I just can't put my finger on why we perform like we do in games like this. Whenever you face a team that has already been eliminated from the playoffs late in the season, there is the potential for an upset. When all a team has left is a chance to play spoiler, sometimes that can motivate a club to put in a strong performance despite their season already being dead. And, New England came out and didn't back down. Unfortunately the Men in Red did put in an awful performance. There is not going to be any sugar coating by me here. We were flat out bad and the team should be appalled at that performance.
Revolution midfielder Clyde Simms revealed that the Revolution had a pretty simply game plan: shut down Chris Rolfe. While we normally have other players step up and make things happen, the Revs plan worked and no one else bothered to show up and help. And that is simply unacceptable against a team that has 8 wins this season.
There really isn't much to write about in this recap in terms of actual play because, well, the Fire didn't do anything. Diego Fagundez had the winner for the Revs in the 17th minute. He dribbled in space down the right side, and fired a rocket past Sean Johnson into the corner of the net. While it was a quality goal, Sean Johnson was out of position a bit on the far post. While this may have played a role on the goal, I put it more on the defenders. Fagundez was given all the time in the world and no one closed him down. And it could us dearly.
While Fire fans are used to (and quite sick of) always having to come from behind, it was still early in the game so I think most fans were still confident of getting a result. Unfortunately we were all wrong. The Fire put up the fight of a newborn kitten from that point out (especially in the 2nd half). There was no sense of urgency, and we just could not build consistent offensive attacks to save our lives. Thus, the final score ended in a shocking 1-0 Revs win.
This leaves our Men in Red in a very dangerous position heading into a BIG showdown with DC United. If we win and take care of business like we should, we will finish in 2nd and still be in good shape. If we draw, and New York wins, we would drop to 4th due to a lower "goals for" number. Should the Fire lose, and both New York and Houston win, we drop to 5th since we are also behind Houston in the "goals for" category and I don't think we can make up the 3 goal difference if we lose.
I don't need to tell anyone how bad a 4th or 5th place finish would be. That would force a playoff game with a lot at stake. Win and you stay in the playoffs, and lose and what once was a run at 1st in the East could end in crashing fashion. The fact that we are even in this position is terribly disappointing. But, that's what happens when you fail to take advantage of winnable games and instead turn in awful performances. This team had a consistent run of strong play going for awhile. Now, we seem to be back to the team we saw earlier this year: very up and down and inconsistent. That's not a good way to slide into the playoffs.
The form of this team in games like Philly and last night is very troubling. For whatever reason, in both cases we were mentally out of it from the very beginning. It's almost like we were completely unprepared, which is odd for a Frank Klopas team. Last night Logan Pause said it was just a "blah" game and they needed to move on. While Logan isn't the "Fire and Brimstone" type of guy, I would have liked to see him or another one of the guys a bit more fired up than that. With all due respect, the play was unacceptable and trying to be blase about it doesn't help. Someone needs to get mad. That can sometimes help snap a team out of a funk and get going during a game, especially in a match where we are struggling. It did not happen last night however, and we could have used that.
Whatever is causing this "switching off" at inopportune times must stop now if we hope to go anywhere beyond the first round of the playoffs. It's now time for Frank and the players to figure it out, and not let it happen again. Completely disappearing for whole games and routinely conceding goals first will get us ushered out of the playoffs quickly. Fortunately we are back at home against DC in what is really a must win game if we want to maximize our playoff fortunes.
The lst thing I wanted to address was a complaint that many had, and that was the pitch last night (or lack thereof). New England takes a page out of Seattle's playbook and they love plastic more than real grass. While it's frustrating to play on, can cause injuries, and is something the players lament, the turf shouldn't be used as an excuse for last night's loss. Yes, the ball bounced weird. Yes, it looked like a pitch from the early days of MLS with the full NFL markings down. Yes, it was hard to tell where any of the soccer lines were. Did this make it harder last night? Of course it did. Is this something we could have and should have overcome? Yes, 100% yes.
The awful pitch doesn't hide the fact that the Fire turned in their 2nd shocking performance in just under 3 weeks. A big, resounding win against DC next Saturday would be a wonderful boost for fans as well as the team heading into the 2012 MLS Cup Playoffs. It's time to shed this "Dr. Jekyl and Mr. Hyde" persona and get back to consistency. It's been a couple of years without playoff soccer in Chicago. I don't want to see that wasted by having to play a risky play-in game. Let's get 2nd locked up and have a better matchup in the 1st round. We have a chance to make amends for a poor loss. We came back nicely after the Philly game to dispatch New York at Red Bull Arena. I want to see that same team Saturday at home against DC United. It's time to stop making things much tougher on ourselves than they need to be.