In a long string of disappointing and just plain awful results in 2011 this one just may be the worst. Facing what amounted to a "must win" match against the worst team in the league the Fire turned in one of their most disjointed performances of the year. A 4-2 loss in Portland comes to mind and a listless 0-0 draw in Kansas City stick out for me but this one tops them both. The Whitecaps sat at the bottom of the MLS table with 16 points and had scored only 21 goals in 22 matches. The Fire now trail Toronto FC at the bottom of the East and are in a battle with Vancouver to earn the dubious distinction of "worst" in the league. Few can argue that it hasn't been well deserved.
Defensively the Fire were out of sync from the first minute when Yamith Cuesta misplayed a ball allowing Eric Hassli to charge towards the front of the net unchallenged to give Vancouver the lead. The back line appeared listless and unorganized for much of the match and the Whitecaps....yes the Whitecaps made them pay for it. Hassli's second goal came from a rebound shot that saw four Vancouver attackers charge the net while no Fire defenders bothered to mark a man and only two managed to get lazily back. In a season where effort and tenacity have been lauded as positives these are not good signs.
More disturbingly the Fire have completed an 0-3-1 record against the two expansion sides (Vancouver and Portland) and look poised to miss the playoffs for the second consecutive season while sitting ten points away from the 10th and final post season berth. Only a US Open Cup victory can salvage anything from what is turning into a season more miserable than the one witnessed in 2010.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Somehow misjudged Koffie's long distance one-hopper in the 24 minute immediately after the Fire had tied the match but redeemed himself with a stop on Eric Hassli's penalty kick attempt in the 44th minute. Only that play keeps the rating from dipping to a 4.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Mixed results with a few turnovers in the first half but it's hard to say any defender was effective when you allow four goals.
D Yamith Cuesta (3) - A nightmare of a first half for Cuesta that saw a mistake which resulted in the first Vancouver goal and a foul in the penalty area. He was also absent in the middle for the final two scores. Easily his worst effort in a Fire shirt.
D Josip Mikulic (4) - Looked uncharacteristically bad on Vancouver's third goal as he arrived late and allowed Camilo to turn and shoot in the box. The middle of the Fire defense was tardy throughout the entire match.
D Logan Pause (5) - Beaten by Salinas on one run that did not result in a chance in the 9th minute but it's difficult to say that any Fire defender was effective.
M Daniel Paladini (4) - I'm not sure where the Fire's defenders in the middle of the pitch were all night but they certainly didn't appear interested in challenging Vancouver attackers. Paladini's major contributions were two long distance prayer attempts that were not not close to goal. Subbed out in the 70th minute.
M Pavel Pardo (5) - A handful of decent serves into the box but not much more.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Provided the lead ball which resulted in the Fire's second score.
M Marco Pappa (4) - Relatively non existent for the most of the night. A non factor subbed out in the 57th minute.
M Sebastian Grazzini (5) - Provided the feed to Oduro which led to the game tying goal in the 23rd minute. I'm not sure why he was subbed out in the 57th when the Fire trailed 3-1 unless the slight knock that he picked up on Wednesday was an issue.
F Dominic Oduro (5) - I questioned the reasoning behind playing Oduro as a lone forward but he did deliver on his one chance, scoring on a play in the 23rd minute after utilizing his speed to badly beat Alain Rochat. He was fairly quiet after that and move out to the wing when Nazirit and Barouch entered the match.
F Orr Barouch (6) - Appeared to be one of the few of the men in red that realized tonight's match was a "must win". He was unlucky to not have scored in the 59th minute when Nolly saved a shot a close range but he converted a shot without hitting the post in the 80th minute. Came in for Grazzini in the 57th.
F Cristian Nazirit (5) - Subbed into the match in the 57th for Pappa but didn't figure into any scoring opportunities.
M Baggio Husidic (4) - Came into the match in the 70th minute for Paladini and immediately shot a ball wide and whiffed on a close in shot in the 76th.
C Frank Klopas (4) - When you get thumped 4-2 by a team that has trouble scoring and bears the tag of "worst" in the league you have to question the tactical decisions. Substitutions were also a bit curious. With the Fire trailing 3-1, Klopas chose to take off Grazzini instead of Paladini. When asked about the decision Klopas said the reason was, "Because we were losing. We put more forwards on and brought Oduro out wide to push the game and create space. I felt that they (Grazzini and Pappa) were tired, they didn't create enough opportunities. Grazzini, I thought on the first goal he did well, but then it's his second game and playing on turf and travelling, I felt that he looked tired to me."
On the road against a struggling New York Red Bulls side with the playoffs but a dream.