The Fire took one on the chin in the opening match of 2015. A 2-0 loss to the defending MLS Cup Champion Los Angeles Galaxy isn't worrisome as a stand alone result but the bigger concern should be the limp challenge en route to a beating that probably should have been worse. The final numbers show the home team with a 53-47 advantage in possession but the Fire did very little with the ball when they were able to keep it, mustering just one shot on target. The play looked indicative of a side that is incorporating new pieces and missing others. "I thought in the first half we were poor," said Frank Yallop after the match. "It seemed like the occasion kind of got us a little bit but I told the guys at half time the good news is its nil-nil."
The second half started better for the Fire but a sloppy defensive play, something that was commonplace last season, derailed any hope of stealing a result. "I thought spirit wise it was good. Our performance football wise wasn't good especially in the first half. We had spells that were really good but not enough to warrant a win," said Yallop. Missing pieces and a questionable approach all played into this one. A 4-4-2 alignment against the Galaxy on the road probably wasn't the best choice and the combination of Quincy Amarikwa and Kennedy Igboananike up front hasn't shown that it can create much going forward.
This wasn't pretty but it's important to remember that the team was missing several key pieces. David Accam, Razvan Cocis, and the recovering Mike Magee all would have made a difference in this game. Unfortunately the Fire won't have the luxury of learning as they go with the Eastern Conference set to be fiercely contested. They will need to improve quickly or get left behind early. Time will tell if they can take the next step. Accam's injury isn't a long term one and he alone is capable of changing how opponents defend this team.
There won't be much of a grace period from supporters who are expecting that the frustration of last season is behind them. This one looked familiar and that's not a good sign but one bad outing doesn't make the season.
GK Sean Johnson (5) - Three saves on the night. He did spill one for a rebound chance in the 10th from a free kick.
D Lovel Palmer (4) - Zardes was up and down the wing for much of the first half with ease and the Fire were fortunate one or two of the chances created as a result didn't end up in the net. Villareal was also effective. Palmer was in the wrong spot and too close to Larentowicz on LA's second goal.
D Jeff Larentowicz (3) - A very difficult night for the captain as he played a role in both Los Angeles scores. The first came directly as a result of a mis-hit ball that landed at the feet of Villareal and he was lost in space while Keane scored the second.
D Eric Gehrig (5) - Easily the Fire's best defender in this match. That's not a huge feat but it at least assures the staff that he can play and contribute when Adailton does not.
D Joevin Jones (4) - Beaten by Ishizaki for a good portion of the first forty-five but he did win some battles in the second half. Jones will need to be better if the back line is to improve over last year's ugly numbers.
M Chris Ritter (4) - Subbed out in the 63rd after a first half in which the Fire were basically overrun. This is the position which needs to keep the ball moving forward to find Maloney and the attackers. Central midfield will need to improve if the Fire are to challenge for anything.
M Matt Watson (4) - Removed in the 55th and Yallop' substitutions and adjustments seemed to work briefly as the Fire gained some positive play to start the second half. The Watson/Ritter combination simply was overmatched against the Galaxy.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Tucked more inside and central to start the second half as the Fire mounted a modicum of resistance. Shipp was involved in most of the positive play although it wasn't much.
M Shaun Maloney (4) - His MLS debut was a quiet one. He and Shipp were largely absent from possession for most of the first half. He didn't factor much into the second either.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Did his usual thing and came close to drawing a penalty in the 58th when he appeared to go down after contact with Rogers in the penalty area. He was the subject of another borderline no-call in the 64th. Neither was probably enough for a whistle.
F Kennedy Igboananike (4) - Showed some pace but didn't factor into much else. Left the match in the 73rd and limped to the sidelines. If Yallop is going to play Amarikwa and Igboananike together while Accam and Magee are out he's going to have to figure out how exactly they're going to play in combination when neither is a particularly good passer.
M Michael Stephens (5) - Came on for Watson in the 55th as the Fire enjoyed the brief spells of danger early in the second half.
M Matt Polster (5) - It's a good sign that the coaching staff has enough confidence in the rookie that they were comfortable enough in his ability to bring him in right away against a quality team. Subbed into the match in the 63rd for Ritter. He was beaten by Husidic for a ball that ended up feeding Keane for the second goal but he was defending an area that appeared to be vacated by Gehrig.
M Guly do Prado (5) - He didn't get much time in preseason due to minor knock but he was at least active after coming on for Igboananike in the 73rd.
The home opener against Vancouver next Saturday at 5.