That was embarrassing wasn't it?
San Jose is, essentially, a one man team. Take away Chris Wondolowski and you are looking at TFC levels of ineptitude. The Fire let that one man run all over the place and be a holy terror all night long. Don't get me wrong Wondo is a very good player who does that to a lot of teams. Tonight San Jose didn't even possess the threat of Bobby Convey or the defensive aid of Ike Opara. Why wasn't there a game plan in place to shut Wondolowski down? If you lose due to the genius of Ramiro Corrales so be it.
The Fire's biggest gaffe came before the game even started. It came with the announcement of the starting lineup. Baggio Husidic gets a start in a critical game in the center of midfield. Are you kidding me? Did anyone reading this think that Baggio wouldn't be the first player subbed off the field? Of course not (and if you thought he could play the full 90 I assume you are blinded by some sort of personal friendship with the man). Can anyone tell me what Husidic has done this season to merit inclusion in the eighteen let alone the starting eleven? Last year he was the ultimate garbage man. Scoring garbage goals at key times. Always being in the right place. He had a bit of tenacity and showed some promise for the future. All of that is gone this year. He has turned into a better passing, less industrious version of Mike Videira. Does that sound like a player who should be dressed let alone on the roster? Let me answer that for you. No.
Here is the thing about Husidic. He could be a very good player in MLS. His route to being that kind of player means he has to out work everyone to compensate for his lack of pace. He needs to have top level cardio. His effort and movement can never stop throughout the game. He needs to put that quality skill set and above average soccer IQ to his advantage and with his physical limitations the only way to do that is to out work everyone on the field. A less hairy, more skilled Ben Olson if you will. For whatever reason he has't gone down that path and it is extremely disappointing.
The above doesn't even acknowledge the better option that was available to Klopas. Daniel Paladini was right there. You know the guy Klopas turned to in the USOC semi final game when Pardo couldn't go. The significantly more industrious player who can go the full ninety and isn't afraid to get physical when the game calls for it. A starter for significant portions of the season. A high effort, physical player in a game that was always going to be physical.
Even if you want to be generous and spot Klopas the Husidic start, after the first twenty minutes it was apparent that the referee was going to allow a lot of upper body physical contact. At that point Paladini should have been summoned for Husidic. His physical level of play would have been a great aid. San Jose played a physical game because they were allowed but they also needed to play that style to win the game. At that point the Fire needed to counter with one of their pit bulls. Without Sega this becomes even more important. So your telling me one of the Fire's most physical players doesn't get the call at all during a very physical midfield contest? How is that even possible?
What we saw last night is what a top level, experienced MLS coach can do for a team. San Jose had key players missing and weren't exactly in form.. Yallop recognized that his team needed to kick, slash, claw, fight and beat up the Fire in the midfield. This would give them a chance to win since he had Chris Wondolowski and he can score goals from just about anywhere. This is exactly the same type of strategy employed by other good MLS coaches. Dom Kinnear will thug life you to death in Houston if he has to. Bruce Arena is the king of parking the bus and daring you to try and get through it. Sigi Schmid isn't afraid to have his teams dive all over the pitch in an effort to kill time and annoy the crap out of you. Steve Nicol is a living, breathing, tornado of profanities who will employ every trick in the book. Jason Kreis has taken all of the above and added his special "I will slap the crap out of your goal keeper in the tunnel" secret sauce to it. Plus you have Schellas in Dallas and Gary Smith in Colorado. Both sound in tactics and keen eyes for developing talent (they both raided the TFC cupboard with great success).
So what does all of that have to do with tonight's game? Everything. Good coaches get you points in this league. Ours cost us points tonight by not recognizing exactly what this game was going to be before it started. I know the lineup needed shuffling. At least put some pit bulls in the game. Paladini and Chaves both could have started in the midfield and their increased level of physicality would have helped.
Other problems: Marco gassing in the 60th minute was a huge issue. If he is having problems playing the whole game now that he works on defense perhaps he shouldn't start. Coming off the bench for a few games might help Marco find his offensive mojo again. Dan Gargan was uncomfortable on the left. Not surprising since he is a right back. Perhaps we should invest in another left back. Oh this has been an issue since last season you say? Hmm glad we somehow have been unable to address it (and by unable I mean not even bringing in one single player who normally plays left back). How about giving Orr Barouch more minutes to work with? Big target forward in a physical game against the enormous central defenders San Jose employs would have been a good idea.
Positives: There were none. I'm not blaming this on the players. The game got physical and the Fire were unable to respond. The Fire's top players in terms of physical play were either suspended (Sega) or not on the field (Cuesta, Mikulic, Paladini, Chaves). Our skilled players needed one of our dogs of war to get in the game and go to work. By the time Chaves got on the field it was too little too late.
i'll see you at the friendly on Wednesday.