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Game 8: How about that finish?

Hey there.

I know a lot of you are already leaving this team for dead and saying crazy stuff like "need a win to resurrect their playoff chances", "we should trade Nyarko" and "what about firing the coach?".  Obviously everything is carved in stone right now.  The results of 26 more games are clear and definitive and not covered in the fog of flares.   The path must be clear right!?!  Probably not.  This league is almost always unpredictable.  Outside of having a decent idea of who has the inside track to the supporters shield really nothing else is really known.  Even then it isn't out of the question to see a team collapse after a great start (Chivas USA come on down!).  So can we please wait until week 12 or 13 to start our declarations of death towards this team?  Please?


Recap after the jump.

Weather: 55 degrees, partly cloudy.  
Surface:  Natural Grass
Location: Stadium in Bridgeview, IL
Referee: Andrew Chapin
Line Judges: George Gansner, Ian Anderson
4th Official: Alex Prus
Attendance: 11,680


Coach: Carlos de los Cobos
GK: Jon Conway
D: Jalil Anibaba
D: Josip Mikulic
D: Yamith Cuesta
D: Gonzalo Segares
M: Dominic Oduro
M: Gaston Puerari
M: Daniel Paladini
M: Corben Bone
M: Marco Pappa
F: Diego Chaves

M: Bratislav Ristic
M: Baggio Husidic
F: Orr Barouch
D: Pari Pantazopoulos
M: Davis Paul
D: Dasan Robinson
GK: Alec Dufty

Lineup Changes:  The starting lineup remains the same. 

Coach: Teitur Thordarson
GK: Jay Nolly
D: Jonathan Leathers
D: Greg Janicki
D: Mouloud Akloul
D: Alain Rochat
M: Davide Chiumiento
M: Terry Dunfield
M: Gershon Koffie
M: Blake Wagner
F: Eric Hassli
F: Camilo

M: Shea Salinas
D: Michael Boxall
M: Nizar Khalfan
F: Omar Salgado
M: Jeb Brovsky
M: Russell Teibert
GK: Joe Cannon


