Last thing I wanted to do tonight was write this stupid recap. After that horrible game ended I wanted to do anything but this. Honestly I'd rather be working on anything else (including my actual job) than having to write about this game. Instead the me of earlier today said "yes" to the recap. So now I have to actually muster valuable brainpower to talk about this horrible game.
Lets get into it.
This game was lost by the defense. Yeah the offense wasn't great but everyone on the defensive end made a large miscue turning into a goal or a dangerous goal scoring opportunity. Berry, Johnson and Anibaba were all inexcusably bad on the first goal. Inexplicably Sean pulled his arms back from the ball as it was rolling through, Berry got beat, rather easily by DeRo and there you have it goal number 1. Anibaba's horrible night continued as he missed the heading the clearance on the second goal. Pardo had some inexplicable turnovers where he passed the ball to no one and also was easily dispossessed of the ball on a few occasions. Dan Paladini over ran some of his markers and was out of position several times. Sega got beat down the left. Friedrich was unable to provide a steady hand after the late sub to chase the game. When the Fire were chasing the game things really opened up at the back in a way we hadn't seen all season. It was, frankly, horrifying. This team has been built on a solid defensive foundation. They win because their defensive spine is one of the best in the league. Tonight that spine let them down in a very big way.
All credit to DC for their performance. They were excellent. United found a way to rebound from last week's rather shocking final ten minutes and put in an excellent performance without some key players. The Fire certainly played bad but it was DC United's solid compact defensive approach that stymied the Fire's offensive attack. Even with that the Fire managed to steal two goals out of the situation. Both came against the run of play and were scored by players who don't normally score (Paladini and Sega respectively). Really that is the only positive I can get out of this game. DC can be a bit vulnerable at the back (makeshift back line for them tonight but still they have been most of the year) and the Fire found ways to exploit it when they managed to string together a few passes. The problem was stringing together those passes.
Dwayne De Rosario was influential tonight. He had a hand in just about every good thing that happened for DC. For those of you that listened to the Fire's broadcast team you heard them say he was old and has lost a step. While he is certainly older he is still one of the best players in the league and an all time MLS great. Those type of guys find ways to beat you. Tonight DeRo did just that as the Fire had no answer for him. He was in the right place at the right time almost always. DC remains a threat to do damage in the Eastern Conference standings and playoffs just because of De Rosario. He is the type of player the Fire lack. Personally I felt the Fire really missed the presence of a dominating central attacking figure. Someone good enough to harass the other team into at least respecting that player all game. If you look at the Eastern conference playoff teams three out of the five have one. Along with the Fire, KC doesn't. KC does have Graham Zusi and he may end up being one of those guys.
All of the above was magnified by the absence of Logan Pause. He is an incredible defensive player with terrific defensive instincts. An able man marker who has the ability to mark someone out of the game. Would DeRo have run as wild with Pause shadowing him? I like Dan Paladini but he isn't Logan Pause and the change that it causes with the on field defense was obvious against New England and even more obvious tonight. I'm not sure if there really is an answer to that problem. Logan was having a team MVP caliber season. His absence, at least for this season, may be irreplaceable.
Coaching wise Frank was a bit slow on the subs but really what else could he have done? His team was getting out played at almost every position. Inserting Fernandez helped for a bit. That didn't last all that long. When his 14 main guys don't have it this team is going to lose no matter who Klopas decides to sub in. Tonight those guys didn't have it.
Player wise everyone had an off night. MacDonald was pretty good at hold up play but didn't get to many opportunities to shoot. Pappa was being weird selfish Marco except for that brilliant pass that showcases why I (and many others) get so damn furious when he refuses to be unselfish. Chris Rolfe shot selfishly a few times and was basically invisible for the first 45 to 50 minutes of the game. Patrick Nyarko was made to look slow by Andy Najar in embarrassing fashion at times. Fernandez was OK but failed to make a huge impact as a sub. It just wasn't our guys' night.
This loss sucks. I know the prevailing opinion going into this game was that it should be an easy result for the Fire. DC was "struggling" and looked like they would be easy pickings. Playing DC at DC is always hard, especially this season. They have rebuilt RFK into a bug infested, broken chaired, bouncy seated fortress. When they are struggling they end up pulling out chippy draws there. You don't just walk into DC and win. The Fire, as a team, had this thought and ended up paying dearly for it. Lets hope this reminder sinks in and the team takes no further games for granted. The players and us fans have 10 days to let this loss sink in, fester and then heal. Hopefully we all learn a lesson about doubting our opponents.