Real Salt Lake 3 Fire 2 - recap and ratings

Unlike much of the last six matches, it's hard to make a case for the Fire being deserving of a better outcome than a draw. Real Salt Lake appeared to control this match from start to finish despite trailing 2-0 at half time. Chicago capitalized on two beautiful sequences but did little to protect the lead as the visitors enjoyed look after uncontested look before finally breaking through. The 2-0 scoreline at the half may have been somewhat fortunate considering that Sean Johnson kept RSL off the board with two impressive stops.

"You've got to stand up and be counted. Some of the guys ducked out of it," said Frank Yallop after the match. "There was obviously piss poor defending. Breakdowns. I don't think we really wanted to win that game because it didn't show. If we wanted to we would have put our head through the ball and cleared things and be good at that stuff but we didn't."

Despite a run of six consecutive draws and two frustrating penalty kick misses there had been a glimmer of hope based on the quality of play particularly over the last three matches. This result and the way in which the game was decided has erased much of that by virtue of a giant step backward at home against one of the better teams in the league. After draws against Philadelphia, Montreal, and New England despite probably deserving a better fate in each of those contest, MLS' last undefeated team clearly exposed just how far the Fire is from competing with the clubs sitting at the top of the table.

"We've played eight games and we haven't won yet. That ain't good," said Yallop summing it up.

Player ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) - Let down by his defenders time and again but he kept the Fire in the match in the first half with quality stops in the 24th against Saborio and in the 39th to deny Plata. RSL got plenty of clear looks and it's difficult to pin any of the three second half scores on the 'keeper.

D Lovel Palmer (5) - Had a decent first half playing a part in the combination that led to the first Fire goal and a handful of quality defensive sequences early. Overrun along with the rest of the squad in the second.

D Bakary Soumare (4) - Failed to clear a cross that looked to be right at him in the 90th minute leading directly to Saborio's game tying score. He either mistimed the ball or completely missed it which may lead to speculation that he was one of the players Yallop referred to in his post game comments.

D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (4) - Saborio and Plata exposed gaps in between the Fire's two central defenders throughout the entire match from start to finish. Uncontested shots like Plata's goal in the 72nd were a result of the central defenders allowing too much space between players and the ball in the penalty area and it was evident for 90 minutes not just the final twenty.

D Greg Cochrane (5) - A decent match up until the end. Mulholland was relatively silent for much of the game on his side but some ball watching and a missed mark in extra time left Plata wide open at the far post. An unfortunate ending for Cochrane who provided a great assist on the Fire's second goal.

M Jeff Larentowicz (5) - The Fire completed a measly 67% of their passes and lost the possession battle by a whopping 67-33 margin. RSL is the best in the league at keeping the ball (they completed 83%) but the Fire played them nicely in the first half picking opportunities to get forward and hit them on quick combinations. Okay in the first half and overrun in the second. Larentowicz talks about the loss and what needs to be done going forward in post game comments available here.

M Benji Joya (5) - A good run in the first half showed why Joya is better in his natural center mid position. He played a part in both goals providing key passes that led to both. Should have been credited with an assist on the second goal. Overrun by RSL in the second half along with everyone else.

M Harry Shipp (5) - Also played a part in both goals. His well taken attempt in the 22nd was stopped by Rimando but the rebound fell to Magee. Disappeared in the second half.

M Patrick Nyarko (5) - Didn't get to see much of the ball but still provides at least a threat for moving the ball on the ground. The Fire's collapse seemed to coincide with the removal of Nyarko in the 62nd. That move may have signaled that the Fire were packing it in.

F Mike Magee (5) - Scored his second goal of the season on a tap in to give the Fire a lead early. Only 40 touches on the night from the reigning league MVP isn't nearly enough. Hit the crossbar in the 63rd (which would have given the Fire a 3-0 lead) on the Fire's only real chance of the second half. More time on the ball and less time complaining to referees may serve him well.

