Two steps forward and one step back.
After a successful week against two of the best clubs in the league the Fire can't seem to get over the hump when an opportunity to stay on pace with the Eastern Conference leaders presents itself. The latest setback, a 2-1 defeat at the hands of a struggling Portland Timbers side that hadn't scored a goal in four matches. Two goals from set pieces is incredibly difficult to overcome especially on the road but Frank Klopas still thought the club deserved a better fate. “It’s a little frustrating for us. I thought that we didn’t deserve to walk away with a loss. I felt that we had a five-minute start in second, but we made a few mistakes. After we gave up the goal, I felt that we were chasing from behind the rest of the game. Overall, I thought it was frustrating because I feel disappointed when we lose, but when you feel that you should have walked away with points from here it’s hard to take the loss,” said Klopas after the match.
Once Portland grabbed the lead early in the second half it was difficult for the Fire to generate dangerous scoring opportunities although they did win the possession battle 56-44. Once Dominic Oduro exited the match in the 6oth minute there was nothing doing from that point on. Until the Fire show they can play more than one way in the final third they're going to continue stay in the position they're in - just outside of the top tier in the East and struggling to hold on to the 4th or 5th playoff spot.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Portland was only threatening on set pieces. Johnson's best save of the day came in the 4th minute when Kris Boyd headed a ball after a throw in that Johnson dove to his right to knock away.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Struggled with Zizzo in the second half. A fantastic run up the left side in the 43rd minute resulted in a cross to Pardo after a give and go with Nyarko. It would have been a spectacular sequence if the play was finished.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Boyd somehow managed to get in between he and Berry for the header in the 4th minute and Brunner managed to beat him to a loose ball in the 20th for their first goal of the night. Took his opportunity in the 39th very well by striking a low hard shot to the far post that beat Perkins for the Fire's only score.
D Austin Berry (5) - Fire defending in the penalty area was shaky as the Fire were beaten by Portland's one strength on offense. Brunner's goal came from a loose ball although the Fire had more men in the box than Portland did on the play (7 on 4).
D Dan Gargan (5) - Portland's corner on the Brunner goal wasn't even particularly well taken. Songo'o lofted a soft ball that Mosquera had to back pedal to get to after he separated from Gargan.
M Pavel Pardo (5) - Had the Fire's two best chances to score another goal in the 36th minute when Perkins made a huge save on his shot apparently headed for the upper corner and his header in the 43rd on the cross from Segares that went wide.
M Logan Pause (4) - Besides the own goal deflection he was easily dispossessed by Portland defenders on more than one occasion.
M Marco Pappa (5) - Had a fair first half including an assist on Anibaba's goal which was probably intended as a shot on goal. Had a good look in the 14th minute after a good combination from Pardo/Grazzini but his right footed shot didn't have much steam behind it and Perkins handled it easily. Disappeared in the second half.
M Sebastian Grazzini (4) - He's getting fouled a lot but the constant whining and diving has to stop. After picking up a yellow card for flopping in the 80th minute he's one caution away from serving a mandatory one game suspension. He was very active in the first half but the Fire offered very little in the second. Grazzini needs to be the catalyst offensively when teams shut down Oduro.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Much like the rest of the Fire attackers in the second half there just wasn't much there.
F Dominic Oduro (4) - Playing as a lone forward makes him even easier to defend and he'll have to find other ways to score like he did against KC last weekend. He should have been able to get behind Portland's relatively slow back line but the Fire are predictable enough to allow teams to mark him out of the match if they're disciplined in back. Came out in the 60th minute. It will be interesting to see if that substitution was injury related.
F Frederico Puppo (4) - Perhaps it's unfair to expect him to succeed as a lone forward because he appears even less suited to that task than Oduro does. His best chance came in the 64th minute when he appeared to have a chance to beat the last defender with an aggressive run at the ball but he decided to try to play for the contact and the foul. He was knocked off the ball and no foul was given.
M Rafael Robayo (4) - His two most memorable touches were passes to nobody in particular in the 75th and 84th minutes. Entered the match for Pause in the 68th.
F Orr Barouch (4) - Came on for Gargan in the 81st but remained as invisible as every other Fire player in the final third.
C Frank Klopas (4) - The team played a decent first half although they faltered on two of the things that were stressed during the week - don't give up an early silly goal and be wary of Portland in the air. At least a point was there to be had but two defensive mistakes doomed them to a disappointing loss against a struggling team. The Fire had no answer offensively in the second half and all three substitutes failed to make even the slightest impact. Chris Rolfe should provide some spark once he's fit which should spare everyone the sight of Puppo as a #9 in a 4-5-1 alignment.
Another match against a struggling club. This time it's FC Dallas at Toyota Park, where the visitors have dominated for some reason. Dallas will be shorthanded without numerous key players and there is little reason to expect anything less than three points.
Anything less would be another huge step back.