  1. Fire controlling possession
  2. Paladini puts a long ball forward right on the money to Puerari who then misconnects with Pappa.
  3. Sega hits long ball to the other side of the field to Oduro.  Oduro tries to make a pass to on on coming Puerari but his pass is heavy and misses its mark by quite a wide margin.  Mikulic takes down Camilo in the middle of the field.  Cuesta was caught out of position allowing the run from the middle.  Excellent coverage from Mikulic as he took a very professional yellow card.  Wasn't dangerous to the player taking the foul.
  4. Hassli hammers free kick right into the wall.
  5. Fire overall possession game is much better early tonight.  The defense is moving the ball around the back. 
  6. Cuesta with an awful ball that was meant for Sega but goes out of bounds 4 yards in front of him.  Puerari gains the ball after a long clearing header from Mikulic.  He passes to Oduro who taps the ball to Paladini.  Paladini quickly passes between two Vancouver defenders back to Oduro.  Oduro eventually has the ball tackled away from him but Anibaba is there to grab it and make a cross into the box.  The end result of the cross was poor.  Good effort from Anibaba and Puerari on that play.  Also excellent quick pass from Paladini who is rapidly becoming someone I enjoy watching.
  7. Paladini tries a long ball out of the back for Chaves.  Eaten up by Janicki.
  8. Camilo eats a bit of an elbow from Anibaba and is down for a bit.
  9. Puerari chases down Koffie and pokes the ball away from him, Bone is there to clean it up and drops it back into the circle to Paladini.  Paladini with some nice footwork to avoid the oncoming Hassli and the Fire maintain possession.  Anibaba makes an overly aggressive pass and puts it out of bounds.  Still excellent work from Paladini to help control possession there.  Bone, Puerari and Paladini have some promise forming the spine of this midfield.
  10. Paladini and Bone instrumental here in controlling possession for the Fire.  Anibaba with a long ball the Oduro manages to catch up to and win a corner.  Wow he barely got to that.  Excellent work from him.
  11. Puerari takes the corner, ball ends up with Pappa who can't gain good control and ends up shooting into a Vancouver player.
  12. Anibaba and Oduro combine up the right hand side again but Oduro loses control of the ball and the play is snuffed out.  Foul on the fire leads to free kick for the Whitecaps.  Cuesta ends up deep in the corner with two whitecap players on him and uses a sharp cutback to get out of danger and manages to win a throw in for the Fire.
  13. Alain Rochat with a blast from just outside the box that goes wide of the goal.  Oduro did not track back here.  Defensive lapse from him.
  14. Anibaba wins free kick along the right hand side.  Nice long ball from Sega down the left hand side that finds Pappa.  Pappa's first touch sends him towards the corner where the opportunity is snuffed out.  One would like to see Marco do better with a ball of that quality.
  16. Fire defense helping to control possession as they patiently work the ball around.  Ball eventually is one by Vancouver and they pass back but Bone harasses their possession and slows their attack down.  Solid work from Bone there.
  18. Hassli gets the ball  outside of the box finds Chiumiento at the top of the box.  Chiumiento's first touch lets him down as he is unable to shoot.  Instead he takes a dribble towards the goal line and passes just above the near post.  Paladini is there to stop the pass and then slide tackle it away from an oncoming Hassli.  The ball bounces up and Sega heads it towards Bone who is off to the races as the Fire look to counter attack.  Bone finds Puerari who has Chaves and Oduro ahead of him.  Puerari passes to Oduro who has Chaves to his left and a White caps defender to his left as well.  Oduro passes to Chaves to the right of the spot.  Chaves takes a touch and then has the ball tackled away from him by a Whitecaps player that I am unable to identify.  Missed opportunity there but excellent combination from the three central midfielders.
  19. Fire regain possession deep in their defensive third a long ball is headed away from Chaves by Vancouver but the ball bounces right to Pappa.  Pappa passes to Segares down the left.  Sega cuts it back to Bone.  Bone dribbles forward a bit and then cuts it back to Paladini.  Paladini passes ahead to Pappa who is about 5 yards above the top of the circle.  Pappa drops it back to Paladini who has dropped back and to the right slightly.  Paladini passes the ball out wide right to Oduro.  Oduro tries to get past his man but has the ball kicked away.  Ball heads right towards Paladini who switches it over to Anibaba.  Anibaba passes to Oduro on the right wing then makes a run past Oduro.  Oduro opts to pass it to Puerari at the top right hand corner of the box Puerari's first touch is heavy (which by this point should surprise no one).  He manages to slip past his man but his lack of control on that pass means his next attempt to slip the second defender is easily blocked and then cleared away for a Fire throw in at the midfield line.  Excellent work from the Fire.  A bit of a heavy touch from Puerari at the wrong time caused this to break down but otherwise quality work.
  20. Oduro on the track back to win the ball for the Fire.  Vancouver is really ceeding possession to the Fire.
  21. Chaves tries to track down a long ball but ends up fouling Janicki.  Puerari and Oduro combine on the right hand side.  Play ends up with Oduro crossing the ball to no one.  So far the final pass for the Fire has been off but the build up has been very positive.
  22. Custa wins the ball off a Nolly goal kick.  The Fire goes back to Oduro and he has the ball tackled away again.  At this point Nyarko is badly missed as he would fit in fantastically with the solid passing on display.  His style would fit in perfectly with the way Bone and Paladini like to play in the middle.  Bone with an unfortunate turnover in the middle but he tracks back and follows Chiumiento and manages to dispossess him of the ball.  Good effort to clean up the mess from Corben Bone.
  23. Anibaba turns the ball over on a needless cross that looks like it was aimed for Marco Pappa but was way short and easily taken by the Whitecaps.  Cuesta ably cleans up the mess that arrises as he tackles the ball away from Vancouver.  Nice work from the young Columbian.  Bone works the ball up towards Chaves who pumps it back to Bone who then dumps it back into the defensive end.  Excellent composure from the Fire to gain possession of the ball.
