The most disappointing thing about the Fire's season opening 3-2 loss to Chivas USA is not the loss itself but the apparent continuation of issues that doomed the club in 2013. The game featured all of the negative aspects and concerns experienced over the course of last season all wrapped up into one ninety minute exercise in futility.
The offense in the first half looked quite similar to the pre-Magee version of last season with no creative spark and general listlessness all around. The second half brought back the recurring defensive mental lapses, sloppy marking, and lack of consistent possession that was all too frequent last year. The furious comeback only to be thwarted by a careless late game set piece goal also smacked of vintage 2013 letdowns. Throw in a substitution designed to shut down and play for a draw and you've got all the bases covered.
Oddly enough Mike Magee didn't make an appearance in the match and supporters can take some solace in the hope that he would have made a significant difference but it was not to be. After Magee stated on Friday that he was fit and ready to go 90 if needed, Frank Yallop explained post match that the 2013 MVP had a relapse of the hamstring issue that has hampered him of late and the player was probably only available for about ten minutes today. If that was the case and the technical staff was not looking to push him, why dress him at all and risk further injury for ten minutes when Harry Shipp was fit and fully available?
Shipp didn't dress but newly acquired Greg Cochrane was in the 18 presumably behind the thinking that there was no fullback available on the bench in case of an injury to either Gonzalo Segares or Lovel Palmer. This was a day marred by a "poor" effort where things fell apart rather quickly in the second half before the insertion of Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya appeared to spark the team.
The first match of the season shouldn't lead to sweeping generalities and it's important to remember that there's a long way to go but losses of this nature are the types of setbacks that end up being discussed as regrets come October.
It's eerily all too familiar.
GK Sean Johnson (6) - Kept the Fire in the match in the first half with a quality denial of Rosales' free kick in the 32nd. Another big stop on Pelletieri's header in the 53rd kept the score momentarily scoreless. Torres would score on a PK three minutes after that and another followed three more minutes later. There's not much a keeper can do against free looks.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - A decent outing but far too many uncontested crosses were allowed from both sides of the pitch. Chivas USA delivered 29 crosses in open play. Probably the Fire's best defender on the day.
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (5) - The Fire's centerback pairing looked shaky in clearing multiple crosses in the first half although nothing came of them. Defenders with the experience of Hurtado and Soumare need to be more commanding in the area.
D Bakary Soumare (4) - Whiffed on a ball that led directly to the play which resulted in the penalty kick. Being beaten by Burling on the late game winner was obvious. Soumare's got to be better for the Fire to seriously challenge for a playoff spot.
D Gonzalo Segares (4) - The take down of Torres in the penalty area may have been a little soft but making even the slightest of contact in that situation will force the referee to make the call in favor of the attacker.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - Chivas had way too much of the ball, holding a 55-45 advantage in possession. Larentowicz wasn't paricularly bad but there was little link between the back line and the attackers for positive movement going forward, particularly in the first half.
M Dilly Duka (5) - An up and down day for Duka who was involved and actively pushing in some instances but faded in the second half. Beaten by Barrera for the cross leading to the second Chivas goal.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Wasn't involved much offensively as the Fire struggled through the first forty five minutes. Passing was not up to his standard. Subbed out in the 63rd for Joya.
M Alex (5) - The Fire will need more from the central midfield particularly when/if Magee is not on the pitch and Alex didn't hurt but he didn't distinguish himself either. Started a nice combination play with Duka that led to a chance for Rolfe in the 45th and his shot led to Joya's goal.
M Chris Rolfe (5) - With a chance to distinguish himself after a sub par 2013 Rolfe didn't do much to suggest that this season will be better. He played a good field game but his touch failed him in the 45th when a one time shot would have tested Kennedy if on frame. Ran out of gas in the 75th and replaced by Pause.
F Juan Luis Anangono (4) - Really showed very little in terms of being the solution to the Fire's long standing problem at the #9 position. To be fair he didn't receive much service but the one good opportunity he did get he booted over the end line in the 26th.
M Benji Joya (6) - Scored his first MLS goal with his first touch in the league. Active and aggressive moving forward he also attempted another in the 83rd that was handled by Kennedy.
F Quincy Amarikwa (7) - Replaced Anangono in the 57th and provided the Fire an opportunity to leave with a point. A spectacularly placed bending shot from beyond the top of the penalty area. He and Joya changed the pace of the match and got the Fire back into it.
M Logan Pause (5) - Brought in to slow the match down and apparently play for the draw on the road after Rolfe apparently cramped up in the 75th. That would typically be a sound approach on the road but the Fire defense collapsed late on a set piece....again.
It doesn't get any easier with a trip to Portland looming. The Timbers did not play well in a draw against Philadelphia in their home opener so the Fire have to hope that they're catching Portland at less than full throttle early in the season.