Fire 0 Sporting KC 0 - recap and ratings

It wasn’t pretty but the Fire managed to overcome an overwhelming Sporting Kansas City advantage in the stat line to cling to a 0-0 draw and earn their first point of the 2013 season. Frank Klopas’ game plan was defensive and cautious and it worked well enough to get a result in a difficult place to play. With injuries along the back line and a sputtering offense after two matches Klopas chose to sit center midfielder Joel Lindpere and replaced him with the more defensively capable Daniel Paladini.

The Fire sat backed and absorbed pressure in hopes of catching a counter attack chance, a game plan that has worked in Kansas City in the past but that chance never really materialized. The tactic resulted in some ugly numbers – Shots 20-7, corner kicks 7-1, passing accuracy 82% to 59%, and possession 73-27. Those numbers are usually good enough to get you beat but Sporting has struggled a bit early on themselves. They’re not as dynamic as they were last season without Roger Espinoza and Kei Kamara making them very predictable as everything they do offensively goes through Graham Zusi. The Fire did well to limit him by making him work for his touches and he rarely found himself in a threatening spot.

Games like these aren’t pretty or necessarily fun to watch but today it was effective. Or at least effective enough to earn a point on the road, which is what most clubs shoot for when playing away from home. The Fire will gladly take the point but the continuing lack of creativity and stumbling in the final third will need to be addressed quickly.

Player Ratings

GK Sean Johnson (6) – Called on to make only three saves with his best being a 54th minute stop on Nagamura’s long distance blast. Strong in the air and solid throughout the day. Another solid effort from Johnson as he vies for the third goalkeeper spot on the USMNT.

D Gonzalo Segares (6) – A good effort for the entire back line considering the amount of possession Kansas City enjoyed. Very good positioning and focus throughout the entire match. Segares did well on the left considering most of Zusi’s crosses come from that side and he was limited.

D Jalil Anibaba (6) – Very good at centerback for most of the day although he may have gotten away with a handball after a failed clearance bounced up into his arm in the 35th.

D Austin Berry (6) – He and Anibaba did well to lock down Bieler throughout the game and did not allow any clear looks for SKC attackers. There was no lapse such as the one that resulted in the NE goal last week. Several clearances down the stretch as Kansas City pushed and the Fire clinged to a point.

D Mike Videira (6) – Did very well at right back considering he hasn’t played all season and the position is not his natural spot. Sinovic broke through on the right side on a couple of occasions but that was it for that side of the field.

M Dilly Duka (4) – Connecting on passes has been a problem so far in his first three games in red. Subbed out in the 59th.

M Daniel Paladini (5) – Started in place of Lindpere as Klopas opted for a defensive formation and did reasonably well at what he was asked to do, which was basically stay back and defend. Had one opportunity in the 90th minute to get a good look on goal but his first touch failed him and Nielsen collected the ball before a shot could be taken. Added some bite but Kansas City’s midfield ran over the Fire’s.

M Jeff Larentowicz (5) – The Fire midfield did well to limit Zusi in terms of dangerous chances but possession was 73-27 in favor of the home team. Sporting attempted 609 passes to the Fire’s 220. It’s hard to say anyone in the Fire’s midfield was anything better than just okay when numbers are that lopsided.

M Patrick Nyarko (5) – Klopas needs to find a way to get him more involved going forward. He did manage to find room on one or two occasions only to have teammates squander the chance with a bad decision, bad touch, or bad secondary pass.

F Chris Rolfe (5) – Had the Fire’s best chance in the 11th minute when his shot rolled just wide of the right post after beating Nielsen. A nice move or two late was wasted as the Fire have no one reliable ahead of him.

F Sherjill MacDonald (4) – He was better than he has been in the first two games of the season and he was still not good. Teams will continue to shut down the Fire attack by boxing in Rolfe and muscling Nyarko until one of the forwards on this roster finds some form or until the club brings in a capable target man.

F Maicon Santos (4) – Subbed in for MacDonald in the 67th and wasn’t much better. Managed to botch a 3v2 counter attack in the 89th by somehow maneuvering himself into an offside position.

M Alex (5) – Came into the match in the 59th for Duka but failed to make a meaningful impact.