  25. Mikulic hammered when he goes to clear the ball.  Dunfield had his foot up high diving for the ball and Mikulic's got hit on his follow through.  Yellow for Dunfield.
  26. Game has slowed down a bit here.  Fire maintaining control mostly .  Oduro down the right hand side and losses the ball again he eventually gets it back and hits a high cross that is punched away by Nolly.  Nolly probably should have caught that he had a lot more space to do so than he thought. 
  28. Anibaba with a off the mark pass that Paladini is forced to stretch for, he gets a boot to it but Vancouver is first to the ball.  Weirdly the Vancouver player immediately hits the ball towards Hassli who ends up controlling and then trying to pass back but Bone is there to intercept the pass he then drops it back to Paladini who moves it up towards Chaves who then drops it off towards Cuesta.  This is how possession is won.  Another nice spell from the fire midfield.
  29. Fire midfield making it difficult for the Whitecaps to move the ball through the middle.
  30. Oduro ends up with the ball on the right hand side sends an errant pass that looks like it was intended for Bone (and it should have been intended for Bone) but finds its way to Pappa who tries to find Chaves but ends up running into a Whitecap defender and falls down.  This could have been a good play but Oduro is struggling with his passing tonight.  Whitecaps are getting back in numbers looks to me like they are trying to absorb and counter on the road.
  31. Oduro earns a throw in for the Fire in the defensive end.  Sega with a near turnover to Chiumiento but he manages to slide tackle away.  Chiumiento is displeased with the Referee for the lack of a foul call there.  Cuesta gets the ball off the slide tackle and sends it to Paladini who finds Bone on the left hand side.  Bone drives the ball over the midfield line and passes to Pappa.  Pappa dribbles through a couple of guys and drops it back to Paladini just outside the center circle.  Paladini launches an aggressive ball towards Oduro who is making a run towards goal, the ball is headed away.  Fire central defense combines with Bone for some triangle passing work to win possession and clear the Vancouver pressure. 
  32. Sega receives the ball from Cuesta.  He finds Bone in the left middle, Bone dribbles around some defensive pressure passes to Paladini and gets it right back.  Bone drops in a picture perfect long ball over a Vancouver defender that lands at the feet of Oduro. Oduro only has one defender in front of him and to his right.  Oduro lets the ball run and then taps it away from the sliding feat of the oncoming defender. He has the ball in clean on goal, he takes a touch and then dribbles around a Vancouver defender and then puts his shot high and wide.  Chaves was wide open just above the spot and Oduro saw him and didn't pass the ball.  Major mistake from Dominic there.  He should have either shot without taking the touch or made the pass.  Oduro's below average game continues. 
  33. I think Sega just used his posterior to knock down a Vancouver player.  Yep he did that.  Of course he immediately gets up and chops at the leg of the next Vancouver player he can find and concedes a free kick.  At least that was a sequence in how to knock down two players quickly.  Offsides on Vancouver.
  34. Puerari does some hacking at the legs of a Vancouver player.  Free kick for the Whitecaps.
  35. Hassli gets the ball but dribbles it out of bounds.  Poor game for Hassli so far.  Anibaba ends up clearing a ball into the Whitecaps defensive end.  Marco Pappa finds himself on the end of it and Passes the ball over to an oncoming Diego Chaves.  Chaves swarmed by FOUR(!) Whitecap defenders but he manages to slip away from them create a bit of space and make an excellent pass to Pappa who gets the ball in stride while moving towards the box.  Pappa takes a touch and then hits a low blast with his left foot that forces Nolly into a diving save.  Excellent work by Chaves and Pappa their to create an opportunity out of a bouncing clearance. 
  36. Custa with some nice defending on the outside of the box.
  37. Cross manages to get past Cuesta's defense and heads into the box where Conway is forced to punch it away.  The Fire clear the ball. 
  39. Pappa ond Oduro combine on the right.  Oduro drops to Puerari at the top of the box who tries to go back to Oduro but the ball is cleared away for a corner.  Pappa takes the corner short towards bone.  Pappa gets the ball back and heads towards goal.  He hits a cross/shot that is fielded by Nolly. 
  41. Papa finds Oduro on the left hand side but his touch completely disappears on him and the ball is tackled away from him.  That shows why Oduro is a right sided player. 
  42. Camilo drives the ball towards the goal line and earns a free kick as he kicks the ball off a diving Mikulic who vociferously disagrees with the linesman regarding the call.  On the ensuing corner Hassli gets off a weak bouncing shot that the Fire manage to clear.
  43. Chaves gets the ball at the top of the box but waits for defenders to converge and tries to dribble around them.  Should have taken the quick shot there.  Chaves is just off his game tonight.
  44. Paladini wins the ball off a failed clearance from Vancouver.  He dribbles past a defender and then lobs a pass over the outstretched leg of another defender towards Oduro.  Oduro controls and burst forward.  Three defenders converge towards Oduro.  He opts to pass it to Pappa who has Chaves directly behind him and one defender in front.  Pappa takes a dribble towards his right which allows Chaves to burst towards his left.  Pappa makes a beautiful pass by tapping it with the toe of his left foot towards Chaves takes a touch continues towards his left and then toe pokes a shot towards the right.  His shot beats Nolly but goes off the post.  Vancouver clear.  Another missed opportunity.  This one less difficult to deal with as everything was done just about perfectly.  Unfortunately the ball hit the post.
  45. Heavy first touch from Oduro puts the ball out of bounds.  1 minute of stoppage.  Paladini looks for Oduro making a run on the right hand side but his ball is headed away.  Whistle blows for the end of the half. 

