There is not a lot of good stuff to take away from yesterday's match. The same old issues reared their ugly heads again as the Fire lacked creativity and danger in the final 3rd of the pitch, especially in the 2nd half. Before we get to the final analysis however, let's take a look at how the action ended up transpiring Saturday afternoon.
Play started off back and forth, but the Fire would have the first good look at goal. In the 5th minute, Joel Lindpere sent a cross into the box to the far post. Gonzalo Segares was not marked and had a free header. Unfortunately, instead of putting it on frame, he spiked the ball into the ground, making it an easy gather for Montreal goalkeeper Troy Perkins.
The Fire would again threaten in the 8th minute as Dan Paladini sent a nice ball to the top of the box that found Patrick Nyarko. Patty did a very nice job of bringing the ball down and controlling it. His second touch was not a smooth, as he shanked the shot to waste a good opportunity. I still have to give him credit for controlling the ball from Paladini though. Much like baseball, the toughest type of ball to deal with is one directly over your head.
Montreal would force SJ into action in the 11th minute. Austin Berry was late getting over to cover Hassoun Camara, but luckily he nodded a header directly into SJ's arms. The Fire would head back down the field as Chris Rolfe showed off a bit of fancy footwork. He dished the ball off to Patrick Nyarko, who had a good look initially but hesitated to take the shot. When he finally did, it was blocked away from danger. Had Nyarko one timed the shot, it would have been a very good chance for the Men in Red. Alas, it wasn't meant to be (something we have been saying a lot this year).
"Big Red" Jeff Larentowicz would be the next to put Troy Perkins into action as his shot in the 17th minute was punched away by the Impact keeper. He got all of the ball and hit a rocket, but just couldn't beat the man between the sticks. Still, it was encouraging to see the Fire create a few shots here and there.
Logan Pause found a lot of room to run on the right side in the 19th minute. Alessandro Nesta was tasked with trying to cover 2 men as Logan entered the right corner of the 18 yard box. Instead of continuing on another 5 yards before shooting, he tried a cross that was easily knocked away by Nesta there. While Pause was trying to be unselfish, he had plenty of room to dribble in and get off a point blank shot.
The Fire would keep their foot on the gas as Daniel Paladini ripped one of his famous 35 yard shots. It was a dead knuckler that was trying to find the bottom left corner of the net. Again Troy Perkins laid out to make the save and punch the ball away.
The Impact nearly took the lead in the 27th and 29th minutes, respectively. Daniele Paponi got vertical in the box and got his head to a ball that just went over the crossbar. Jeb Brovsky would then take advantage of a defensive lapse when he gathered the ball about 10 yards from goal and was not closed down on by the defense. Gonzalo Seagres just stood there watching him, and his close shot was put just wide of the near post. It hit the side netting, deceiving fans who thought the ball had gone in. While the score stayed nil-nil, it should have been 1-0. Those are the split second lapses that have been costing us dearly all year. You can't expect to win games when you give opposing players that much time in the box and allow them point blank opportunities. Fortunately the ball didn't go in. That time at least.
In the 32nd minute, the Milk Man Sean Johnson would make a nice save on a shot with some velocity by Marco Di Vaio. Di Vaio would torment the Men in Red, especially in the 2nd half and that shot was a precursor of things to come.
Daniele Paponi would miss just left of goal on a screamer in the 38th minute. SJ laid out, and fortunately as with the Brovsky shot, the ball sailed just wide. While the Fire started off the 1st half on the front foot, it was the impact that closed it out with some quality chances.
The Fire would have the final say in the 44th minute as Logan Pause found Gonzalo Segares in the box, about 15 yards out. Sega had all the time in the world to bring the ball down and get off a quality shot. Instead, he tried a header that didn't really danger Perkins at all. While he did put it on goal, considering the circumstances it was a poor choice. With the ball curving away from goal (thus causing Sega's body to be moving away from goal), there is no way realistically you can get enough power on a header from 15 yards out to score.
The 2nd half would start out a bit dull, but the Impact would finally jump on the board first. Andres Romeru gathered a nice ball from Andrea Pisanu, and dribble into the right side of the box. As a defender you are taught to close down the opposing player but keep them in front of you. Logan Pause did do this, but Romeru pulled out a nifty move, cut inside, and put a beautiful shot into the upper right corner of the net. Pause simply got torched, and there is no way Sean could have done anything to save the shot. Simply put it was a beautiful goal, unless you are a Fire fan that is.
