There were no surprises in this one.
True to form, the Fire had chances in the first half in which they failed to capitalize and a two-minute span of lax concentration resulted in two New England goals. Considering the absentees and the line-up deployed for this match, those things should come as no surprise. Without Shaun Maloney, David Accam, and Joevin Jones, it was almost a given that this team was going to be struggle to score on the road against a top Eastern Conference side. Deploying Guly do Prado as the central playmaker with little help from the outside almost guaranteed that but that wasn't the biggest issue.
Porous defense at the worst possible times continues to be the main cause for concern. Again, the lack of concentration and commitment to defending wasn't attributable to one man but rather a collective lapse that results in the opponents invariably punishing them for the slightest transgressions. This time a fabulously struck shot by Diego Fagundez and a headed goal from Charlie Davies in the 48th and 50th minutes were all that the opposition needed. The marking and pressure applied by Chicago defenders on the second goal was non-existent.
Frank Yallop summed up the loss after the match with frustration elevating. “It seems it’s the story of the season, where we play well enough to be in the game, do the right things, mainly," he said. "Getting chances and not taking them. Then having a spell of lax play when we’re soft and we’re off people and they are letting them play and then the team punishes us, it’s happen actually all season to be honest, more than a couple of games. It’s a real difficult one to put your finger on because it’s a whole team thing but we got to be a lot stronger and braver in both boxes, and that’s where the game is won and lost.”
The Fagundez goal came from a second ball following a set piece. The goal itself was the result of an outstanding individual effort but the Fire's lapse immediately following the half time break was perplexing but not unpredictable. The eventual collapse has disturbingly become expected. “Halftime shouldn’t make a difference in the performance, we’re professional, they have been playing the game a long time, doesn’t make a difference, you got to be ready whatever they throw at you and you’ll be clued in and tuned in and we weren’t and when you give a team with the fire power like New England, obviously have good players, they are going to punish you and they did. It was a set play again, good finish, but we have guys running sort of away from the danger area when they shouldn’t be and leaving a guy like that at the edge of the box, pre-strike, he’s going to hit the target and he did, but we got to hand it to their finishers, pretty good what they did tonight and ours were poor," said Yallop.
The Fire probably would have been happy with a nil-nil draw out of this game but it's their lack of closing teams down defensively that is killing them, not the lack of finishing the numerous chances they continue to squander. "Forget scoring, we can’t defend," lamented Yallop. "We have conceded I think seven or eight goals in three matches. I know the league is an attacking league but that doesn’t mean anything, so we got to figure that out for sure.”
There are no easy answers. The Fire surely made this match more difficult on themselves by agreeing to reschedule it to an international weekend but they will not be able to outscore everyone even when Accam, Maloney, Jones, Magee, and Nyarko return.
GK Jon Busch (5) - A couple of decent quality saves (3 on the night). The first goal is likely the GOTW winner. Be it Busch or Johnson, Fire goalkeepers are hard pressed to excel with attackers getting uncontested looks.
D Eric Gehrig (5) - Laid off of Davies just enough for him to get the space to glance the ball into the net from Bunbury's mediocre shot/cross attempt in the 50th minute. Did provide two decent crosses of his own later in the match.
D Jeff Larentowicz (5) - The Fire back line was organized enough to limit clear chances in the first half. The goals to start the second were a result of poor marking outside of the penalty area.
D Adailton (5) - Served in a ball over the top for Igboananike that resulted in a chance in the 24th.
D Lovel Palmer (4.5) - Afforded too much of a cushion on Nguyen to begin the play leading to the second goal. Out of place at left back.
M Matt Polster (4.5) - As well as Polster has played this season, some of the goals allowed in collapses have come as a result of the central midfield pair vacating the spot in front of the backline. Polster overran the play on the second goal by chasing an attacker toward an area where a defender was already placed leaving Bunbury the space and freedom to attempt a shot/cross. Needless yellow card for dissent ensures he will miss DC match on 6/24.
M Razvan Cocis (4.5) - Occupies the same area that Polster does from time to time thereby causing issues in possession and lack of control in the middle. Both seem to be running aimlessly at times.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Missed a clear on header opportunity in the 9th minute that probably should have given the Fire a lead. Active but frustrated somewhat in the first half as the Revs ran multiple defenders at him as soon as he touched the ball.
M Greg Cochrane (5.5) - Got a surprise start playing out of position in midfield and didn't hurt the team. Excellent cross in the 9th led to Shipp's chance and he did try to help defensively.
F Guly do Prado (4.5) - Tasked with the "playmaking" role underneath the striker. Volleyed shot in the 24th as saved by Shuttleworth for one of the Fire's best sequences of the night. Another shot from distance late in the first half was stopped. Also seems to roam aimlessly when given the opportunity. Absent in the second half.
F Kennedy Igboananike (4.5) - Completely lost or ignored Fagundez standing alone at the top of the box until it was too late. Got behind the defense in the 24th but couldn't finish the chance. Also a ghost in the second half.
M Jason Johnson (6) - Probably the Fire's lone bright spot on the night. At least tried to make things happen upon entering the match for Cochrane in the 63rd. His 90th minute header forced an excellent save from Shuttleworth.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) - Came in for do Prado in the 77th. There were no ill-advised shots or completely missed passes, so there's that.
US Open Cup fourth round match-up against Louisville City FC at Toyota Park on Tuesday night.
The USOC is likely the Fire's best and only chance for hardware this season.