F Juan Luis Anangono (5) - Probably saved himself from being firmly planted on the end of the bench after a well taken header in the 31st gave the Fire a 2-0 lead. A bit late to get onto a similar Cochrane cross in the 13th and a missed chance in the 25th. A lot of standing around looking lost in the second half.

M Matt Watson (5) - Entered the game for Nyarko in the 62nd presumably to help the defensive effort against RSL. That didn't work but he did have one good sequence in the 77th breaking down the RSL defense to earn a corner kick.

M Victor Pineda (5) - Subbed in for Magee in the 85th as the Fire looked to cling to a 2-1 lead. By that time the Fire defense was in full retreat and hide mode.

Next Up

A visit to New York next Saturday. Will there be changes to the line up?

"It's a bit early for that but I would think so," said Yallop.

"I've got to figure out who's going to be punching and fighting for the whole ninety minutes and the whole season."

Filed under: 2014 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • "There was obviously piss poor defending."

    The truth will out.

  • In the words of Dave Matthews, so much to say, so much to say, so much to say....

    Let's get this out of the way first. The Soumare rating should be a 3, tops. His play led directly to 2 goals by playing way too softly and far off of Plata on the first goal and by completely whiffing on the header that led to the 2nd goal. His job is to defend and when he gives up two goals, how does he deserve a 4? I really hope these rankings are changed for next year...

    Ok, moving on. As for the Fire in general, here's my breakdown on "The State of the Fire":

    Goalkeeping - SJ is good, a legit MLS keeper for sure. While not the best in the league, I think he's good enough to win a title with....much like Corey Crawford.

    Defense - Palmer is solid if unspectacular. Hurtado is the same, though paid to be more than that. Soumare is probably the most inconsistent performer on the team - one week a beast in back, the next making the biggest gaffes leading to lost points. He's overpaid and over relied on. My biggest problem with Yallop thus far has been his remaking of the defense, trading young, inexpensive players for overpaid, average defenders and trusting Soumare to lead in back. On the flipside, Cochrane might be the best move by Yallop based on the great value. Not a world beater, but a starter level player for minimum pay, and at the very least, great back-up to Segares (who is also just average at this point in his career) if he regains his job. Conclusion: A decent, but inconsistent back 4, with 2 overpaid starters in the middle and an overpaid back-up in Ianni. Sorely in need of a Friedrich type player who can organize the back line and play consistently great defense. His injury was the ungluing of the organization.

    Midfield - Almost always loses the possession battle and the passing rate always seems on the low end. (I was trying to search specific stats to back up my claim, but couldn't find a good site. Anyone know of one to find possession and passing stats?) Anyhow, Jeff L, to me, seems like a league average DM. He's solid, of course, but does he bring the Fire any legitimate advantage and does he outplay his counterpart more often than not? Not in my opinion. How about the wingers? Nyarko = solid and sometimes spectacular 1v1, yet rarely scores and isn't a complete player. Do I like him on the team, yes. Do I think he's all that great? No. Duka? He was solid last year, but as you are probably starting to see my point, I'm tired of solid. Where do we actually stand out? Attacking midfielder? Alex is ok, Shipp has his moments and is definitely a player that has immense potential, but for '14? Great on set pieces, can be dangerous, but is still finding his way and disappears for large periods of time as well. Joya? Another strong, young player with potential, but not a difference maker this year. Conclusion: So what do we have in the midfield for this year? A solid group of solid players with some solid depth including guys like Watson and Pineda who aren't any more than that. Where is that taking us? Nowhere but to the mediocre land of mediocrity.

