A game that has been circled on the calendar for months finally provided an answer to the question about whether or not the Fire could win the Eastern Conference. Although the answer itself is one that they didn't want to hear, the 3-1 loss to Toronto FC doesn't close the book on the 2017 season. The Fire simply aren't as good as TFC. They probably aren't as good as they showed during an eleven match unbeaten run earlier this season but they're also not as bad as they have shown over the last several weeks.
The Fire have now lost five of their last six games and are in danger of slipping out of the top three in the Conference with the New York Red Bulls only three points behind them. The thought of catching Toronto, now nine points ahead with nine games remaining, is probably gone but the focus should now should be on preserving a spot in the standings above NYRB, Columbus, Montreal, and Atlanta.
There's an opportunity to get back on the winning track at home next weekend against an expansion team playing like an expansion team on the road. Minnesota United is 0-8-2 away. A loss to Toronto FC at home isn't reason for panic but should they not beat Minnesota at Toyota Par next weekend, fans will start looking for the button.
GK Matt Lampson (4.5) – Came up with two decent saves in the 49th and 56th to temporarily prevent TFC from scoring a second goal but conceded the first all too easily. His bobble of Hasler’s shot in the 13th should have been handled cleanly, instead the rebound trickled to Delgado for an easy tap in putting the Fire behind the best team in the league early. A handful of unforced giveaways late in the first half were also dangerous.
D Patrick Doody (5) – Two crosses in the 12th and 19th, one for de Leeuw and one for Nikolic led to chances that were steered wide. Another cross from combination play in the 69th found Nikolic again forced Bono into a save. Lost track of Hasler on the second goal.
D Johan Kappelhof (5) – A turnover in the middle of the field in the 49th led to a TFC chance. Ball watching after a foul in second half stoppage time led to the third Toronto goal. Pulled out of the middle leaving plenty of space on the second goal.
D Christian Dean (5) – Much improved from his first Fire outing and did a fair job against Altidore but it wasn’t without considerable help from Schweinsteiger dropping back in the first half. Also trailing on the third goal. Also trailed on the second goal in a collective team ball watching exercise.
D Drew Conner (5.5) – Involved all night from the right side and one of the more effective Fire attackers, which speaks to the Fire’s lack of danger from the middle of the field.
M Bastian Schweinsteiger (6) – Helped the Fire limit play through Altidore in the first half by essentially playing as a third centerback. Played more advanced in the second half and the game opened up a bit. His rocket shot off the post in the 54th ricocheted right to Accam for the Fire’s only score. Showed some clear frustration for the first time on the field.
M Dax McCarty (5.5) – Involved on the play that led to the Fire’s goal with a run up the left side and lay off to Schweinsteiger after his shot was blocked. Decent in combination but also trailing on the second TFC goal.
M Juninho (4.5) – Somewhat involved a little more in the first half but largely invisible in the second before being replaced in the 65th. Two shot attempts were easily handled by Bono.
M Michael de Leeuw (4.5) – Tasked with shadowing Bradley in the first half, which took him out of the offense. The Fire needed more from his 59 minutes. Very few touches of any consequence.
M David Accam (6) – The Fire’s most dangerous attacker on the night. Scored the only goal and had several other chances although he did miss on a good look in the 17th after dispossessing Bradley in the box. Unfortunately, the Fire’s lack of imagination in the middle saw them resort to long balls over the top trying to free Accam too often. Another long shot was saved by Bono in the 81st.
F Nemanja Nikolic (4.5) – Failed to score in his seventh consecutive match. Two shot attempts, one of which was on target in the 69th weren’t particularly dangerous. Removed from the match in the 82nd with the Fire trailing 2-1.
M Luis Solignac (4.5) – Came on for de Leeuw in the 59th. Twelve touches, no shots, no completed passes in the final third.
M Djordje Mihailovic (5) – Replaced Juninho in the 65th. Some activity but also provided mediocre service on corner kick duty.
M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) – Subbed in for Nikolic in the 82nd. Tried to create something in a short amount of time. One shot on goal late in stoppage time was stopped by Bono.