Fire 3 Toronto FC 2 - Recap and Ratings

It wasn't pretty but when all is said and done, three points on the road is still an excellent result.  Even if it was against the worst team in the league.  As expected the Fire were able to find space in midfield against Toronto's 3-4-3 formation but they conversely allowed Toronto attackers too much room to operate on the other end of the field.  Much credit can be heaped on an excellent effort from Reggie Lambe but the Fire must tighten up defensively against better competition.  The Seattle Sounders come into Toyota Park next weekend and the same type of defensive effort won't suffice in that match.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (5) - There wasn't much he could do to prevent the two shots that produced the Toronto goals but he's got to have more control of the box on air balls and crosses.  Punched out several chances that looked like they could have been handled.  Some of the uncertainty may come from working with a new centerback tandem which is understandable but this should be an area that gets plenty of work in training.

D Dan Gargan (5) - Most of the damage was done on the opposite side of the pitch where Lambe was causing havoc.  Got involved in the attack with a few forays into the box.  Worked hard defensively despite the Toronto advantage in attacking late in the second half.

D Arne Friedrich (4) - Still needs to work on meshing with teammates, which again is expected since he's only had a few weeks of training to get fully comfortable.  He and Johnson almost flubbed a free kick in the 12th after running into each other and was caught up higher than necessary in no man's land on more than one occasion.  There were some flashes but it will take a few more weeks before we see Friedrich at full strength.  It will come.

D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Had some issues with Lambe but came up big in the second half while Toronto was surging to tie the match in the second half.  A clean slide tackle on Plata late in the first half halted a chance.  Was the team's best defender in the second half.

D Gonzalo Segares (5) - A fantastic touch on Grazzini's free kick service in the 41st minute was beautifully taken.  Not so pretty was Lambe's ability to get up and down the left side consistently in the first half.

M Marco Pappa (5) - Very good effort and work from Pappa in the first half although he did not figure into scoring plays.  Came back to help defensively with nice stops in the 12th and 49th.  Came out in the 64th minute when Klopas began juggling in order to increase defensive pressure on Toronto.

M Pavel Pardo (5) - Decent job in minimizing Plata's touches but the Fire midfield should have been better than it was in containing TFC possession and time on the ball.

M Logan Pause (5) - Created an offensive opportunity after dispossessing Cann in the 10th and started the attack that led to the winning goal.  Failed to close on Lambe after Johnson punched out a corner kick leading to the 36th minute golazo.

M Sebastian Grazzini (6) - Looked more like the Grazzini of last season with some room to attack in the middle of the pitch.  A dangerous shot attempt in the 6th, another shot in the 14th, a pass to spring Oduro in the 34th, a shot off the crossbar in the 60th, and a marvelous free kick from long distance leading to Segares' score in the 41st are all things you need from an attacking midfielder who you expect to run your offense.   Would like to see a better defensive effort though.

F Patrick Nyarko (7) - Man of the match for me.  His pressure on Frings knocking the ball to Oduro allowed the Fire to take the lead after 25 seconds.  More pressure resulted in another chance for Oduro in the 11th.  A nifty overhead/half bicycle in the 33rd was impressive although it wasn't struck that well.  Scored the winner in the 58th when he beat the Toronto defense and worked around Kocic.  Another shot/cross could have ended up in the back of the net in the 53rd before Kocic tipped it out.  Played very well defensively when moved back into midfield after the Fire took the lead.  These are the very reasons Nyarko needs to be on the pitch as much as possible when Rolfe is in the line-up.  More on that in the coming weeks.....

F Dominic Oduro (6) - Scored the fastest goal in Fire history but easily could have netted another in the 11th.  Set up Oduro's goal with a pass that sprung him into the defense.  Dangerous again in the 34th before earning a corner kick.  Speed kills. Particularly against a shaky three man back line.