D Wells Thompson (5) – Replaced Videira in the 83rd when the replacement right back limped off with an apparent injury.

Talking points

  • The striker position is a problem. This is no surprise but Maicon Santos does not appear to be the answer for a struggling Sherjill MacDonald. This will be a recurring theme.
  • Joel Lindpere did not play and will miss the next match away on National Team duty. Paladini played admirably in his place but the Fire will not someone with creative ability to assume this role with the forwards struggling.
  • Mike Videira left the game with an apparent injury to further thin the depth along the back line.
  • Gaining a point is a step in the right direction but the Fire can’t afford to drop anything to Chivas USA next Sunday at Toyota Park.




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  • it wasn't pretty describes the Fire game. I watched the portland Seattle game and it offered everything that I had hoped the fire would show this season. Good Coaching both teams trying to push the other team to the limits and tremendous fan support. Please who in the earth is responsible for evaluating the players on the fire. What a mess I almost wish that July would come around quicker so that we could speculate on what players could save the season. How come Seattle goes after a dynamic young player in his prime when the fire always signs other team rejects. In a perfect world Artie would sell the team and peter wilt would become president. He would name Jessie marsh as coach.

  • " ... the continuing lack of creativity and stumbling in the final third will need to be addressed quickly."

    GR, how is this possible? Is there a secret creative attacker hidden somewhere on this roster? The Fire's inability to string three passes together consistently is appalling and shocking. These early-season woes point to poor preparation during pre-season training and this falls on Frank's shoulders. There is enough veteran MLS talent on this roster for the Fire to at least be competent in every game. They have been much closer to inept than competent so far.

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Im sticking by my preseason evaluation....this team isn't that bad. The midfield has been together for a total of two months so it will take some time before they look as cohesive as they should. Lindpere and Larentowicz are both quality MLS players and form should improve there. The jury is still out on Duka for me, so that left mid spot should still be open for competition. Rolfe and Nyarko really haven't hit their stride yet either. They're both proven commodities that will be better than what we've seen in the first three games.

    The striker spot, unfortunately will continue to be a problem and there's no sudden magic that's going to happen there. Once they're back at full strength they'll be good enough to compete for a playoff spot in the East which will buy some time until the July window. I can assure you they're looking to make a move there but with that being said if they don't get something significant done the villagers will be out with torches and pitchforks.

    Of course, I could be completely wrong. ;)

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I largely agree with your assessment. This team will get better. The defense is their strength, even with all the injury issues. The midfield will definitely improve and the big question there is "How much?" Rolfe is a fairly good forward and should do. But beyond that, all we have are question marks, if not embarrassments.

    The hope that this team will come together so well that a significant forward aquisition in July will make them a powerhouse appears awkwardly over-optimistic, give the track record of Fire additions in the last few years. We already know they WON'T put up the money to get a real impact forward.

    I would say the villagers are already out with torches and pitchforks. So far the torches are just for ilumination of the investigation, but the pitchforks should be taken as a sign of the mood. If the current ownership wants to keep selling tickets and team jerseys with marketing hype and spin, they need to sell this team and apply to work for the Cubs.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    There's only one way for them to dispel that perception and that's to go out and get a Keane-like forward. Someone of that quality would certainly change things.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Of course, but why do they refuse to exercise this option? The only answer I can come
    up with that makes any sense is that profits are a greater priority than on-the-field success. If the operational philosophy is to defer major investments in talent until the investers are making big money, the outlook is probably bleak.

    If they want to stimulate fan interest they have to occasionally show some indication of their own commitment.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    So how can they address the problems quickly? I contend that they can't. They're stuck with they have. If they are better than they have shown so far (and I agree with you that they SHOULD be better than this), how do you fix it quickly?

    You make it sound like the two months that they have been playing together is not enough. I'm saying that two months should be more than enough for a team to be ready to play. Perhaps not optimal form, but their play so far should give us an indication of what kind of team the Fire have.

    Tommy Soehn told me that you shouldn't judge an MLS team until after they've had 10 games together. We'll revisit this topic in 7 games from now, OK?

  • In reply to StaryByk3:

    Deal...10 games in they should not have some of the problems they've had so far.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    No, you were spot on with the torches and pitchforks.