    Forwards - Well, we have the MVP from last year going for us. But he hasn't quite played like the MVP yet this year, has he? He did look better yesterday in scoring (a sitter, I should note) and narrowly missed another. But I'm very happy to have him on our team, he's a leader, outspoken, has played very very well for the Fire overall, and one of the few spots on the team where we generally actually have an advantage on the field as compared to our opponents. Amarikwa is a guy I've like since last summer, and feel vindicated that he's performed so well this year. I don't think he's a top forward league wide, but his work rate is tremendous and he's done his job this year and has put the ball in the back of the net. He's a plus player imo. Then there's JLA. I hardly even want to discuss this guy, despite his goal yesterday. He also missed a fairly tough, but also not that tough (for a professional player) volley from Magee yesterday that is just so indicative of his play with the Fire thus far. He big and strong, but he doesn't consistently deliver results. In fact, I'd argue that he consistently doesn't deliver results. And yet, he's our DP. Is anyone really surprised based on what Klopas and Co. did to our franchise? I think not. Conclusion: Surprisingly, probably our best position group. No real depth, but Magee and Amarikwa are at least a fairly dangerous tandem, especially if Magee finds his form (which I expect he will). Yet Bliss stated that forward is the place they are looking to upgrade this summer. In a sense I can't blame him, it's been a need spot for so long. But the Fire are 2nd in the conference in goals scored (only 1 behind NY with a game in hand), but tied for the worst in the conference in goals against. Add in the West, and the Fire sit about middle of the pack in goals scored, with only two teams have given up more goals than the Fire (Chivas, Portland). At this point I'd look to get a high end central defender or midfielder before I'd be looking to upgrade the forward group.

    Yallop: Too early to tell really, but so far...meh. Questionable off season moves at defense both created even more of a cap issue and hasn't paid off in defensive performance. No brainers in bringing in Shipp and Joya should be one-hand clapped. Cochrane, Watson were nice moves for depth, and I'm looking forward to see what Grant Ward can do. Starting Amarikwa deserves a thumbs up rather than inserting the DP in the starting line-up just b/c he's a DP. Apparently had a terrible cap situation to work with, which is his saving grace at this point...if you are hand-cuffed, how much can you really do? So big thanks to the last regime time and effort? At least they tried? Yallop has made some questionable moves on the field as well, and the JLA penalty kick was a major mistake. One you'd imagine would never happen with a team coached by someone like Thibs, who is always prepared. Yallop let that slip through the cracks.

    Andrew Hauptman: Sweet run so far, buddy. I'm soooo stoked you are the Fire owner.

    My hopes and desires: I've mentioned this here before. I can not stand mediocrity. I get the Fire have to try (obviously). And the season is still young, and the Fire sit only 5 points out of the playoffs, so it's obviously WAY TO EARLY to give up. But with some nice, young players in place, I wouldn't be all that disappointed to see the Fire end up in the last few spots in the league this year. Getting a top pick to slot in with Shipp, Joya, SJ, Magee and Amarikwa, a top spot in the allocation order, some cap relief (I'm assuming there will be some this offseason?), and I could see a large turn around in '15. And if all we are hoping for is to squeak into the playoffs, with a larger likelihood that we'll miss out with a mediocre defense, a mediocre midfield, and a solid forward group and goalkeeper, I think that's about all we can hope for.

    I was saying much of the same last year at this time, when the same effing crap was going on after a terrible start. I'd love to see some wins this summer and a great comeback and a wonderful summer signing, and epic comeback and a run to the MLS Cup and/or Open Cup...but I think it's a long shot and I really do believe the Fire would be better served in the short and long run with a bad season this year and some BIG changes for next.

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    One more thought...I'd forgo any summer DP signing this year for a DP (or two) signing from the start of the season next year. Drop JLA and sign 2 players to play with a full roster the entire season. It can and should be done.

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    Very nice guest column there.. and agree with most of it. I though we could have built around Berry in the middle, so that's too bad. We need more toughness and physical marking and Soumare is not doing that.. too much drifting back at times and getting caught too far up at others. He would be benched next game if I was the coach, otherwise where's the accountability?

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    Thanks Drew...err Tweaky. That's a whole lot to digest in one post and much of it is spot on. I know guys want to see 2 and 3s after losses but the point of the ratings is to keep them consistent based on the established criteria in order to grade each player individually on a per game basis and over the course of the year.
    I'm open to suggestions for next year though.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    You're welcome G-Riv. :) I know I've been a bit annoying on the rankings...I think it's great that you have it spelled out and follow it to provide consistent rankings. I think it'd be preferable to leave yourself more room in the descriptions to allow you to offer differing rankings week to week to make it more interesting. I might make a comment here or there on ranking opinions here or there, but otherwise I'll get off this for the rest of the season.