This was nearly the best half of soccer the Fire have played all season.  Possession was held and chances were created.  The finishing was lacking as THREE golden opportunities were blown.  This game should really be 3-0 to the Fire at this point but it isn't.  Still an impressive half it was considering the past performances this team has had.  Bone and Paladini continue to make an argument to keep starting.  Nice play from both that helps eliminate turnovers and reduce chances for the opponents.  On to the second half.

  46. Fire start the second half with the ball moving it around the back and maintaining possession. 
  47. Puerari finds Pappa on the left hand side.  Marco dumps it back out to Sega who finds Bone.  Bone dumps it back to Sega who puts in a nice cross to the back post but Oduro did not make a run towards it.  Pappa ends up putting a weak shot on goal after the cross was cleared to him.  Nolly easily saved.
  48. Bone to Chaves to Pappa who puts in a cross that is headed away by Vancouver.  He had Oduro lurking if that cross was a bit higher.
  49. Paladini finds Oduro down the left but Oduro again loses control as this time he slips on the turf.  Not Dominic's night.  Fire control possession after the slip up.  Chaves gets the ball dribbles around and forward passes it to Pappa, Pappa touch passes it towards Oduro who controls and then passes the ball forward towards Pappa who had made a run forwards but the ball hits him in the back of the heel and Marco has to go backwards to retrieve the ball.  It is tackled away from him and Marco is unable to track it down before Nolly dives to grab the ball.  Unfortunate to have that pass go off the heel of Pappa.  Looks like it could have been a better effort from Oduro on the pass.
  50. Mikulic concedes throw in deep in the Fire end.  Cuesta heads Koffie shot away but it hurt as he stays down for a bit play is not stopped as the Fire move forward.  Oduro tries to take a shot but has it blocked by Koffie. 
  51. Fire control the ball probing looking for a move.  Graphic regarding total passing from CSN have the fire at 414 passes compared to Vancouver's 183.  I assume that is completed passes.
  52. Puerari earns a free kick in the offensive third.   Fire took it quickly but what happens after that is completely missed by CSN a they are busy with the replay.  Weird. 
  53. Nifty control between Bone and Paladini in the middle.  Bone chested it to him and Paladini takes volleys the ball forward.
  54. Oduro earns a corner after getting on the end of a Puerari through ball.  Puerari takes the corner.  Corner easily defended.  Fire maintain possession.  Ball lobbed in towards Nolly who grabs it easily.
  55. Paladini with a long blast just above the bar.  Good decision from him as things were disjointed and no one was making a run. 
  56. Pappa earns a free kick in the offensive half.  Bone gets the ball short off the free kick and tries to create something but his ball is headed away.  No one was really pushing forward towards goal. 
  57. Oduro getting a bit sucked in towards the middle.  While his touch let him down he still was getting into the right positions. MLS Veteran Shea Salinas on for Wagner.
  58. Paladini hustles the ball down off a free kick and finds Chaves
  59. Chaves passes off to Puerari and makes a run towards goal.  Puerari's pass is headed away by Vancouver.  Fire maintain possession.  Oduro gets the ball near the top of the box on the right hand side.  Dribbles around a bit and then turns the ball over. Bummer.
  60. Chaves mixes it up with Akloul and the ref comes over and stops it.  Consults with the two players involved.  Chaves eats a yellow card for that and Chiumiento picks one up for Vancouver. 
  61. Mikulic with a pass towards Paladini.  Paladini tries to turn and run with the ball but is dispossessed by Hassli who shoots the ball but Conway is there and easily saves.  Poor decision from Mikulic as he put his midfielder in a bad spot.
  62. After that Paladini finds Puerari who breaks through the middle and finds Oduro on his right.  Oduro puts in a looping cross towards Chaves that Leathers heads away at the last minute.  Chaves applauds the pass from Oduro.
  63. Fire snuff out a Hassli run forward.  Oduro gets the ball on the right finds Bone in the middle who drops off to Puerari who then goes to Paladini who pushes it out wide to Anibaba who combines with Oduro to get the ball back but is then taken down by Chiumiento. 
  64. Pappa takes the free kick passes towards back post ball weakly headed away finds Corben Bone just outside the box at the left hand corner.  He dribbles past a defender into space in the box.  He hits his shot well over the cross bar.  Another missed opportunity.  That needed to be put on frame.  Still nice work and he was in the right position the shot just needed to be better.
