Let me paint a picture: Saturday night at Toyota Park. It's the 60th minute, and the Fire just took the lead after David Accam finished off a hot pass from Harry Shipp, collecting with one touch and with the second coolly putting it past Tally hall in the Orlando net. The 20k-plus at Toyota Park were buzzing, Section 8 were loud, and Sector Latino were drumming away.
Just over 20 minutes later, all of this excitement and energy turned into groans of frustration from the home faithful. Cyle Larin slotted home a perfectly-placed shot off the post to beat Jon Busch to tie the game at 2. Just 4 minutes later, the groans of frustration turned into cries of dismay as Orlando broke down the Fire's defense through a perfectly timed run from Carlos Rivas. Rivas beat Jon Busch, but looked like he wasn't going to beat Adailton, and didn't, but Adailton's touch sent the ball into his own net for his second own goal of the game.
Turn and face the strange changes
'Shocked' and 'disappointed' was how Yallop described the night - but I think it goes much deeper than that. Did the bus fall apart when Yallop decided to change the team's look? Subbing out Eric Gehrig for Quincy Amarikwa forced host of changes - Joevin Jones moved from left mid to left back, David Accam switched sides from right to left, and (most importantly) Harry Shipp slid from a CAM position to right midfield. Essentially, the team switched from a 4-2-3-1 formation to a 4-4-2 with Quincy and Igboananike up top - all of this only to have the shape change again, to the another formation, with the introduction of Matt Watson for Igboananike. That sub forced the team into what looked like a 4-5-1 formation, although the players really did not seem sure what their positions were. Finally, this all changed again with the introduction of Mike Magee as a last resort to create offense.
Was it a lack of concentration from the players? Somewhat, but these drastic changes from the coach probably had more of a negative impact. Why change the lineup in that situation? Clearly the starting lineup was working. The Men in Red had a 2-1 lead, and while they may not have had the majority of possession, they were creating chances ... and, like I said, 2-1 lead. Did the introduction of Quincy time spell doom for the Fire? With the changes it forced all over the field, it could have just ruined the chemistry and confidence that was built up from the previous 58 minutes.
This kind of loss can be blamed on the players, but I'm placing the majority of the blame on Yallop and the coaching staff. Mistimed and unneeded subs, confusing your players by switching positions and formations too many times, and not having the players mentally ready for 90 minutes - yet again - falls on the shoulders of Yallop.
Let's Rank Some Players
My first star goes to the man that has been the catalyst to all of Chicago's offense lately, David Accam. This is the second game in a row that he receives my first star. After providing the assist on Igbo's opening goal - slotting a perfect pass across the face of goal that Kennedy easily tapped in - Accam's goal was a thing of beauty. This team is going to go as far as Accam will. He will be desperately needed in order to make a case for silverware.
My second star is a tie between Harry Shipp and Kennedy Igboananike. I'll start with KI: He tapped in his second goal in 3 matches and provided the pass-before-the-assist, finding Shipp before he passed it to Accam for the Fire's second goal. Igbo is getting more and more confident, and with this great stretch of play the last 3 games has surely grabbed ahold of a starting spot. The only person that can keep him from playing and let his confidence ebb is Frank Yallop.
Harry Shipp picked up an assist but more importanly he showed why he should play in the center as a CAM. He called for the ball frequently and moved around into space with a sense of purpose. This faded as the formation changed and he was forced to play right mid after Yallop introduced Quincy. Hopefully this does not happen next week, when the Men in Red travel to the greater Boston area to take on the Revs.
Another plan shot to sh--t
Speaking of next week, the Fire will be shorthanded, missing key players that may make the rescheduled game even tougher. It's hard to get past the fact that that the Fire agreed to move this game to a time when Maloney, Accam, and Jones will all be missing due to international duty. What will the lineup look like - and, more importantly, where will the offensive chances come from? Is this a throw-away game, as the Fire have their US Open Cup match versus Louisville about 71 hours later; or is it a must-win as the Fire have gathered only five points in five games against Eastern Conference opponents?
So who were your stars of the match? How about disappointments? What do you think will happen over the next week? Will Yallop throw away the game in New England, or will he take it more seriously than the USOC? Will this team ever be able to get a win against 11 men again? Let us know.