  • The defense stood tough and maintained their composure, but the passing from the back was third rate. Too many intercepted passes.
    I echo the above comments.
    Would agree the back line deserved 6's, thought Anibaba had one of his best games. Rolfe received the player of the match via NBC Sports, apparently they were watching a different game, he did o.k. but I thought Johnson or one of the defenders deserved it more.
    Just glad to get out of K.C. with a point given the way the team has been playing. I'm not ready to give up on the team, but they may be playing themselves into a hole that may be difficult to climb out of later. Seems like most MLS clubs have made substantial improvements while the Fire remain flat on offense. Don't know how much blame to put on the forwards given the lack of offensive
    punch coming from the midfield, although the team showed some counter attacking ability at times yesterday.

  • In reply to lonecoyote:

    I would agree on Anibaba, he was the best of the defenders yesterday.

    It's only 3 games out of 34, so let's be cautious about overreaction. If they lose to Chivas at home next Sunday, I can imagine the comments section will be somewhat angry next weekend.

    Patience....they're better than they've shown.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    The player that surprised me was Michael Vidiera. He did a terrific job at outside back. IMO, he should have been the player of the game If I were Klopas, I will leave the same 4 defenders out there until Friedrich recooperates from his injury. The Fire need a striker and a playmaker to generate some offense. Is it me or MacDonald has gotten slower every game? He is a nonfactor what so ever in this three games. The way it is going, the MacDonald experiment isn't panning out.

  • I do not feel many of these comments are overreactions. Yesterday was a lucky point. KC defeated itself yesterday with poor play in the final third while we couLd not string 3-4 passes together and gave the ball away stupidly all game. That goes back to basics. One game, OK. Every team has an off night. The passing and posession has been consistently poor. We have acquired several veteran players who should do much better. Most of is have shown extraordinary patience the last 4 seasons.
    It is a results based business, now is the time to see results.
    609 to 220 is not a result, it is an embarrassment.

    Hopefully Chivas will put one in for us next week. Seems our best chance to score at this point.

  • The team cannot maintain the ball because they cannot connect their passes in the middle. Maybe they should move Nyarko to the middle. I understand he is a more natural outside mid, but he knows how to connect passes and his vision is better than anyone else on the team. Maybe he can become a central attacking midfielder that we need. The offense is non-existent except when he has the ball so why not just give it to him everytime.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    That lack of time together in midfield is exactly why they look so bad in passing/connecting right now. The Nyarko thought is interesting but he's always been an outside attacker, even through college so he'd be learning a new position with different responsibilities.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    If they were rookies coming out of college adjusting to the speed of the game I might consider that is why they look so bad, but these guys are veterans who should not have that difficult of a time gelling. Anyone who has played that long should understand basic passing schemes and understand where they need to be to receive them and what to do after they get the ball.

  • In reply to DerSting:

    Lets see where they are in May. Feel free to remind me I was wrong ;)

  • Scoring: 0 for 2013.. when will the drought end?

  • Klopas had a lot of nerve to get rid of De Los Cobos when he is doing worse. I notice this season you don't rate Klopas and his inept coaching. IMO, he deserves less than a 4 in every game he manages. The Fire won't go anywhere until the owner wakes up and fires the two stooges in Klopas and Leon.

  • In reply to klopashater:

    I decided not to rate the coaching this year since it always seemed to boil down to 4 for a loss, 5 for a tie, and 6 for a win. I've established some guidelines for the ratings on the field and it was difficult to translate that into a coaching rating that made sense.

  • Klopas isn't the problem unless he is the one teaching them to pass behind the player or to a player who is not moving. The Fire need to bring Bob Bradley back. Seriously, the passing all over the field has been atrocious. The team needs to get its act together soon. Not every trip to the corner deserves a cross (usually to no one). This team needs to know its OK to bring it back out, keep possession and attack from the 18 every now and then. They need someone who has play making ability in the middle. If our central mids stay back and never go forward, there will never be an advantage. Rolfe and Mac cannot beat the central defenders on their own, there needs to be more support from the middle. If they need central defenders to fall down before we score than we will have a long season.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Right on regarding support from the center mids.

