It's going to be a long two weeks.
The Fire don't play another MLS regular season game until April 7 against the New York Red Bulls. It will take that long to erase the sour taste of a 4-1 loss to Chivas USA at Toyota Park after controlling much of the first half. The loss raises several legitimate reasons for concern.
The first and most obvious concern surrounds the lack of finishing ability but another issue that should raise a few eyebrows is the continued loss of focus on defense at the worst possible moments. Arne Friedrich's return should quell some of those fears but the Fire have now lost two home games to clubs that aren't considered serious playoff contenders. Sloppy marking on one play against the Revolution proved to be the difference in the home opener and team defending that resulted in what Frank Klopas called "silly goals" decided this one.
This loss is about as bitter as the weather was in Bridgeview considering that the club is now 0-2 to start the season at home where good clubs make their mark by establishing themselves. It's still only four games into the campaign and there is a long way to go but opportunities to pick up points at home count in March just as they do in September. Four games into the season it will start getting late if dramatic improvements don't follow Arne Friedrich, Logan Pause, and Joel Lindpere onto the pitch come April 7.
Klopas suggested that there may be some changes made during the post game press conference. When asked if there was a possibility that this team wasn't good enough to make the playoffs his response hinted that the reality of an 0-3-1 start may elicit some movement. "You have to look at everything. Right now it just seems like we're not getting things done, so we have to evaluate it and make some decisions and do what's best for the team," said Klopas.
The Fire started the match well enough dominating the possession and the chances in the first half. The Fire had the ball 61% of the time in the first 45 minutes, outshot Chivas 6-2, and completed 77% of their passes. Unfortunately the score was level at zero at the intermission and it was downhill from there.
It's going to be a long two weeks.
GK Paolo Tornaghi (4) - Caught in no man's land on the eventual winning goal in the 74th minute when he attempted to come out and either punch away or catch the ball directly from a set piece. The bad judgement led to a relatively soft header finding it's way into the net. The third goal was the result of a well placed shot but he may have been slightly out of position there as well. Mejia's rocket in the 57th beat him but only a miraculous stop could have stopped that one.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) - Pretty good on both ends of the pitch in the first half. Not much activity in the second.
D Jalil Anibaba (5) - Actually played pretty well despite the own goal late. Velazquez was his mark on the header in the 74th but he was on his man. The play would have been handled easily if Tornaghi had not been caught out of the net.
D Austin Berry (5) - Good in the air for the most part but one has to wonder what the problem is with set piece defending when opposing players are running free on second balls. A force on the offensive side of set pieces early.
D Wells Thompson (5) - So the converted midfielder pressed into emergency service was the Fire's best defender throughout most of the night.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Finally broke the scoreless drought with a 64th minute score that got the Fire back into the match. Still the club's most dangerous attacker continously drawing fouls and taking a beating from defenders. His tally put an end to the Fire's record breaking total of 410 consecutive minutes without a goal. If only there was someone capable of getting on the end of crosses...
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Active defensively and particularly effective in controlling midfield with Paladini in the first half. Like the rest of the club, there were issues in the second 45. He and Paladini were sucked into the box attempting to defend leaving nobody to man the top of the 18 thereby giving Edgar Mejia plenty of time to tee up his shot in the 57th. Muscled off the ball by Agudelo for the third Chivas score.
M Daniel Paladini (5) - Played a solid first half and provided excellent service on several set piece attempts. Subbed out in the 62nd in favor of Santos as Klopas decided to push the game with more forwards. There was an issue or two defensively....see above. Hit the post in the 51st.
M Chris Rolfe (5) - Started at left mid and switched sides with Nyarko for a brief period midway through the first half. Had a very good chance to give the Fire the lead in the 39th before Dan Kennedy came out and made a good stop. Fair performance but the Fire need more from him.
F Alex (5) - Started in the underneath role and provided some flashes early although nothing produced a score. A little bit of flash in the first but not much in the second other than 2 long distance attempts after the score was 4-1. Stretchered off in the 87th. His injury status is unknown at this time.
F Sherjill MacDonald (5) - Easily his best outing of the season but continued failure to put away chances places even more pressure on the club to play mistake free. Very good vision to set up Nyarko with two Chivas defenders focused on defending him leaving a clear look. Left the match in the 68th after his calf began to cramp.
F Maicon Santos (5) - Came in for Paladini in the 62nd and started the play that led to Nyarko's goal with good footwork. Credited with an assist on the score.
F Quincy Amarikwa (4) - Entered the match for MacDonald in the 68th. Only contribution was a woeful cross attempt in the 84th.
M Yazid Atouba (5) - Subbed in for the injured Alex in the 87th.
He was active on the sideline and shared his thoughts on the match with a nod toward the Fire. "We had a lot of luck," he said. "They played with a lot of bad luck, a lot of bad luck. They did a lot to try and score the first half and nothing. We had five opportunities and scored on four."
More post game
Catch post game locker room reaction from Paolo Tornaghi, Sherill MacDonald, and Austin Berry at the Fire Confidential Facebook page. MacDonald addresses his injury situation and Tornaghi explains what happened on Chivas' scores.