Another late game collapse at home has pushed the Fire into ninth place it the Eastern Conference. During his weekly conference call on Monday afternoon, Frank Yallop told reporters that the team used the usual post game meeting to discuss more than just the result. Urgency and coming together to solve the problems that have plagued the team this season in seven losses is now vitally important with one-third of the season gone.
“We’ve got to figure it out because points are slipping away,” said Yallop of the discussion during the meeting. “We have a few games in hand on teams but teams are starting to get together. It’s a close table, very close. We’ve got to now start to win games to get up the table. The big thing about that is looking at yourself, obviously the coaches and myself, I’m looking at what I’m doing and making sure that the team I pick is correct and the subs and all that. It’s not a panic mode at all. We’ve played well enough to get more out of some games but that doesn’t matter. We’re not winning. We’ve got to stop them from scoring, and we’ve got to score. We had a good chat about what we need to do and how we need to go about things.”
Yallop wouldn’t expand on what specifically was said, but the talk seemed to center around the understanding that time is slipping away with every dropped point. “We meet every time after a game, whether it’s a video or a debriefing. It’s normal. I felt that this was more, forget the tactics, as a group we’ve got to find a way to win now. I think it was well received by the players. They want to win too. We all do. We’re very, very disappointed in where we sit right now. We feel we’re better than where we are, but we’ve got to win. That’s the be all and end all. We’ve got to win matches and we’ve got to find a way to do it together.”
Orlando City loss
When asked if the loss on Saturday night was a result of changing tactics in the second half or a case of the visitors just making plays, Yallop didn’t focus in on one lone reason or explanation. “Maybe a bit of both. The own goal by Adi at the end to win it, they make a good run and Kaka plays him in. But still we can clear that ball and it’s played into your own goal. We give information to the players going on and they know their roles. We’re basically playing a 4-4-1-1 right now and everyone knows their roles. It’s about the mentality of the individual as well. Individually, in both boxes we’ve not been clinical. That means defending and attacking. We’ve outshot a lot of teams and haven’t scored enough goals. If we take it to 3-1, I think the game’s over, but at 2-1 Orlando keep pushing and shoving and they got their reward in the end by not really terrific play. It was a good shot by Larin, I’ve got to hand it to him. It was a great goal but it could have been cleared. Adi had it at his feet and could have cleared it and then obviously an own goal to win the game. It’s just disappointing with a lot of the stuff that’s gone on but we had a meeting yesterday and we fleshed out a lot of stuff. We’ve got to start winning games and find a way to win. We’re playing well enough to win games but we’re not defending as a unit.”
The back line has played well in stretches, even during games in which multiple goals have been allowed but momentary lapses continue and lead to disheartening results like Saturday night’s. “It’s been a funny one because we haven’t looked like we’re going to concede goals, but we have,” said Yallop. “Like I said after the game, six goals in two games is not good at all. Whenever I explain it, it’s not always just the back line. It’s team defending. Defending starts in the front and right through the back. We haven’t defended well as a unit, in the last two games especially. We did a nice job against Montreal, I know they had ten men, but just in general we defended well. We haven’t done that in the last two games. Once we got to 2-1, I thought okay, great, we’ve kind of got through the spell of their press but then they pushed on and created just a couple more chances and scored two goals when we had a chance to see it out. It’s very frustrating at the minute.”
Harry Shipp made some strong comments after the match on Saturday in reference to changing tactically during games and the player’s ability to see games out. Yallop addressed those concerns by identifying them as full first team issues. “I never (place) blame on anything because they’re my players. I coach them and I make sure that they know what they’re doing late in games,” he said. “It’s still about the organization and making sure we do things in good spots. Our team shape and our defending has been a bit off in certain moments and it’s really cost us. I get three changes, three substitutes, and the half time talk to really get any points across that we can, but it’s difficult once the game’s kicked off and the guys are on the field to get any information to them. Obviously, they’re on the field and they’re the ones that can turn around and try to figure it out. In general, we’re trying to do the rights things and we talk about it a lot. We’re not hiding behind anything. We have just quite gotten it done as a group, and that’s including the coaching staff.”
“I think individually, the players have performed pretty well. Everyone can play better and all that, but the guys we brought in have done pretty well. The guys we kept from last year have been solid and good. It’s just collectively, we haven’t figured it out. We’ve got to get to a point where we can figure it out, because when wins slip by and points slip by it starts to get edgy. We’ve got draw a line in the sand and start to get it figured out.”
The Fire have been up and down all season, not just from game to game, but often the swings and dips have inexplicably occurred during matches. The breakdowns haven’t come from just individual errors either. “The game Saturday, there was a fantastic atmosphere from the crowd,” said Yallop. “They were really enjoying the game up to the point where they scored in the 82nd minute. It was a joy to watch them. I thought we moved the ball well and we created some great chances and then we give up a real soft goal just before half time, which wasn’t good. Then we give up two soft goals, maybe one really good strike and the last was an own and it just kind of brings down the whole performance. In the first half we played some good stuff.”
New England game
The upcoming match against the Revolution was moved from April 15 to this weekend after New England requested the match be rescheduled. The Fire agreed and now will travel without David Accam, Shaun Maloney, and Joevin Jones for the game. Yallop isn’t looking back and second guessing the move now however.
“It is what it is. It was crammed into the schedule anyway,” he said. “I can’t look back and say we shouldn’t have done it. Not at all. We’ve got to get on and get ready and try to win in New England. That’s all we’re trying to do. We can’t look back at what we could have done. We changed it and we move forward, so I don’t regret that at all. Obviously it’s disappointing having those three guys missing but when you have quality players they get called up to their national teams. We knew that going in to the season that they were going to get called up because they’re good.”
How the loss of Accam and Jones is accounted for will be determined over the next few days of practice. “We’ve just to get through training this week,” said Yallop. “I’ll make a decision on Thursday morning on what the line-up is going to look like. I like to debrief on the weekend and just really think about what went on and think about New England. They’re a quality team at home and a quality team in the league.”
The Fire will have a short turnaround for a US Open Cup match against Louisville City FC next Tuesday. That contest will take place less than three days after the conclusion of the New England game but the Fire didn’t have much choice when it comes to the possibility of an extra day of rest and preparation.
“Because of the schedule of the stadium, we had to play on Tuesday,” explained Yallop. The B96 Summer Bash is scheduled for June 20 at Toyota Park.
Busch or Johnson
Yallop also said that he has not decided on a starting goalkeeper for this weekend just yet but will make that choice in the next few days. “I’ll make a decision (on the goalkeeping position) on what I’m going to do on the weekend. There’s no blame attached to any of the results we’ve had because collectively we win together and lose together. It’s up to me to pick the team that’s going to hopefully get a result.”
Accam call up
There was some confusion last week about David Accam’s availability for the DC and Orlando City games because the Ghanaian FA hadn’t officially added the attacker to their roster until late in the week. Accam departed after the match on Saturday and will miss the upcoming game. Yallop offered the following explanation of the call-up. “It’s very important to have good relationship with all the countries that are represented on our team. We try to do that for sure, and make sure that players understand and are available when they’re called upon. We never stand in anybody’s way if they get a chance to play for their national team. You can’t do that. They called him up without letting us know and then sent through the official letter. Then we spoke to the federation and they agreed it was fine for David to play this game and then travel. Everything was fine and we worked it out.”