Well, it's the middle of our off week and I am still thinking about the tough loss Sunday vs. Colorado. Normally I have a hat trick piece and QOTD that goes up most Wednesdays. Instead of calling it that this week, I decided to change it up a little. I suppose the format is similar in that there will be 3 points and a question for this article, but I wanted to go over some of the things I have been kicking around in my mind from the Colorado game. Rather than throwing out random bits for a hat trick, I thought it would make for good discussion to examine some of the things that need improving so far in this young 2012 season. Some of these things have already appeared on HTIOT in one form or another, but the issues below are paramount in my thoughts right now.
I basically took a triage approach when I was going over the Colorado match. Among the many things I saw the need to improve upon, I am going to list 3 and see what kind of conversation we can get going. By no means am I panicking or saying Fire fans should be feeling doom and gloom. Merely, these are some early issues to iron out. The sooner they can be addressed, the better so we don't fall into an early hole like last season. The overall thing I have taken away from the first 3 games is that we definitely have the talent to be a serious contender (which most of us knew). These are a few things that need to be worked on this week heading into the Houston game. Follow me after the break for more...
1. Tweed had a wonderful post yesterday detailing the offensive woes we have experienced. I don't need to repeat all of that post, but the offense was my biggest concern this offseason, and it still is. Specifically, who will step up and help Dominic out? He obviously can't do it all by himself. While it is great that he seems to be carrying over his 2011 form with 2 goals in 3 games, the rest of the offense has left a lot to be desired. No one has grabbed the proverbial bull by the horns yet by showing signs of being dangerous on offense and creating another threat for the opposing team to have to worry about. We all know we have plenty of players that have the potential to do that. But no one has yet, and that is very worrisome. It's early, I know, but on the flip side it's never to early to look at problems and improve on them.
If you look at the comments section of Tweed's post, TomazPP had a great point about not necessarily playing the best XI available if they don't properly fit together. Simply having the best players out there may not translate to the best results or cohesive work as a team. This was something I had not thought about before he brought it up. Too often we get caught up in the "optima, healthy" lineup and think that is the best way to go if it is available to us. I was more in the "if we don't find a valid striker to partner with Dom soon we may have to look in the summer" camp. As Tomaz pointed out, the wing spot opposite Nyarko could be just as important as finding another threat up top. Combine the fact that one wing is not working properly and our true striker is being negated by deep lying defenses, and we have ourselves a problem to solve. If the other wing is being played properly by Marco or another player capable of that, that would obviously greatly alleviate the pressure on Dom. It is also true that if Barouch, Puppo, etc. really step up and take some of the scoring load that will fix our offensive woes. Honestly, both of those answers are correct. The attacking part of the field is not just suffering from one sole issue. Credit to Tomaz for bringing up a valid point that I had not thought of as much but it is just as important to the offensive woes as having a tandem up top with Oduro.
2. It sounds as if Arne Friedrich will be ready to go for the Houston game. While I don't think he will get the starting nod, my guess is that he sees the pitch in the 2nd half sometime. Although the defense was shaky in Colorado, my confidence in our CB pairing of Cory Gibbs and Jalil Anibaba is pretty high. Both are good players that played very well together last year. I think the Rapids game was just a blip in the radar. But, I got to thinking of how things will shake out when Arne is ready to take over a starting role. Obviously, a talent like that needs to be out on the pitch. Although he can play RB, the most likely position for him is CB. Depth is a good thing to have for any team, so the question is how will the back line look? Does he pair with Gibbs? What about young Anibaba?
Another thing to consider is if Friedrich does end up pairing with Gibbs in the middle, would Jalil then slide to RB? We of course already have a good RB in Dan Gargan. That presents another issue of whether Gargan plays or Anibaba plays when Friedrich is on the pitch? I would assume that Gargan would get the nod due to his veteran presence but Anibaba has impressed, is already good and will only get better, and most importantly needs as much playing time as he can get to continue to grow. Jalil can play RB, but is most at home as a CB. I would rather have Anibaba at RB though than Logan Pause, who can play the position but doesn't have the tools for the position that Anibaba offers. This is especially true if Gargan is injured and can't play, as was the case Sunday. This back line battle will get very interesting once Arne is match fit for a starting role.
3. Another situation that will be addressed sooner rather than later is the goalkeeping situation. I don't need to reiterate for most of you the decision Frank has to make here. Long story short, I think he definitely was right in starting Tornaghi last Sunday as Sean had not seen much playing time with the US U23 team and you definitely have to start the guy that is in a groove and is not rusty. While Tornaghi had a tough struggle Sunday, I have no doubts he is a legit talent, or the "real deal" if you will.
One thing to ponder is that, after a small sample size of starts, most people thought that Paolo had won the starting job outright from Sean. Don't get me wrong, if Tornaghi is in goal and doing well, I am ecstatic, same as if Sean is doing that. While Paolo had a great offseason and tremendous games for the first two outings of the 2012 season, I think it's a bit unfair to take away the starting job from SJ based on just that. Remember what Sean did for us last year, especially after he sat a handful of games in favor of Jon Conway? Sean is training in Europe, and making international teams as well as starting in the MLS. It should take a little more than a few good outings to dethrone a talent like that. But the spot should definitely be in danger if Paolo keeps it up.
With all that being said, I do think the starter battle is in full battle mode now. Sean doesn't have time to dwell on the U23 loss, as he will have his hands full fighting for his spot. Paolo has shown he has the skill to push for the starting spot. Like Sean, he is young and just needs time and experience to get even better. I think this off week and next week in training will go far in determining who is in goal next game vs. Houston. No matter who it is, they will have the full support of Fire Nation behind them. As we have said before here, having two top notch goalkeepers is a problem I think any team would love to have. The next few weeks will definitely be intriguing as these 3 issues should be at the center of the Fire universe.
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