  65. Fire still maintaining the bulk of the possession.  Chaves gets fouled and earns in a free kick in the offensive half.
  66. Paladini takes the free kick and puts in a cross towards the back post that is headed away.  CSN showing a ridiculous 71% possession advantage tonight. 
  67. Sega fouled in the defensive half.  Free kick for the Fire.
  68. Marco's touch let him down off a pass from Paladini.  To bad looked like he had options if he had control in front of him.
  69. Bone telegraphs a pass to Puerari and it gets intercepted.  Young player mistake from Bone there.  Hassli eats an offside flag as he was very offside.  Bone finds Pappa making a run towards the box forcing Janicki to concede the corner.  The corner bounces through to Oduro who weirdly did not make a run towards the far post.  Oduro passes to Puerari at the top of the box and he takes an off balance shot that goes way over the bar. 
  70. Puerari with a poor pass that gets cleared by the Whitecaps.  Fire maintain control .
  71. Chaves takes a long blast that comes no where near the goal.  Fire getting frustrated as the Whitecaps have everyone back.
  72. Camilo subbed off for Nizar Khalfan.  Vancouver pushing numbers forward and they earn a corner.  Khalfan paying immidiate dividends. 
  73. on the corner Conway gets a bit of a touch but it falls to Khalfan.  Bone is there to block the shot and then to clear it away.  Good work from Bone.
  74. The introduction of Khalfan has changed the tactics of Vancouver.  They are pushing two forwards up now and are looking to be more aggressive.  Fire have yet to adjust.  Husidic on for Bone.  Nice game from Corben.  I expect to see him start again.
  75. Pappa on the free kick forces a Nolly punch away.  Vancouver gets forward.  Chiumiento passes to Hassli, who may have been offsides (it was very close) Paladini was late to step up as he and Segares were holding the back line. Hassli refuses to shoot when in the box so Conway just takes the ball off his foot.  Well played by Conway and questionable decisions by Hassli.
  76. Paladini commits a frustration foul and eats a yellow for his troubles. 
  77. Chaves earns a free kick.
  78. Fire look a bit disjointed right now.  Husidic not playing as well as Bone was.  At this point looks like a poor substitution.  Lack of communication?  Puerari looks like he is pushed up forward right now. 
  79. Puerari fouls Rochat deep in the defensive third.  Dangerous free kick for Vancouver.  Free kick cleared away.  Vancouver maintains control
  80. Corner kick conceded to Vancouver.  Salinas takes the corner.  Fire control and look to break
  81. Chaves gets the ball taken away as Vancouver gets back in numbers.  Husidic's lack of pace is pretty apparent right now.  Was unable to burst forward like Bone.  Oduro taken down, very irritated about not getting that call.
  82. Puerari puts a blast wide of target.  Pass might have been the better option. 
  83. Oduro bets the ball on the right bursts forward tries to cross to Chaves but has it defended away.  Husidic with a reckless challenge that gets him a yellow.  He did get the ball and not a lot of body.  Looked much worse in real time than it did in slow motion.
  84. Ristic on for Puerari
  85. Vancouver controlling som possession but they give it away cheaply. 
  86. Ristic's first touch is very poor and the ball drifts out of bounds.
  87. Anibaba takes a hard tackle from Rochat and stays down for a bit.    Ristic gets the ball and promptly dribbles it out of bounds.  Tough go for Ristic here.
  88. Fire clear after a run from Chiumiento.  Vancouver controlling the ball in the last few minutes.
  89. Pappa earns throw in down the side.  Husidic lets ball drift off his foot out of bounds after a nice ball from Anibaba in the offensive half.  Bad turnover.
  90. Paladini looking to make a pass forward but his forwards are not making any runs.  Three minutes of stoppage.
  91. Oduro finds Pappa who then gets fouled by Dunfield.  Paladini with great long ball to Sega who crosses towards the far post but no one is there.  Paladini trying to create and here he did a great job.
  92. Paladini's first touch lets him down as he gets a back pass from Pappa.  Hassli steals the ball from him and is on the break Mikulic and Cuesta are back.  He drops the ball to Khalfan who blasts a shot just over the ball.  Looks like Conway had it covered if it was on frame but still an excellent effort. 
  93. Silly turnover from Pappa that Vancouver doesn't capitalize on.    Whistle sounds.

