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.
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.
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."