  • Chivas USA tied the Galaxy 1-1 while down a man for half of the game. The Fire better ready next Sunday. Chivas may be better than everyone thought.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Ahem. I think I raised a red flag on the Chivas game recently. The game against the other SoCal team is not going to be a cakewalk for this Fire squad, at this point in the season.

    Chivas has 4 goals for, 5 goals against. NE and LA both have only one goal against this season, and KC has 3. I would argue that if our house was in order, we should have been able to put one in against the Wiz, but there may be an argument that we've faced some stingy defenses which has not made it easier on us. Fine. It looks like we may have a decent option in the back until Friedrich gets back (and assuming Videira gets back on the field - ?!?), which could be enough to cool the Chivas attack. But only the Portland Timbers have let in more goals than Chivas (and FC Dallas has let in an equal number).

    All things being equal, this is when our offense has the chance to show it, um, exists. If we can't score against the Goats, in other words, it's going to be a long 6 games till the StareByky - GR 10 game reassessment.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Chivas has been better than most thought they would be but you also have to factor in that they've played all three of their matches at the Home Depot Center. Travelling and winning on the road in MLS is no picnic and Chivas USA is playing a match against the big Goats on Wednesday in Mexico.

    Golden opportunity.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Good point on playing at the Home Depot Center. They are going to miss their fan and all that paper on the seats when they're at TP.

  • In reply to Modibo:


  • Der Sting and Krasov --- thanks for saving me the trouble of posting. The inability to pass, shield, and trap are the requirements of a professional. If they don't have it already, familiarity with their teammates won't help. Laurentiwicz is a "hard man" not a creative mid. Lindpere is a "poor man's" Arjen Robin, not a creative mid either and his "sell-by" date has expired! Another grand experiment on the cheap. Sorry, GR, this team may win a few but forget about the beautiful game.

  • In reply to shortpasses:

    There was a lot of scepticism on a recent podcast about Laurentowicz as a defensive mid - I think it was on March to the Match (sorry JK and GR for publicizing another outlet, but it's not my idea after all). Basically they said that if you look at the mids he's been in where he's been successful, he's been next to some of the strongest d-mids in MLS (Joseph and Mastroenni). That's a very valid point. Next to Joseph and Mastroenni, how "hard" is Laurentowizc, really? While I still think he's a quality player, his bite might not be as sharp when he's shouldering most d-mid responsibilities by himself behind a floundering offense that can't do much to relieve pressure in our half.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Very reasonable point. He was able to get forward a little more from the center mid spot in the past and now his role has changed a bit as the true "holding" mid. Mastroeni wasn't always there to do the heavy lifting though...he's missed considerable time over the last few years due to injury. Guys that can play that spot by themselves aren't in abundance which is why you see a lot of teams in MLS play with two more defensive minded center mids. Not many play an actual diamond.
    March to Match is pretty good, btw.

  • I'm a BIG fan of MTTM. No harm done. :)

    That is a good point, but I don't think Larentowicz has been as bad as some have said. He put up solid numbers (15/18 completed passes, for one) against a KC midfield/defense that was swarming at times. He's also shown some grit and aggressiveness, which is what those who liked him coming in wanted to see. I'm not expecting Beckerman here, but at the same time, the sooner he and Lindpere click, the better.

    The glaring issue, as has been discussed ad nauseum, is finishing/scoring. MacDonald has been underwhelming, Santos has been unimpressive, and Rolfe has been limited going forward, mostly because of having to carry the offensive weight and seemingly do everything in the final 1/3. If the Fire can hang on and make it to the July window, a difference maker will not only provide goal scoring, but will make those around him better as well. If they do pass on MacDonald's option (a no-brainer to me at this point), it'll take pressure off Rolfe to be able to play his game, and it will, one would hope, raise the level of Nyarko/Duka/Lindpere/Larentowicz.

    It's getting to the point that the fans almost have to take a LA/Houston 2012 approach of not worrying as much about individual games, and look at the "just make the playoffs" scenario. This Fire team is not going to challenge for 1st in the East, in its current incarnation. Scrapping to get points, stealing a few games, and getting someone in the July window who doesn't reside in the bargain bin or "diamond in the rough" will go far in determining exactly what this team will be able to do come October/November. If that means they sputter now to peak later, I'm ok with it in the long run.

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