For a while it seemed that the stars were lining up for the Fire to make an unlikely jump into the sixth spot in the Eastern Conference standings. Montreal, New York City FC, and Philadelphia had a all lost and a Chicago victory over Orlando City meant a leap above the red line. As has been the case throughout the entire season however, the Fire missed out on a golden opportunity to at least get back into a playoff spot, even if it only would have been temporary.
With eight games remaining the Fire can't afford draws with direct competitors and expect that results will go their way every round. Next weekend's opponent, the Montreal Impact still hold a three games in hand advantage on Chicago and four games on the other three "contenders". The Impact also parted ways with Frank Klopas and replaced him with assistant coach Mauro Biello on an interim basis. Regardless of who is behind the bench, the Fire have two games remaining against Montreal amid the eight "must win" contests on the schedule.
Frank Yallop played the same line-up that surprised the New York Red Bulls on Wednesday night but finishing wasn't as crisp as it was at Toyota Park. Three hours of lightning delays didn't help and it seemed that the Fire ran out of gas in the last 15-20 minutes of the match. "I think the rain affected both teams," said Frank Yallop after the match. "It seemed like at the end of the game both were kind of on our lat legs. I think a draw is fair. We had a good first half, Playing on Wednesday caught up with us a little bit."
The Fire didn't play badly in this match, it just wasn't good enough to win. Against a team playing as poorly as Orlando City had been more should be expected if some sort of miracle playoff run is still in the cards. The draw was a fair result but that also brings the reality of where this team currently stands back into the picture.
The numbers may say that post season play is still possible but this one can be chalked up as another in a long list of "if onlys" that will be looked back upon come October 26. In the meantime, supporters can resume the now annual tradition of counting games remaining and scoreboard watching just to have a chance at sneaking into the final playoff spot in the Conference.
GK Sean Johnson (5.5) - Got caught in no man's land on the own goal and followed that with another questionable reach for a low cross. He was shaky for a good portion of the match but a fantastic finger tip stop of Ceren's blast in stoppage time may have saved the point.
D Matt Polster (5.5) - One of his better games at right back. He'll miss the Montreal match due to a call up to the US U-23's.
D Eric Gehrig (5) - The own goal was a result of being beaten to the spot and the ball by Larin after a relatively weak cross but he was strong for the most of the remainder of the match. Larin beat him again in the 82nd and it led to Rivas hitting the post with a shot.
D Jeff Larentowicz (5.5) - Both he and Gehrig stepped up well when they had to, particularly in the second half when Orlando held the bulk of the possession and the chances.
D Joevin Jones (4.5) - One of his weaker outings since early in the season. Struggled in just about every phase. Caught out of position too often and sloppy in the passing game. He will miss the next game due to Trinidad & Tobago call up.
M Patrick Nyarko (5.5) - Decent field game but not as dangerous as one would have expected with Orlando City focused on chasing Accam up and down the other side of the pitch.
M Michael Stephens (6) - Another solid all around outing. It will be tough to get him out of the eleven at this point.
M Razvan Cocis (5.5) - Another decent effort. His pass to Gilberto in the 30th started the goal scoring sequence. Orlando won possession handily (63-37) but shot attempts were even on the night (12-12).
M David Accam (6.5) - The goal in the 30th was impressive, another long run in the 86th came close and it was one of the few real chances the Fire had in the second half. He'll miss the Montreal game on international duty with Ghana. You have to wonder if the Fire can generate much without him.
F Gilberto (5.5) - The highlights from the forward spot were few in this match but his pass to Accam did lead to the goal in the 30th.
F Kennedy Igboananike (5) - The work was there, the results were not. Relatively silent in the second half.
M Harry Shipp (5) - Replaced Nyarko in the 60th minute. The Fire were chasing and seemed out of gas from about the 70th minute on.
F Jason Johnson (5) - Subbed in for Gilberto in th 60th. One long shot attempt in the 63rd was about it.