This is certainly not the start that Frank Yallop was looking for and definitely not one that the Fire can afford. The inability to take advantage of anything at home coupled with late defensive lapses was of major concern last season and this home opener did nothing to assure anyone that those struggles have been left behind. The line up was different than it was in Los Angeles and although it did produce a first half advantage in play, the results were still the same. The Fire have failed to generate offense consistently and when they have created decent looks, the opportunities have been squandered.
Playing Quincy Amarikwa alone up top and dropping Shaun Maloney back into a flat 4-4-2 next to Jeff Larentowicz for the last thirty minutes don't help things when the offense is struggling but Yallop will need to find answers soon. A loss at home to start the season against a squad also struggling to find their identity will ratchet up the pressure ahead of a trip to San Jose next weekend where they will open another new stadium. The Earthquakes defeated Seattle 3-2, on the road while playing a man down tonight so that doesn't bode well for the Fire either. David Accam is expected to be available but if the first two games are any indication, the Ghanian will need to be spectacular in order to change the look of the club.
Accam, Mike Magee, Razvan Cocis, and Patrick Nyarko have all been missed while Victor Perez should provide some help but that doesn't offer much relief when points are dropped at home.
It's only two games in and the clock is starting to tick on 2015.
GK Jon Busch (6) - Played well in Sean Johnson's absence, contributing five saves. There was nothing he could do about the goal.
D Eric Gehrig (4) - Started the game at right back and looked very much like a center back trying to play outside. The experiment was thankfully shelved in the second half where he moved inside and played better. Awful crosses and difficulty defending marred the first half however.
D Jeff Larentowicz (5) - No mistakes after playing the goat last week. Fairly solid at center back before moving back in center midfield for the last thirty minutes of the match.
D Adailton (5) - The Fire back line was scrambling to defend counters for most of the night. Adailton was steady but did get beaten back on a few occasions.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - An otherwise decent outing in which he played both fullback spots was capped by the unfortunate signature play for Fire defenders over the last few seasons. A bad clearance in the 86th minute spelled doom at home once again. Palmer talks about the play here.
M Matt Polster (5) - Started off very shaky but settled down as the Fire picked up the pace after the first fifteen minutes of the match. Yallop subbed in out in the 59th as he was carrying a yellow card and a warning.
M Joevin Jones (5) - Active in the first half while playing midfield. Had a good chance denied in the 24th but his shot was stopped by Ousted. Moved to left back for the last thirty minutes of the match.
M Michael Stephens (5) - A decent run in his first start but the critical link up in the final third was lacking, as it was for everyone else. Subbed out in the 82nd. Did have one nice pass in the 37th leading to Shipp's shot.
M Shaun Maloney (5) - Had a nicely struck free kick in the 51st, a long shot attempt that missed, and a horrendous corner kick attempt in the 27th. This game was an improvement on last week but if the Fire are to go anywhere this season, Maloney must be much for influential than he has been so far. See him talk about the team's start here.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Created a great chance in the 69th when he dribbled through the Vancouver defense but Stephens' shot was well high. Had a good chnace saved in the 37th. With Shipp, Maloney, and Stephens all pinching in, the Fire have almost no width in midfield. Yallop will need to address this since the 4-1-4-1 he deployed today didn't work. A 4-2-3-1 with the same personnel may have been more effective.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Did what he does in making the opposition work but that's just not enough if you're going to be relied on as the lone forward. Creating contact via a high work rate is one thing but quality and vision in the final third is another. Applaud the effort as always but the Fire are in trouble if Amarikwa is consistently starting games up top by himself.
F Kennedy Igboananike (5) - Came in for Polster in the 59th. That substitution changed the formation to a flat 4-4-2 with Larentowicz and Maloney central and Shipp and Stephens outside. The partnership with Amarikwa worked briefly in one combination play that was snuffed out in the 60th minute. Yallop said Igboananike came off with cramps against LA, but also had a slight calf issue which kept him out of training early in the week. So far the Fire's new DP's have been very underwhelming and there is a sense that the staff may not be over the moon on Igboananike's progress.
M Guly do Prado (5) - Subbed in for Amarikwa in the 76th but inexplicably spent almost all of his time in midfield.
M Alex (5) - Replaced Stephens in the 82nd. Did not factor in.
photos by Sean King (kingsportsphotography.com)