While risky, I believe Logan Pause had the room to cut out that ball from Pisanu to Romeru. The danger with that of course is that had Logan failed to win the ball, than Romeru would have been in on goal. Unfortunately that did not happen and the resulting play gave the Impact the lead.
Things would get interesting in the 63rd minute. Andrea Pisanu was racing after a ball a step ahead of Larentowicz as he neared the box. You could visibly see Larentowicz pull up and try to avid contact with Pisanu. However, he ever so slightly clipped the heel of Pisanu, and down he went. This should have clearly been a yellow card, but the ref pulled out straight red. He also initially called for a penalty kick, but to the credit of referee Fotis Bazokos he consulted with his assistant and got the call right. The foul was a yard or two short of the box, and the resulting free kick from Di Vaio was saved nicely by a diving Johnson.
The referee must have considered it a clear goal scoring opportunity to justify the red card. Problem is, Sean Johnson would have gotten to the ball first anyway, and that's exactly what happened. At worst Larentowicz should have received a yellow. The club is considering appealing the card, as they should. I will be pretty upset if MLS does not overturn the card.
After the brouhaha, play settled back down until Marco Di Vaio would put a dagger into the hopes of the Fire. he gathered the ball at the top of the box in the 76th minute. Di Vaio caught everyone by surprise as he spun quicky and got a shot off. Sean Johnson was as shocked as anyone, and he was late covering the bottom left corner of the net as the ball slowly rolled into the goal. While I first asked how we could give up a goal like that, some credit has to be given to Di Vaio. The only way that ball goes in is if no one is expecting a shot. And sadly, no one was. At that point in the game, any hopes of even a point were gone.
Di Vaio nearly had a brace in the 80th minute as he hit a screamer that missed just to the left of the post. in the 81st, Di Vaio was again going for a ball in the box, but this time SJ cleaned him out in a big collision. Johnson played the ball, cleared the danger, and got a good chunk of Di Vaio while he was at it.
Finally, the last good chance of the game came for the Impact in the 83rd minute as Paponi had a point blank look that was parried away by Johnson. It was another good save for the young goalkeeper. The match would end 2-0, and so would the progress the Fire had built up in April.
Last week we were saying the 1-0 win over the Crew easily could have been 3 or 4 to 0. The opposite was true yesterday. I toculd have been 3 or 4 to 0 over the Fire. While the team did have a promising bit of play here and there in the 1st half, the 2nd half featured a dearth of any quality attacking play at all.
At this point, Frank must realize that something has to change. Rather than stubbornly running out the same system that is not working over and over, he needs to find some answers. Be it players, formation, or both something needs to happen. Chris Rolfe can't get anything going (partially because of poor play around him). Sherjill MacDonald is a black hole right now, sucking away hope and good play. When your two main scorers can't put the ball in the net to save their lives, you have major problems. Anyone that can say with a straight face that scoring is still not an issue is lying. It clearly is THE top priority.
While we all keep hoping for help in the window, we could be well out of it by then. That's why Klopas must figure out a way to get some goals until then (assuming the club does bring in someone, that is). Again, whether that is shifting players around or looking at a different formation, he must act now. My worst fear was revealed to be true after yesterday's game. Those two wins do seem like they were more fluke than a sign of a team steadily improving at this point. Until we can consistently create offense (and not just for one half at a time here and there), I fear this will be a roller coaster team that is going to have trouble winning.
Try moving Rolfe around. Bench Sherjill. At this point there is absolutely no reason to keep playing him when he hasn't shown anything for 2 months. Try Alex up top. At this point, anything that can help the team improve should be fair game. It's up to the gaffer to make something happen rather than going to the same old well over and over again.
It's always tough to head into a bye week going backward rather than forward. Here's to hoping the team uses the time off to get some things figured out. While I just posted last week that the team could be turning the corner, that feeling is gone after yesterday's display. And that, in a nutshell, has been the 2013 season so far. Despair followed by hope followed by disappointment. May 11th can't come soon enough. These losses eating at the club for 2 weeks are for the birds.