Alright, so it appears that all of my panic last week about the future of the OPTA Chalkboard was for naught. The OPTA Chalkboard is up and functioning again. Unfortunately, my early season blogging form is much like Patrick Nyarko's early season playing form. Like Nyarko's playing time on Sunday, this week's article is going to be rather short. My apologies.
Fouls, Fouls, Fouls
This game was incredibly foul happy. There was some concern from fans that Frank Yallop would bring his thug-ball style of soccer from San Jose. We are only two games into the season, and those two games were on the road, but the small sample size seems to suggest that we might be a little thuggish as we have committed 40 fouls this season (19 against Chivas and 21 against Portland).
Some Portland Timbers fans were lamenting on Sunday that Frank Yallop’s style is a cancer to the game. To be fair, The Fire did fouled the Timbers quite a bit on Sunday, but let’s not pretend that the Timbers are saints, either. The Timbers have committed 34 fouls in their first two games within the friendly confines of Providence Park (16 against the Fire and 18 against Philly).
It was a little surprising to see Harrison get his first professional start on the road in Portland. It took the Homegrown rookie nearly 70 minutes before he seemed to get comfortable:
|Pass Comp.||Pass Att.||Comp. %||Pass Rate||Key Passes||Successful Dribbles||Unsucessful Dribbles|
|First 67 Minutes||5||13||38%||Pass Att. Every 5.15 Minutes||1||2||2|
|Final 33 Minutes||7||14||50%||Pass Att. Every 2.3 Minutes||3||1||3|
By the end of the day, Harrison had four key passes - two from set pieces and two from the run of play. From the way Shipp was sending the ball into the box, the Fire might have found their new set piece specialist.
There were quite a few people who seemed happy with Watson’s performance. I don’t really recall him doing anything impressive and even forgot he was playing during stretches of the game.
Looking at his stats on the chalkboard, it is pretty easy to see why someone could forget he was playing. Watson completed 11 of 14 passes in 90 minutes of play. He also won three fouls and had six recoveries. He also had a pretty decent strike from distance on goal. Overall, Watson was efficient and filled in well for Chris Rolfe.
Talk about a breath of fresh air. Amarikwa had three successful dribbles out of five, two shots off target and three key passes. He also had four successful flick ons out of eight. In general, Amarikwa gave the Timbers backline problems for much of the game. Juan Luis Anangonó replaced Amarikwa late in the game and recorded two shots (one blocked and another headed off target) in the final seven minutes.
A quick note about duels. The Fire lost the duel battle against Chivas USA by 71 to 54 (56% to 43%) and then lost the duel battle to Portland 68 to 53 (also 56% to 43%). Yes, the Fire are also not winning the possession battle, and they are not completing a high percentage of passes, but the fire were decent at winning duels last season. From the start of September to the end of the season the Fire lost the duel battle in just three of their final ten games (against Montreal, FC Dallas and Columbus).It is still early in the season, and it is likely related to the loss of Egidio Arévalo Rios in the off-season, but it is something worth watching as the season progresses.