  • In reply to Tweaky:

    Thanks! I see your point. Feel free to continue harping on the ratings.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Ultimately, I guess there is only one rating system that counts - the final score.

    Then there is the system used by Kicker magazine where 1 is high performance and 6 is failing. Kicker includes a first half and second half rating.

    With all this statistical work, you may never get a game summary out! :-)

  • We played well for 70 minutes last night. Sure they had many opportunities but they might be the best team in this league. Sean made some great saves that kept us in the lead. The problem came at about the 70 minute mark when we started to drop deep and defend only. When you do that you have to be perfect and organized. Those are two words that I would never associate with the Fire and especially our back line. They were unorganized for the whole match. Some players stepping up and others tracking back leaving huge lanes for them to run through. Plata had enough time to bring the ball down, turn, and then put it in the corner without any pressure. That was all inside the 18. That can never happen. That last goal was poor defending by everyone on the team. Palmer and Watson got toyed with on the outside by a few simple passes and then our center backs were inside the 6. That is way to deep and they paid the price.

    I dont know the last time I have seen professionals looked exhausted after only 70 minutes. If youre not a technically gifted team, you need to be able to outwork your opponent. The Fire cant do either...

  • I agree with several of the above comments, although I think our midfield is slightly stronger than Tweaky implies. Our biggest weakness is the defense by far, giving up way too many goals,
    can't wait until Grant Ward arrives he can't be any worse than what we have now and shows great potential.
    Felt the team responded fairly well to Real's pressure in the first half but things fell apart in the second half shortly after Nyarko (probably the team's best defensive player) was subbed out. Both Shipp and Joya were disappearing in rapid fashion in the second half.
    Perhaps if Duka or Alex were available for sub duty things might have turned out better. When 3 of your top 6or 7 players are not
    available your team is already handicapped even before the start
    of the game, particularly against one of the top teams in the league.
    I was actually shocked when the Fire took a 2-0 lead.
    Although I'd like to see a top flight striker or CAM, the team's immediate need is one or two quality defenders.
    Overall, thought the team played hard and well for the first 70 minutes or so but the Fire has to do better with possession to
    conserve their energy, they were simply out of gas.
    I blame the coach for the last two decisions for poor player management and tactics.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    "but the Fire has to do better with possession to
    conserve their energy" - this partially makes my point about the midfield. obviously the whole team is responsible for possession, but can you say the fire's midfield consistently gives them an advantage over the opposing squad? my take is they are generally outplayed in the midfield. could just be me.

  • This was literally me last night. I have to get season tickets away from the away supporters next year:

    They are, what they call in the old country, "not good".

  • I like that Frank's open and honest style. It's better than suffering through a CDLC or even Frank K. "Look..." post-game.

    One can only do so much with the tools he has.

    "I've got to figure out who's going to be punching and fighting for the whole ninety minutes and the whole season."

    I'd say that's the delineation of how he enforces good/bad performance. He does his part, the player's have to do theirs.

    Though, for what it's worth, I've pretty much had it with lousy starts for the last 3 years.

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    I agree with the change in tone. I like that FY will call out poor playing - I'm fine that he doesn't mention individuals, but saying that our defense sucked is appropriate given the performance.

    At the same time, I'm not sure bunkering for most of the 2nd half was a realistic strategy. Basically we seemed to say, "ok, RSL, you can forget about playing defense, why don't you just try to pick us apart for half and hour and see what you can do?"

    Ugh. And then, yes, we end up with another lousy start.

    Anyone who was holding off on making fall plans because of the playoffs - yeah I wouldn't hold off at this point.

  • I think when we're talking about Yallop we have to look at what he's done with personnel, and what he does tactically. Sometimes it hasn't worked out, but I get the Watson for Nyarko sub Saturday night trying to preserve the win. I think it could've come a bit later, but with a 2 goal lead, he wanted a more defensive posture.

