude is something that the organization has pointed to as an improvement over last season that attitude will surely be tested now.
GK Jon Conway (5) - Didn't necessarily play badly and neither of the goals can be blamed on him but he didn't distinguish himself either. Came up field to challenge on a corner kick in the first minute of extra time and nearly had a chance to connect with the ball before scrambling back to goal.
D Jalil Anibaba (4) - One has to wonder if Anibaba would be more comfortable in a central spot since he mostly played there during his collegiate career. Anibaba has huge upside but errors such as the mental lapse which allowed the first goal are inexcusable. One also has to wonder if Steven Kinney can beat him out of the right back spot when healthy. To his credit, Anibaba was one of the few players who stuck around to face questions after the match.
D Cory Gibbs (5) - Played decently before hurting his left leg on a tackle attempt in the 70th minute. Broke up several LA attempts adequately.
D Josip Mikukic (5) - Returned from injury after missing the last two matches but the defense continues to make errors although there was an improvement today over the Portland match.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Fair effort from Segares. Made attempts to get forward and had a glorious chance slip through his fingers when he missed a break away attempt in the 29th minute.
M Logan Pause (5) - Played his role effectively enough but the Galaxy's B squad should not have had as much room and possesion as they did in the first half.
M Mike Videira (5) - Videira's effort is there but the Fire still lack a facilitator in the middle of the pitch. In a 4-4-2 formation with Pappa and Nyarko out wide the middle of the pitch is a creative black hole. Subbed out for Oduro in the 59th minute.
M Marco Pappa (5) - Had a few opportunities to unleash long distance shots with little results. Involved in the run of play but had no truly threatening scoring chances.
M Davis Paul (5) - Made his MLS regular season debut but provided little in terms of offensive punch with touches few and far between. Was subbed out for Nyarko at half time.
F Gaston Puerari (5) - Had yet another chance to score on a break away attempt this time just missing the net in the 18th minute. Had that chance been converted it may have been a long day for the Galaxy.
F Diego Chaves (5) - Continues his high work rate and still maintains a good dynamic with any forward combination thrown his way. No clear cut chances from Chaves until a last gasp corner kick effort late in extra time almost connected.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Came on at half time for Paul and did provide a spark with some impressive runs but his passing left something to be desired.
F Dominic Oduro (6) - Displayed a nice finishing touch on the goal, something which the Houston Dynamo feared he lacked. He's provided a positive spark just about every time he's been inserted into a match. Also created a corner kick opportunity or two.
M Orr Barouch (5) - Came on for Puerari in the 69th minute and slotted into a central role behind Chaves and Oduro. Didn't provide much other than an errant pass or two.
C Carlos De Los Cobos (4) - Losing at home in this circumstance is troubling. Even more troubling is the continued defensive struggles and lack of possesion in midfield. Subsituting Barouch for Puerari was a bit puzzling. De Los Cobos took full blame after the match during his press conference.
Injuries to Cory Gibbs and Marko Maric will be evaluated tomorrow morning. De Los Cobos said Maric's status "Doesn't look good."
Beating a mediocre Houston side at home next Saturday is a must. This may be a problem considering the difficulty experienced today against a lesser version of the Galaxy.