Normally a point on the road in Kansas City wouldn't be a bad thing. In past seasons, the Fire have gone into Sporting Park and essentially parked the bus, waited for counter opportunities, and played for a draw on the road. In the context of an individual effort this draw shouldn't draw much concern.
Unfortunately, the reality of Chicago's season is that after 15 games (9 of which have ended in stalemate), the Fire can't afford to continue to miss scoring chances, give up easy goals, and fail to beat Eastern Conference teams. This latest draw featured all of things that made the first fifteen contests of the season so frustrating. One the one hand, a point on the road against the defending MLS Cup Champions is probably an acceptable result. On the other hand, the Fire missed several scoring chances in the first half that would have made it difficult for KC to catch up. Most maddening was yet another horrific defensive miscue that resulted in a goal that was all too easy for the opposition.
Several weeks ago, team captain Jeff Larentowicz called for teammates to take an accounting of themselves and where they stood as a club. Larentowicz talked about not being happy with mediocrity and playing just well enough not to lose. The World Cup break has come and gone and not much has changed. All of the problems that existed before June are still prevalent in July.
On an island, this game wasn't awful. The Fire still are within striking distance of a playoff spot by nature of the parity party that is the Eastern Conference. In reality, it's a pipe dream to expect that a team with two victories as it nears the half way point in the season will suddenly stop making the same inexcusable errors time and again.
It's time, as Larentowicz pointed out weeks ago, to stop being happy with settling for draws.
In reality, each draw should be treated as a loss from here on out and another transfer window fueled rush to end the season won't be able to save them.
GK Sean Johnson (7) - Faced 18 shots and registered 8 saves. Another good effort from Johnson, whose defense has let him down more often than not this season. A strong double denial in the 91st kept Sapong from tapping in the game winner in 91st minute.
D Gonzalo Segares (6) - Back in the line-up after not starting this past Wednesday. Probably still the Fire's best defender despite a little bit of rust still evident.
D Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (5) - The backline still allows too much space and runners find themselves able to break the seams up the middle all too frequently. Hurtado has to take more responsibility as a veteran and so far this season he hasn't done so.
D Patrick Ianni (4) - Another disaster of an outing for Ianni, who committed an absolutely unforgivable give away in front of his own goal in the 34th minute leading to Sporting's only goal. He's provided very little this season as the third centerback and this game was certainly no exception.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - Still gets caught ball watching on occasion and out of position on the right side a bit too often. (see 53rd minute Saad attempt).
M Logan Pause (5) - Filled in for Larentowicz as the current captain was away. Delivered what you would expect with a steady game but Sporting held a 66-34 advantage in possession. Perhaps the most disappointing part of this match was the Fire's willingness to come in with a conservative game plan while settling for a draw.
M Chris Ritter (5) - The Fire aren't going to get much out of the middle offensively with a Pause/Ritter combination but the rookie did serve an excellent ball over the top of the KC defense in the 31st which sent Mike Magee in on goal for a chance. There wasn't much after that.
M Grant Ward (5) - Relatively quiet game with only a handful of active passing sequences that led to anything of note. Subbed out in the 81st.
M Alex (6) - Put in a decent effort in the first half before leaving with an apparent injury at the half. He forced a turnover in the 40th minute that led to Magee's game tying goal.
F Harry Shipp (5) - Got an opportunity to play a more central playmaking r0le and didn't quite deliver as expected. Dead ball service wasn't quite as good as we're accustomed to seeing from Shipp. He did create a few chances, the best probably being a set up for Duka in the 57th. A shot just seconds later was just wide.
F Mike Magee (5) - There was the goal and a play that led to Duka's chance in the 57th but he also missed two glorious chances that 2013 Mike Magee may have put away. Dribbled himself out of a 1v1 with the keeper in the in 2nd minute and hit the post in the 31st after Ritter set him up with another 1v1 look. Magee himself a substantial raise early this season and wore the armband today. He's got find a semblance of last year's form if the Fire are to make any noise this season.
M Dilly Duka (5) - Completely muffed a clean look (with his left foot no less) in the 57th. Set up Shipp for a shot moments later. A steal late set up a free kick opportunity. Duka has been looking for more playing time and so-so performances probably won't get it for him.
D Bakary Soumare (6) - Strong off the bench, making his presence felt in the middle. Entered the match in the 65th after Hurtado exited with what Yallop referred to as "dizziness".
M Matt Watson (5) - Nothing says let's play for the draw like inserting a third holding midfielder in a 1-1 game on the road. That's exactly what Yallop did in the 81st when Watson replaced Ward. The options on the bench were limited but the Fire took the safe route in this one when something more was probably called for.
What could be the saving grace of the 2014 season.....the US Open Cup Quarterfinals in Atlanta on Wednesday night.
At 2-4-10, the next league game is another must win at New England next Saturday.
Fire Confidential Live
In the latest episode we cover all that is #CF97 including matches against TFC, SKC, the USOC game, and talk about potential DP's and the opening of the transfer window on Tuesday. Video version here.