While I know that most people that write about this team decided to gnash their teeth in the aftermath of this game I see something a bit different.  While it sucks not winning this game the 4-1-4-1 is the formation this team should play on a regular basis.  They have the midfield talent for it and the ability to create chances from it.  The lack of a win in this game really comes down to the poor execution from Chaves and Oduro.  Three clear scoring chances that, at the minimum, one should have gone in. 

Paladini and Bone can play.  They both were very effective.  Paladini looks like he can quarterback this squad from a holding midfielder position while Bone provides movement and quality passing with the other more attacking midfielders.  Puerari was the weak link of the central midfielders and he didn't play all that badly.  His first touch is killing him in tight spots which is unfortunate.  Defensively the back four played their best game together.  One glaring mistake from Cuesta but otherwise nothing to awful.  They worked hard and ably passed the ball around and got themselves out of trouble.  I'll be a bit disappointed to see Cuesta not start when Gibbs returns but at least we have three able bodied central defenders now.  Anibaba had another solid game.  He still has some nervous moments but its down to 1 or 2 a game which is a massive improvement.  Segares continues to be solid on the left hand side.  At some point he will be suspended for yellow card accumulation so it will be interesting to see who fills in for him when that happens.

Other positives:  Overall possession was way up.  Turnovers were minimal.  No one got hurt.  CLEAN SHEET!

On the bad side of things were Chaves and Oduro's finishing skills.  Diego will be fine.  We have already seen some excellent stuff from him this season.  Oduro on the other hand is playing like Dominic Oduro plays.  He has great pace, puts himself in excellent situations but doesn't always make the right decisions.  With Nyarko suffering from a concussion and no other obvious player to take over that right winger spot we are going to see more Oduro.  He does work hard and generally speaking contributes defensively so it could be worse.  Problem with this is that it makes Puerari's lack of finishing and heavy first touch more obvious.  Perhaps one of Ferrari, Barouch or Nazrit will end up seeing some playing time either at striker, with Chaves dropping back to a more centralized midfield role, or in the midfield (most likely Barouch in that case).  The subs were brutal.  Both Ristic and Husidic looked slow and unable to control the ball.  Ristic hasn't looked good at all in his minimal minutes this season.  I was a bit surprised Husidic looked so off.  When he is fresh like that he really needs to insert himself into the game, get the ball and push.  He did not combine well with Paladini.  On a few occasions he was behind Paladini when it was clear that he should have been in front of him looking to receive a pass.  The possession game collapsed without Bone in the game.  Of course this coincided with a tactical change from Vancouver so the two might be related.  Bone was still performing so his removal from the game was perplexing.

The final 15 minutes were a bit of a mess for the Fire.  Communication as to formation changes were clearly not made to everyone on the field, at least the first time when Husidic came on.  When Ristic came on the formation was better and things seemed to stabilize after that.

The game against Toronto is the big test to see if this formation and personnel will continue to work.  If possession stats are a reversal of this game than there is a serious issue.  Getting a result in Toronto is critical even if it is just another draw.

I'll see you guys after the Toronto game.