Another day, another draw.
Although the Fire were the better team on the night, dominated the stat sheet, and were more dangerous throughout ninety minutes than their opponent they still couldn't manage to muster enough to gain all three points at home. Sure, there were plenty of reasons for optimism. Sebastian Grazzini was outstanding in central midfield despite not getting on the score sheet. Pavel Pardo was solid for ninety minutes and scored the Fire's only goal. Logan Pause proved more than capable at right back. Defensively they were good enough to hold the Union to one shot on goal. Unfortunately, the one shot on net resulted in Philadelphia's goal after a rather fortuitous bounce from a goal kick fell to Velijko Paunovic in a position to tee up a perfect shot. That's been the story of the season through 21 matches. So close but not good enough.
Frank Klopas was happy with the performance nonetheless. "Obviously I'm very pleased with the performance of the team today. I thought there was a sense of urgency right from the start. There was a commitment from the whole group and I thought that everyone was ready to play and contribute. I thought we played very well but we got a little bit unlucky in the first half," said Klopas after the match. Klopas also addressed the play of Grazzini, Pardo, and his decision to play with one forward during his post game press conference.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Rarely tested but the Union's only shot on goal managed to find it's way into the net. Strong on crosses and a bit better with distribution. He can't be blamed for the goal but he didn't have much to do all night.
D Logan Pause (6) - Very solid game for Pause at right back, a position he has played before. Very good on help defense in breaking up several Philadelphia pass attempts and even managed to get forward effectively enough to be involved offensively. Provided a few decent crosses and some not so decent but still very effective match at right back for the team captain. "It's a completely different role. Playing holding mid you're kind of just that anchor, right back allows me to get up and down a little bit. My first few years I played a lot of games there so I feel comfortable wherever I'm need to help the team," said Pause. (listen to his locker room comments here)
D Cory Gibbs (NR) - Left the match with what was described as a left lower leg injury in the 6th minute.
D Josip Mikulic (6) - Mikulic is just a steady central defender. He essentially lost his starting spot after an injury but the Fire are fortunate to have at least three quality starting centerbacks on the roster. Particularly good in the second half with a stop on Mwanga in the 81st and another break up in the 88th.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Philadelphia's wing players really provided very little throughout the match. Segares was involved with a handful of decent combination plays with Grazzini and kept his side of the pitch in order.
D Jalil Anibaba (6) - Excellent job of filling in for Gibbs after the injury highlighted by a 1v1 stop against Mwanga in the 71st minute which prevented the Union forward from breaking in alone on goal.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - Stayed back defensively in tandem with Pardo. Just happened to be the closest player to Paunovic on his long strike for goal but the fortunate bounce can't really be blamed on any one particular player. A few weak long distance shots were easily handled by Mondragon but you can't fault the willingness to try if it's at the right time. Fair but not outstanding night for Paladini.
M Pavel Pardo (6) - Already he's produced more than Nery Castillo......and for about $1.5 million dollars less to boot. It shows something about the professionalism of Pardo that he can take two months off since the end of the FMF season and he's able to go 90 quality minutes one week after joining the team. Besides the goal, he just missed springing Oduro with a ball over the top in the 31st minute. Listen to Pardo's post game comments here. (Spanish and English)
M Marco Pappa (5) - A few instances of hustle and quality like a fantastic touch, run, and cross in the 30th minute and managed to send Oduro into the area twice with good feeds in the 61st and 67th minutes. Also had a few frustrating moments like a pass behind Nazirit in the 73rd that should have been a goal scoring chance and a nagging tendency to hold on to the ball too long at inopportune times.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Fairly quiet night for Nyarko as the ball was at the feet of Grazzini or Pappa in most dangerous situations. Good combination play with Segares in the 11th minute and a classy volley in the 40th minute that sailed just high of the crossbar where his highlights. Provided the initial cross that led to Pardo's rebound goal. Subbed out in the 82nd minute.
M Sebastian Grazzini (7) - The best player on the pitch while the Fire were controlling the match throughout the first 30 minutes. Did exactly what the team was expecting from a central playmaker in that time setting up teammates and taking the shot himself when need be. Started early with a good trap and feed to Nyarko in the 4th, continued with a shot that missed just high in the 22nd, a set up for Segares in the 32nd, and a pass to Oduro in the box in the 47th. His energy and quality provided the impetus for the Fire's perceived improvement in this match. He was subbed out in the 66th minute and Frank Klopas cited being "tired" as the reason for the substitution but Grazzini said he suffered a hard knock on the right thigh which tightened up forcing him out of the game. He does feel he'll be ready for Sunday however. (Spanish)
F Dominic Oduro (5) - Not really effective as a lone forward. Managed to come up empty on several quality scoring chances. Hesitation in the 67th allowed Mondragon to recover sufficiently to stop his attempt on goal.
F Cristian Nazirit (5) - Came in for Grazzini in the 66th but didn't figure in much of the action.
F Diego Chaves (5) - Entered the match for Nyarko in the 82nd.
C Frank Klopas (5) - The team was energetic and ready to play but the decision to start Oduro up top as the lone forward didn't work as planned. Maintained a 4-5-1 formation after subbing Grazzini in the 66th by moving Pappa into the middle with Oduro on the right and Nazirit on top. Good effort but it's the results that really matter.
On the road in Vancouver on Sunday night. Needless to say, this is a must win.