Before I begin down this road I am about to take, I must first say I think Frank Yallop has done a pretty good job this season and has shown more promise in his role early on here compared to the preceding Frank. Had the Fire won Wednesday, I probably would not be writing this piece at all.
But just as football has its armchair analysts and Monday morning quarterbacks, soccer has its ... um … Friday afternoon gaffers? Clearly Yallop knows what he is doing much more than I would in his position but like every sport soccer is ultimately a game of results and when that result is not a win, fans generally are left to wonder what could have been done differently and naturally begin to put on their coaching hats.
I would have loved to write my usual piece where I rank the players from best to worst but that would have looked something like XI: Jhon Kennedy Hurtado, X: Sean Johnson, and then poke my eyes out.
So instead we look at Yallop's role Wednesday and his greater responsibility to keep the team fresh for three tough games in seven days.
Someone please give Wednesday some respect
I am going to come down on Yallop here a bit, but it really applies to the entire league. Somewhere along the line, Wednesday somehow became a day where teams no longer needed to care about results. No matter the opponent or the situation, Wednesday was going to be a day for the bench players to stretch their legs and the starters to get a rest before that big weekend game in a few days.
Has it ever occurred to any manager ever that maybe, just maybe, in the two games scheduled for the week the Wednesday game actually provides a better chance for a win? I can't recall the last time a team took a midweek tilt very seriously.
If I am Frank Yallop and I see an albeit road game against an in-form Colorado Rapids date on the schedule and a home game against the world-beaters that are the Seattle Sounders, I would have to think long and hard where I want to put the majority of my effort.
There is no way Yallop would know ahead of time that Pablo Mastroeni would trot out the lineup he did, but one look at that starting XI and it is hard not to think the Fire could have pounded them if Yallop went with the strongest lineup possible and included Quincy Amarikwa and Harry Shipp from the beginning.
What Yallop did know is the possibility to take advantage of a weakened side would be much higher Wednesday than Saturday. First off, it's a midweek game which means Mastroeni like every coach is probably thinking about an alternate lineup. Add in the fact Colorado is also playing a weekend game and chances for bench players to start goes up even more.
Yallop should also know Seattle is coming off a 4-0 win over Real Salt Lake, will have a full week of rest to allow starters to recover and want a win before the World Cup break as bad as everyone else. And if he is honest with himself, even Seattle's bench is about as good if not better than most of the Fire's starting XI. With no Mike Magee or Patrick Nyarko, a win against that club would be improbable in almost every scenario.
The best chance for a win this week came Wednesday, but Yallop treated it like an annoying pit stop on the way to a marquee home match against the best team in the league. The problem is Saturday's match is against the best team in the league and Yallop's men only have two wins on the year. Three points against Colorado to sacrifice a home loss would have meant more than a Wednesday draw and improbable home draw Saturday.
Sure, saving up enough with a conservative approach Wednesday to get a draw Saturday would mean a little stroke of the ego knowing the Sounders could not defeat you. But three points is better than two and now only one seems likely.
First half substitutes are allowed
Yallop is a patient man, I will give him that. Long ball after long ball failed to connect with Juan Luis Anangono and if it did, the Ecuadorian failed to keep possession or create anything positive. Benji Joya looked lost when he would gather the ball, not knowing who to pass it to or how to advance. Chris Ritter and Matt Watson were pretty much the same person.
While sending someone like Harry Shipp on in the first half was an option to not only help the attack but give instructions to move the ball on the pitch instead of in the air, Yallop waited until the second half to make a move. And when he did, he went defense.
Did Stephen Kinney get burned a couple times? Yes. But on this night, Hurtado was a human power washer and cleaned up anything and everything in the defensive third. Kinney's average to below average play should not have been the chief concern.
Harry Shipp finally came on at the 62nd minute, which was needed, but by then Colorado was already gaining more and more offensive momentum that kicked into another gear when Mastroeni beat Yallop to the offensive punch by bringing on Deshorn Brown about four minutes before Shipp.
Mastroeni continued to add to the offense by bringing on Dillon Powers and Dillon Serna in the 68th and 75th minute, respectively. Yallop waited until there was eight minutes left of regular time to bring on his fiercest offensive force in Amarikwa. Mastroeni was just better at managing the "B-team" lineup approach both coaches deployed.
If Magee and/or Nyarko are ready to go for the Seattle game, the strategy Wednesday will seem even worse. The Fire have lost the luxury of playing to the situation because of a slow start. The team can no longer value winning at home to the point it means drawing on the road.
If the road win is more achievable than a home win in comparison, then that sacrifice must be made at this point. I love watching a win at Toyota Park as much as anyone and I hope the team finds a way Saturday. But I would have been a lot happier knowing the Fire went guns blazing Wednesday to get three points, which they could have got, if it meant a loss Saturday, which is the likely outcome even with Yallop's energy-saving approach.