F/M Federico Puppo (5) - Came on for Pappa in the 64th and didn't figure into much but he did put in a good effort. Moved into a forward spot with Nyarko shifting to left back once he entered the match but was moved back into more of a midfield role when Barouch entered late.

F Orr Barouch (5) - Came on for Grazzini in the 78th minute but the Fire were in a defensive posture at that point and Barouch didn't have many chances as a lone forward.

M Daniel Paladini (5) - Entered in the 84th for Grazzini and managed one shot at net which Kocic handled easily.

C Frank Klopas (6) - Certainly won the coaching match up against Winter as the Fire did what needed to be done offensively against a questionable decision to stick with a three man back line but the team did not play well defensively.  Attempted to increase the defensive effort with substitutions in the second half but Toronto was in desperation mode which led to some near misses.  A win on the road in MLS is hard to come by in any circumstance.


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  • Some numbers.....

    The Fire led TFC in possession 51-49 at the half but the final numbers for the game was 55-45 in favor of Toronto.

    The Fire's passing accuracy was 69% for the match...which is terrible and must be better.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I cringed when the game announcer remarked that the Fire is dead last in the MLS in possession time.

  • I am glad the Fire Won.
    I was sitting on the edge of my seat worried
    that Toronto would tie or even win the game
    in the last fifteen minutes with their pressure.
    I like Sean Johnson but I think Paolo Tornaghi
    is a better keeper should be the starter.
    Sean looked lost on a number of occasions
    and should have caught some of the balls he
    punched away. Friedrich needs to do better
    and hopefully he will sooner than later.

  • Although the game was a bit tough to watch at times, the Fire found the back of the net which was an Achilles Heal in all previous matches. Tonight was a step, albeit awkward, in the right direction. The Sounders match will provide a better assessment of the Fire's progress.

    Nice summary Guillermo.

  • hopefully when rolfe comes in we can hold possession better with different options.. but the way the team plays, it is always looking for the quick counter, strike with the speed of oduro and nyarko up top.. I think grazzini at times tries to force the penetrating ball too, doesn't see happy to drop the ball back some times and keep possession..

  • biggest mistake klopas made was subbing out nearly all the players capable of keeping the ball at the end. nyarko was the only player remaining that could dribble around an opponent

    i cringed everytime toronto put a cross into the box - SJ needs to start catching some of those! match stats showed toronto put in 34 crosses to Chicagos 10.

  • In reply to CountChocula:

    Crossing is certainly a weakness. Just don't have many players that are good at it....particularly with Pause and Pappa on the outside....just not their strengths.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    At the same time, we don't really have the players to put in those crosses either without a true target man... No McBride or Jacqua, and with all due respect to Oduro, his header goal was a clumsy-looking strike. Hard to say what Barouch might be able to do with a good cross as we just haven't seen it out of him.

    On defense, though, we need to be able to defend a team like Toronto that wants to send in bombs from the wings. Johnson has historically been weak in the air, and his punch and recovery on the first goal showed that. The punch wasn't directly to a Toronto player, but it wasn't safe either. And he didn't orient himself properly when he got up by covering the inside post. Lambe's shot was a rocket and very well placed, but I can't help but think that with better positioning Johnson might have discouraged him from placing it there or gotten a hand on it. I don't know if Tornaghi is the answer, but I hope that we can find a better defensive combination between the keeper and Friedrich needing to get in form. Toronto is 0-6 for a reason and we have not faced any teams in really good form yet (Houston being the best so far).

  • In reply to Modibo:

    That is true about Johnson's play but it wasn't all his fault he gave up those two goals. The first goal, I was a so so punch but at the same time, Logan Pause was responsible for leaving Lambe unmarked and gave him all that space to shot. 2nd goal was a blown assignment by the defenders.

