The good news is the Fire recorded their first clean sheet of the season. A maligned and mistake prone defense managed to limit chances and maintained a shut out. The bad news is the team failed to score for the first time all season and continued to miss chances that should be put away. The result was particularly disturbing because expansion Vancouver had yet to record a point on the road after allowing six goals while going 0-3-0 in their first three road matches.
The Whitecaps also played a 120 minute match on Wednesday night which explained their defensive posture for most of the game. The Fire controlled the bulk of the possession throughout but failed to take advantage of a first half that should have seen them enter half time with at least a one goal lead. Two glaring opportunities were wasted again as Dominic Oduro skied a clear cut look at goal in the 32nd minute and Diego Chaves struck the far post in the 44th.
The second half provided no such chances as the Whitecaps seemed to have no interest in playing for anything other than a scoreless draw by dropping every man behind the ball. The Fire cooperated by appearing frustrated at the defensive tactics and launching several long distance prayer shots due to their inability to create chances on the ground. Possession was vastly improved as the home team controlled the ball for most of the game but activity shouldn't be mistaken for accomplishment. Large portions of the match featured the back line passing back and forth to each other laterally in an attempt to find a hole in the Vancouver defense that bent but didn't break. The change in central midfield has improved ball movement but hasn't increased the number of chances created.
GK Jon Conway (6) - Only faced two shots on goal but did provide a big play possibly saving further embarrassment by taking the ball away from Eric Hassli on a breakaway chance in the 75th minute. Hassli may have been offside to create the chance but Conway played it right after Hassli waited too long to pull the trigger.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Played well along with the rest of the back line but his passing accuracy and crosssing needs to improve. Several long distance diagonal pass attempts were easily intercepted by waiting Vancouver defenders. Tried a long chip in the 41st minute that missed just wide.
D Josip Mikulic (6) - Solid as usual and continues to show that his stability in the back is invaluable. Hit with a yellow card in the 4th minute stopping a Vancouver chance that could have been disastrous. Mikulic needs to stay healthy if the Fire are to regain any semblance of form.
D Yamith Cuesta (6) - Has been a surprisingly good addition performing admirably when called upon. Mikulic and Cuesta defended Hassli well all night limiting his chances to the counter attack break in the 75th.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Did very well against Whitecaps playmaker Chiumiento who was not dangerous all night. Chiumiento was switched over to the opposite side later in the second half.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - It was hoped that Paladini would provide a bit more offensive bite in place of the injured Logan Pause but that hasn't really been the case. Hasn't played terribly but hasn't distinguished himself either.
M Corben Bone (5) - Helped keep possession by moving the ball when the opportunity arose but the team needs more than just a player who can tap passes back and forth from this position. More active offensively than Videira but his indecisiveness at times is still a problem that needs to be outgrown. Another chance on goal in the 64th minute resulted in a shot high over the crossbar. Did recover well defensively in the 73rd minute blocking a Vancouver shot and clearing the ball out of danger. Subbed out in the 74th.
M Dominic Oduro (5) - Continues to look dangerous by creating chances with speed alone. Unfortunately the issues that paved his way out of Houston have made themselves apparent over the last few games. His reputation as a bad finisher proved correct again after he wasted a clear look at goal with a shot high over the crossbar while the far post remained wide open in 32nd minute.
M Marco Pappa (6) - Managed to get off several shots on goal but none were particularly dangerous. Did provide the pass that sprung Oduro for his chance in the 32nd minute and also provided the pass that Chaves eventually clanked off the post. Should have had two assists but his corner kick efforts, energy, and passing left something to be desired in the second half.
M Gaston Puerari (5) - Seems a bit lost and out of place while playing deeper into midfield. His work rate and high pressure on the ball are not as effective when he is further away from goal. Had a few flashes but nothing signficant. Subbed out in the 84th.
F Diego Chaves (5) - Uncharacteristically missed a glorious chance by hitting a ball of the post that should have put the Fire up 1-0 just before the half. One of several players who appeared frustrated in the second half launching a long distance attempt that didn't come close. Chaves did provide the best line of the night after the match. "Sometimes the ball is a spoiled girl. She doesn't want to go in and when she doesn't want to go in it's finished".
M Baggio Husidic (5) - Entered the match in the 74th minute for Corben Bone. Other than a few errants passes wasn''t involved much.
M Bratislav Ristic (5) - Saw his first game action since the opener after coming into the match in the 84th minute for Puerari. Moved into a left midfield spot with Pappa on the right as the team shifted to a 4-4-2 hoping to generate something offensively. It didn't work.
C Carlos De Los Cobos (5) - The Fire controlled possession and should have put the match away in the first half. Switched away from the 4-1-4-1 formation late in the match after Ristic entered in a vain attempt to create something going forward.
De Los Cobos continues to shoulder the blame for the lack of results and continues to back the effort of his players. "We played with order, we were a solid team on the field. We had the ball and moved the ball. We had patience to find spaces and we found the space but we don't score", said De Los Cobos. "I have a young team and they're working very good. I'm trying to create a good style to play but we have some guys who are learning," continued the coach, "I believe in my players. I trust too much in my players. They're trying every game to play good and to win."
"The way that you get results for me is very important. I want to play football. For me, it's very easy to put the ball forward with long balls but I don't like it. I will die with my idea, with my philosophy to play. I believe in myself and players and we're willing to keep working because we have a young team." You can listen to De Los Cobos' entire post game press conference by clicking here as he continues to address his style of play and the formation change late in the match.
De Los Cobos will now look to integrate Cristian Nazirit into the line up but if things don't improve considerably and soon, he could find himself on the outs. The month of May looked to be an opportunity to make some waves and this was not a promising start.
On the road in Toronto next Saturday. TFC is not a good team but they did defeat a Houston team with short rest on Saturday. If you can't beat Vancouver at home, who can you beat?
The MLS Player's Union has released the 2011 player's salary information. The Fire definitely have some room to play with. More on this later as I now begin crunching some numbers.