I am going to start off by saying this will not be a "fire CDLC" rant. By now, that outcome should be painfully obvious to the front office and anyone with a rooting interest in the Fire. In fact, questions can start being asked about the front office and even the owner in times like this. However, those are all separate topics for separate articles. For this write up, I want to concentrate on two changes. Although there are multiple things wrong with this team right now, Jon Conway and Logan Pause are making things even worse. Follow me past the break for a little more analysis.Benching Sean Johnson was a mistake, plain and simple. I was one of the proponents of sitting him for a couple of games (2 games CDLC, not 2 months!) to let him clear his head. However, looking at Conway's recent performances, we did more harm than good. Given our recent penchant of ties and this weekend's loss, this would be the proper time to sit someone after a run like that to shake things up. I think 2-3 games would have been sufficient for sitting Sean. The fact that he is still sitting smacks of a serious coaching error in decision making if not corrected soon.
Let's look at goal differential between Sean and Jon. In 4 starts, Sean let in 9 goals with a -2 goal differential. Yes, these numbers are eye opening, but let's not forget we had a brand new back line learning to play with each other, and CDLC was going through a carousel of formation changes. It is really hard to get into a set rhythm and get to know the guys beside you when things are constantly changing. In recent weeks, with a 4-1-4-1 being the predominant formation choice, Conway has benefited from a defensive line that is settling down and solidifying in front of him.
Jon has conceded 8 goals in 6 games, for an overall -2 goal differential on his own. If you are going to bench someone for an extended period of time, at least make sure the replacement is capable of playing at a level beyond the guy that got benched. Plain and simple, Jon Conway is the keeper that his job description should state at this point in his career. He is there to fill in if there is an injury or emergency, but he should not be leading the Fire into battle. Just watch his actions vs. Sean. Sean is much more vocal and tries to orchestrate the back line much more than Conway does. This is yet another reason that, for my money, Conway's days as a Fire starter should end and end today. The goalkeeper should be one of the most vocal people on your team, and I don't see that with Conway.
Although Sean had a howler in Portland, Conway's was worse against TFC. Sean failed to corral a ball and allowed a rebound for a tap in. Conway failed to get in front of a skipping ball and let it go right off his side. Mistakes happen, but a ball like that is unacceptable to give up, unless Rob Green is in net for the Fire. Further, although most are saying Ruiz's goal was a wonder strike last night (in some ways it was), I put that goal on Conway. He cheated out in the box because he didn't expect a shot from Ruiz from that spot on the pitch. Ruiz happened to hit the perfect looping ball, and it got behind Conway and bounced in from the underside of the crossbar. That should NEVER happen unless the keeper makes a bad mistake. Any time the keeper is in the 6 yard box, any ball like that should ALWAYS be punched over the crossbar. Hopefully Sean will get the U.S. Open Cup start and then stay in net for the rest of the season. It's time to bring Sean Johnson's house back to the MLS.
This brings me to another topic making my blood boil. Logan Pause should not be the captain of this team. Logan Pause should not be a starter for this team. I'm not sure he should be a substitute for the Fire. First of all, it was an EGREGIOUS error by CDLC to hand him the captain's armband. Not only does Logan not deserve it, but the band should be earned. Instead it was given away arbitrarily to him by CDLC for no other reason than tenure apparently. That's like giving a raise to an employee based solely on years with a comany rather than skill and productivity. It happens and most of the other employees aren't happy about it about wonder when it's going to be their turn for simply sticking around.
A captain needs to have many qualities. He needs to be a leader on the field. He needs to hold players accountable. He needs to be a leader off the field. In a skid like the team is on, a leader calls a players only meeting to let people vent and try to bring the players closer together. A leader helps make sure the team is playing hard at all times, not just after we concede a goal and have to play catch up. Finally, a leader is the figurehead for a team after a game, win or lose. He is the one that takes the tough media questions, even though he may not want to after a bad loss. A leader takes the blame if need be for not carrying the team to victory. In short, a leader holds the team accountable by holding himself accountable. Do any of these things remind you of Logan Pause? They sure as hell don't to me.
Let's again look at goals conceded and goal differential for Logan when he plays and when he does not. In the first 6 games of the year, all games which he started, the Fire conceded 12 goals for a -3 goal differential. In the past 4 games, (all games which he missed with the exception of last night's appearance as a sub), we have allowed 5 goals for a -1 goal differential. So, Logan gets hurt, yet we start allowing less goals and our goal differential gets better. Which points to the fact that he is not nearly the lynchpin of the Fire that a captain should be.
Simply put, I thought he was awful against Philadelphia. Shortly after he comes into the game, we concede the first goal. While the goal did take a deflection, Philly really started putting on the pressure around this time in the match. Shouldn't the guy that is supposedly a defensive midfielder help shut down the other team, rather than facilitate their attack? And I counted multiple times a pass that could have been played forward to try to spring an attack that didn't end up happening. Instead, Logan was busy making 30, 40, and 50 yard passes back to Conway. I can't think of one game this year where I can say that Logan was an integral part of a big goal or important play. But I can think of multiple times where he has cost us dearly.
In the end, Pause should not have even seen the pitch last night. We should have been pushing for the first goal and a win. Instead, by bringing in Logan when we did, it was almost like CDLC was just content on going for a draw. That's really sad. It was the 60th minute of the game. Combine that with the fact that our last 2 subs were brought in at almost identical times, leaving us no option to bring in someone like Nazarit late to try to tie the game, and the night was just a train wreck. Add to that the fact that our "captain" was busy not being a captain, and you have a recipe for disaster.
The armband must be redistributed. Clearly it was a serious coaching error to give it to a player that doesn't have captain characteristics. So who does it go to then? We don't have that fiery, Freddie Ljungberg type of player this year. In fact, we don't really have that guy with a "kick ass, take names" demeanor about him. That's something we could definitely use. While Dan Paladini has shown me a bit of fire, he obviously hasn't played enough to be awarded the armband. Having said that, considering CDLC's choice of Logan, I wouldn't rule it out. For my money right now, I think the armband should go to Gonzalo Segares. If anyone has that tough swagger on the team, it's him right now. He has shown me much more fortitude and vocal leadership than Logan Pause. Logan may be a nice guy, but that doesn't cut it on the pitch. And since CDLC seems to feel obligated to play Logan as long as he has the captain's armband, the obvious choice then becomes to redistribute it. Knowing CDLC, will that happen? Unfortunately, I don't think so.
A team can't win consistently when the captain can't rally the troops. Until we get someone that can be the person the team looks to and has confidence in, we won't be able to create a unified team identity. I don't think that person is Logan Pause but if things stay the same, nothing would make me more happy than for Logan to be prove wrong. This is something that is holding this team back and very possibly can be the difference between taking all these ties and turning them into wins. The question is will those responsible fix the problem? If not, then those people should also be held accountable. The Fire are in a dire position right now. With a lot of games coming up in a tough month of June, is Logan really the person to lead this team through the trenches? Ask yourself that and I think you will find the answer.