These are the type of games where the best teams make statements. On the road, against a lesser opponent, with yet another chance to capitalize on advantageous results. That’s when you expect genuine playoff contenders to make their moves. Time and again over the last two months the Fire have been presented with golden opportunities to salvage something from this season after a horrid start.
Whether it be the US Open Cup semi-final at home against the worst team in MLS or on the road with a chance to move into the 5th playoff spot, this club has invariably fallen toward the direction of pretender when given the opportunity to claim anything of note. This match was particularly important because it represented the “game in hand” advantage that was held over the closest competition. With optimism and time running short, the reality of lost opportunity and dropped points will eventually settle and catch up to the 2013 Fire.
With only seven games left in the season, each stinging result carries even more weight to it. A lackluster performance in which they played down to the level of the competition takes away even more of the minor satisfaction gained from a decent outing in Seattle despite the loss.
Because the rest of the East is bad enough to keep them in the race, this draw doesn’t signify that the Fire’s season is over. Instead it signifies that they’re just not good enough to capitalize on even the most advantageous of situations. The way this stretch run is shaping up they’ll probably be presented with the scenario again. Win and claim a playoff spot. It may come down to the last weekend.
What are the chances they finally cash in on a gift?
GK Sean Johnson (6) – Only two saves but strong throughout. Distribution was even better.
D Gonzalo Segares (5) – Over committed on several occasions including being beaten by Earnshaw on Toronto’s goal. His contribution offensively keeps this from being a tick lower. Played into several good sequences with Duka in the first half.
D Bakary Soumare (4) – The back line was in complete disarray for a period of time in the first half with Toronto getting plenty of space and looks at goal. Failed to get into position to clear Convey’s cross which led to the goal. Played a relatively strong last 15 minutes with two key stops but the first half was poor.
D Austin Berry (5) – Managed to muster two shots although neither was on target. May have been the best of the defenders in the first half but that’s not saying much.
D Jalil Anibaba (4) – Lost Convey en route to the cross which resulted in Toronto’s goal. Sloppy defense continued for the remainder of the half and the Fire were fortunate more damage wasn’t done as a result. Far too many needless giveaways to warrant anything higher.
M Jeff Larentowicz (5) – Provided very little offensively in the middle of the pitch as he played more of the holding role with Alex on the field. A few bad passes halted possession. A blocked shot from distance in the 22nd that resulted in a 4th minute corner kick was the highlight of the night in the offensive third.
M Alex (5) – Another night that can best be described as just okay. The Fire need a spark in the middle and Alex has yet to really provide it in this spot. His one good look at goal in the 51st sailed over the cross bar.
M Dilly Duka (6) – The Fire’s best offensive player on the night scored the only goal although it was more a result of awful goalkeeping than anything else. A good ball to Segares in the 18th resulted one of the Fire’s 7 seven fruitless corner kicks. Played pretty well in combination but for some reason was subbed out in the 69th minute. An odd decision considering Nyarko was taken off 14 minutes earlier.
M Patrick Nyarko (5) – Not particularly sharp but had a moment or two in combination with Rolfe that led to some build up. Subbed out in the 55th. Like the rest of the squad seemed to be a half step off.
F Chris Rolfe (5) – Moved from forward to left mid to right mid throughout the course of the match. Showed some flashes late with an excellent through ball to Amarikwa leading to the Fire’s last good chance.
F Mike Magee (5) – Didn’t have any big chances. Moved into a central playmaker’s role in the 78th as a result of substitutions.
F Quincy Amarikwa (5) – Came into the match in the 55th for Nyarko and provided some spark late but he failed to put away the Fire’s best chance of the second half when Rolfe set him up for a good look at goal. Bendik made the big save to preserve the draw. A pass to Anangono in that spot may have resulted in a tap in.
M Daniel Paladini (5) – Entered the match in the 69th for Duka. Biggest contribution was a free kick attempt in the 92nd that sailed high of the net.
F Juan Luis Anangono (4) – Subbed into the game in the 78th for Alex. Several bad passes and a blocked shot trying to beat 3 defenders were the extent of the contribution.