    At some point, the personnel on the field have to answer. I agree that Palmer and Hurtado have been mostly solid, although Hurtado probably had his worst game of the season against RSL. Cochrane is still doing well at LB, but there are questions that need answering, and at some point the defensive has to tighten up and play to the final whistle. We're beyond early season backline cohesiveness at this point, this group has to perform.

    Later today, Ep. 54 of the podcast will be up, where Guillermo and I mull over all the above.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    He didnt need to take of Nyarko to put Watson in. He could have taken off JLA and put Watson in. Move Magee up top and have 3 in the middle. That is where we were getting killed. Joya needed to come off too. The players were exhausted after 70 minutes. Thats when it all fell apart. The 70 minutes of play deserved a point atleast and the fitness let them down. That is inexcusable for professional athletes. We dont have the most technically gifted team so they need ti be able to run and be mentally stronger. Its sad when they arent and let us down.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    If it's any consolation, Klopas is not inspiring confidence in Montreal. They guys on the MLSSoccer Coup Franc podcast spend a good 10 minutes every week going over his decisions in depth, and they rarely have anything positive to say.

    Jeff it sounds like you're giving some props to the entire backline... with one glaring exception. Safe to say a former Union player is not in line for much praise anytime soon? It's very frustrating that FY has no other options in the center...

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I hate to put him in the crosshairs like that, but yeah. He's made some really, really bad decisions in games when pressure's been on. Unfortunate, because I was always a big fan of his game.

  • The backline control starts and ends with centerbacks. They determine where to hold the line so communication between centers is critical. Outside guys look across to see whether they need to step or hold.

    So to comments regarding unorganizied on positioning, look no further than centers.

    Yallop has to answer why Pineda in 85th min. You had Pause, Ianni and Segares and you are fighting to hold-on and you go with rookie. Pineda was lost on final 2 goals. Granted Bakary was completely useless on header and it left Cochrane handcuffed on failed attempt.

  • Frank you have only yourself to blame. You brought in that defense. Not impressed with the off season. Not impressed with the start of the season. You are losing this Fire fan slowly.

  • In reply to waamsy:

    I was pretty shocked in the preseason when he was slotting Soumare in as a starter over Berry. He's made some really questionable moves in back, which doesn't inspire much confidence. I do think he deserves some time to get this squad straightened out though considering he's had success and the roster was clearly not exactly in great shape either talent or cap wise.

  • Episode 54 is live. iTunes, Stitcher, and

  • at this point do you not run out Ianni for Baky in new york? What do you have to lose, another game? Im torn with Cochrane, I like what he has been giving the club going foward and actually seems to hustle. But those 2 last goals made him look pretty bad.

    I would not be against seeing Ianni and Segares for Baky and Cochrane.

    Side note: agreed with above. Take out JLA, move Mike up and play three in the middle to bunker down.

  • An excellent break down of the Fire's break downs over at Fuego De Mi Vida......

  • I think that the bright spot for this team is the offense. When was the last time we did not worry about scoring goals. This team creates a lot of chances. Not just fluke one off chances. The defense is truly embarrassing. I would have Baky sit for the rest of the year. Start anyone else. Go with Jumper.

  • We have the players to play a 4-3-3 so I dont understand why we dont. We seem to always lose the midfield battle because teams usually have more players in there than we do. Quincy has been good but lets not forget that he is Quincy Amerikwa and not some world beater. Magee should be up top for us. With Shipp on one side and Nyarko and Duka rotating with eachother on the other wing. Joya, Big Red, and Alex in the middle and then our back 4. Something needs to change. Only having 2 in the middle is asking for them to do way too much and that has to play some part of our late game meltdowns we have had for the past couple of seasons.

  • Picks for tonight

    Houston 2 Columbus 1
    Seattle 3 FC Dallas 1
    San Jose 1 Colorado 1

    30-50 (ouch)

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