Chicago manager Frank Yallop and company wanted to use week 2's matchup at Toyota Park versus the Vancouver Whitecaps as a showcase, a chance to show the Fire faithful how much the team has improved since 2014. Well, it didn't really work out that way, as the 1-0 loss to the Whitecaps left Fire supporters with more questions than answers, more concern than hope for improvement.
This game was exactly like 2014 in nutshell: Fire squander clear-cut chances to go ahead and possibly put the game away; in the end they give up the winning goal on a defensive lapse. There was some improvement shown from the Men in Red but it still wasn't good enough. Here are the rankings for week No. 2:
The Best of Them: My man of the match has to be Harry Shipp. He played mainly in the center right behind the striker, whether it be Quincy Amarikwa, Kennedy Igboananike, and Guly Do Prado. This was the #10 we've been looking for - Shipp constantly looked and called for the ball as he seemed like he wants to be the man pulling the strings. Always active and always looking for open space to work in.
My runner-up to Shipp has to be Jon Busch. Sean Johnson who? We were fine with Busch in net and we cannot fault him for the goal. His second stint with the Men in Red started well, as he made five saves and was able to keep the Whitecaps off the scoreboard for most of the match. I have no issue with him starting if this infection that Sean Johnson has keeps him out for longer than expected.
Hey - Good Job, Man: I'll start with Joevin Jones. He started on the left side of midfield and I thought he played very well, adding pace and attacking ability. Then Yallop moved him back to left back and then he disappeared for the rest of the match. Also, the goal started on his side - just like the first goal against the Galaxy.
Quincy Amarikwa had his usual game of hard work and he also created a few chances but was unable to finish any of the chances. He will put one in at some point as long as his work rate does not drop.
This was our first look at the big Brazilian center back, Adailton. He had a decent game as he was able to read the opponents attack and win almost all 50/50 balls in the air. The only issue with him is that he has a lack of pace that could hurt the Fire when playing teams, like Vancouver, that have speedy attackers.
Jeff Larentowicz and Eric Gerhig can be grouped together in my mind. Each had to play two different positions in the match, and each did okay. Eric definitely seemed more comfortable in the center of the defense, rather than where he started at right back. Jeff looked comfortable in the back also but seemed to me a little uneasy when he was playing next to Maloney.
You Guys Were Okay: The rookie Matt Polster had an okay game once he settled down after his 4th-minute yellow card. Polster had a lot of errant passes, but his work rate was top notch, He played better than Chris Ritter did the week before. Bouth could be good players in the future, but one of them needs to work on his game down in Saint Louis.
Michael Stephens - making his first start for the club also played well, but had several errant passes in the final third that disrupted the Fire's attack. He will only get better, but on the night was not that impactful on the final result.
Lovel Palmer was having a pretty good game playing in both wing back spots until his attempted clearance on that caused the only goal of the night. What defender clears the ball back across the face of goal back into the center? Palmer did. It was a lapse that cost the Fire game as his cross fell to the feet of Steven Beitashour who passed it to a wide open Rivero.
Off the Bench: Kennedy Igboananike actually breathed some life into the team when he came on. He was able to hold the ball up and actually created a few chances. He did earn him self a yellow card as he was a little aggressive in trying to win the ball back in the waning moments of the match.
Alex, you played? Didn't even notice.
Guly do Prado came on in place of Quincy Amarikwa. I thought he added nothing. There were a couple of fancy touches by him but the one play that stood out to me the most was when he tracked back to play a little defense. He got back in time to help out the defense - but while the ball was working its way back up field, he was just jogging back to join the attack. I'm sorry, but when a player only plays about 15 minutes of a match he should be running his butt off.
You Have Got to Play Better: Sean Maloney was probably the worst player in red on Saturday. He is supposed to be the final piece to generating our attack. He is supposed to be that player that is able to create space for himself and the other players on the team. I just didn't see it for a majority of the game. Is he having problems settling in to a new league or is this the way he is? All I know is that Harry Shipp looked more like the playmaker than Maloney did. I just hope he is not yet another Hauptman DP washout as this will cause ownership to be more cautious when it comes to spending.
In the end there was improvement but there wasn't enough to get a result at home in front of the Fire faithful. It is not going to get any easier as the Fire open up San Jose's new Avaya Stadium. Yallop has to figure something out otherwise the hole that the Fire are digging themselves into will be hard to get out of when it comes time for competing for one of the last playoff spots.