One thing has been constant all season. The 2015 Fire will find a way to lose.
In games where the offense has faltered and failed to put away chances, the defense was slightly better but still gave up that one crushing blow. In matches where the offense clicked and they did manage to create something, whether it be on the counter or via those rare glimpses of sustained attacks, one could be assured that the defense would collapse and give up just one more goal than the attackers could generate.
The Fire's 18th loss of the season officially eliminated them from playoff consideration and continued to show that Nelson Rodriguez and whomever he chooses to lead behind the bench should focus firstly on correcting the issues of collective team defense. It's one thing to succumb to Toronto's tandem of Sebastian Giovinco and Michael Bradley, but this team has shown all season that no matter the opponent, they are fully capable of blowing just about any lead.
This time, two leads were squandered en route to adding to their club record for defeats in a season. An early goal from Gilberto should have set the tone against a Toronto side that has struggled with their own defensive problems all season, but it didn't. Gilberto scored yet again early in the second half but the Fire wasted no time in giving that up. Seven minutes after the Brazilian's second goal against his old team, Bradley waltzed through a retreating Fire defense to level the match.
"It usually isn’t good to score early in the first half or the second half and we did both," said Brian Bliss after the match. "It usually gives the opponent so much more time to regroup and drive the game a little bit more but you have to take the goals when they come whether it is early or late in the half. But we have to find a better way to sustain the pressure and that to me is being able to keep the ball and moving it better and that is side to side and getting the opponents to chase the ball a little more. We didn’t do that."
It was just a matter of time before the third goal and eventual game winner for Toronto. We knew it was coming.
In 2015, it always does.
GK Jon Busch (5) - Toronto outshot the Fire 16-8 but the shots on target were close (6-5). Busch was credited with 3 saves. Playing goalkeeper in Chicago hasn't been easy this season.
D Lovel Palmer (5) - Didn't help much in the attack but also wasn't the biggest culprit defensively. That's not exactly a ringing endorsement but there were bigger issues in back.
D Jeff Larentowicz (4.5) - Chasing Giovinco isn't an enviable task for MLS defenders but Larentowicz did have a few isolated instances of lunges that resulted in stops. In full retreat on Bradley's goal. Also standing around for the third goal along with several other teammates in what appeared to be failed zonal marking in defending a corner kick.
D Daneil Cyrus (4.5) - Losing battles to Giovinco is a pretty common occurrence. No one close him down in the 29th when his cross/shot from an unlikely angle found its way into the net. Also in backpedal mode on Bradley's goal.
D Patrick Doody (5.5) - Decent game from the rookie. Started a handful of combination plays that led to chances that weren't converted by attackers.
M Patrick Nyarko (6) - Assisted on both Fire goals. Recognition in starting the attack to find space on both occasions was very good. Also tried to help on defense.
M Matt Polster (4.5) - Was the third member of the trio in full retreat that allowed Bradley to work his way to the front of the net unchallenged. As well as Polster has done in his rookie season, the backline is all too often exposed for easy looks because the pressure from the midfield of the field isn't enough. Toronto had a 67-33 advantage in possession in the first half. The final number was 57-43.
M Michael Stephens (5) - Decent in moving things forward in a positive fashion. Perhaps the Polster/Stephens combo is better suited for a 4-2-3-1.
M David Accam (5) - A few chances created although he didn't figure into any scoring. Tendency to try to force play and take on too many defenders may indicate lack of confidence in teammates.
F Mike Magee (5) - A quick pass to Gilberto led to the second Fire goal. That quick glimpse of the old Magee is all too fleeting. There wasn't much other than that.
F Gilberto (6.5) - Two very good finishes provided both Fire goals. Had other chances to add a third that weren't converted. A bad pass in the 19th spoiled a 3v1 opportunity. His header in the 55th could have resulted in a hat trick but the ball was cleared off the line by TFC.
M Joevin Jones (5) - Replaced Nyarko in the 55th. Didn't factor into much. His substitutions over the last two games would indicate that the current coaching staff sees him as a midfielder and not a left back. He's not been effective there for several months.
M Razvan Cocis (5) - Came on for Polster in the 67th. Fire subs did not make an impact.
F Jason Johnson (5) - Subbed in for Magee in the 74th.