  • I thought that there were too mant defensive lapses. The backline is not yet on the same page, but it was better than against Houston. Then again, Houston is a better team so...? Still an open question for me. Also, while Logan Pause did play a role in some scoring chances, he game the ball away far too many times. His passes are soft and often telegraphed. He needs to make quicker decisions offensively. He reads the game beautifully defensively, but he cannot connect offensively. I wish he could look foward more often than not. If you exlude his safety back passes, his pass completion percentage must be really low. He has got to improve on that or he will be sitting when Chris Rolfe is healthy. I wish this wasn't so because I think that Logan Pause is a great player defensively.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Houston is a better team WITH Brad Davis. At the same time, Toronto played to SJ's weakness in the air by sending in 11 crosses (per Opta) to the Fire's 2, and they benefited from it. BD's crosses a LOT and with great accuracy (though the weather would have made that more difficult).

  • still better than NYRB's defense :p

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    ESPN mentions the Fire game in a blog:

    Anyway, SJ needs to understand where his goal is in relation to where the ball is getting whipped in. He seems so timid to make any mistakes when coming off the line, he would rather sit back and make the reflex save (which he is very good at), but doesn't make a particularly solid stopper. If he just came out to punch one or two balls out, especially loopers that land 3-4 YDS out!!!!

    Anyway, the backline is out of sorts. Totally understandable with Toronto making a smash cross every chance it could get. We will get better with time, I hope. Would have loved to have that other veteran in the middle, but Arne paired with Ani will do.

  • It was a big mistake to take out virtually all the play makers in the final minutes against Toronto. In some ways it;s understandable about the Fire's lack of scoring, there are four defenders on the back line with essentially two holding midfielders if Pause is in the lineup.
    One would suspect at least the Fire would be strong defensively.
    So far this hasn't been the case. In part this could be due to Arne getting in game ready shape but it has to improve if the club expects to make the playoffs, as well as the offense.
    One possible change if Rolfe is in the lineup is put Nyarko to mid
    and have Pause on the bench. This would be a more potent
    lineup, particularly if Pappa puts in a great effort. If the team can develop more possession there would be less pressure on the defense and increase scoring opportunities.
    While happy with the final score, there is enormous room for improvement. Being last in the league in possession time is embarrassing given the alleged talent the Fire has.

  • Possession: Barcelona (73%) v. Real Madrid (27%)
    Barcelona (79%) v. Chelsea (21%)

  • In reply to Roti2000:

    An excellent point. Some of the possession game comes down to style of football played. Possession doesn't always mean outplayed, and as Kyle Martino pointed out Saturday, possession in Chicago's case in part is due to their counter attacking style.

  • The point is that at times its best to possess the ball (even for part of the game) to control the tempo of the game and get control of the game, I failed to notice Chicago's great counter attack in the closing minutes of the game. I'm not arguing the Fire should play possession for 90 minutes
    As it was they barely beat the most inept team in the league.
    They have to perform better on both sides if they want to contend
    for the playoffs.
    Rather poor comparison with Barca's last two games, look
    at their record over the last four years. Possession doesn't mean
    a team will win every game, there is no soccer style that is going
    to make a team undefeated every game, every season.
    I just would like to see the team play intelligent soccer instead
    of frantic running with and sloppy passing.
    Of course at team can't play possession soccer anyway if they can't complete their passes.

  • I heard Rolfe is out for the next game.

  • In reply to FrontRow:

    Initial diagnosis was that the knock was a two week injury but he would be re-evaluated this week.

  • This might be of interest. An explanation of how Opta calculates possession in a soccer match......

  • GR, are there any rumors coming out of Seattle that they are going to fall apart this weekend because they have to play on grass instead of on the worst artificial turf in all of sports? Is Ziggy Schmidt going to actually take off his scarf this season, what are the odds? Seriously, any news out of Seattle that we should be aware of?

  • In reply to Krasov:

    You can probably expect to see Mauro Rosales back in the line-up after missing their last four matches with a knee injury.

    On the Fire's end, it doesn't look good for a Rolfe debut this weekend. Klopas said today that he is day to day but although there isn't a lot of swelling there is still pain in the ankle. Rolfe did not participate in training at all this morning.

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