James Bridget Gordon: Happy Monday, y'all. The Red Stars won their home opener against Kansas City, and it was great. Literally nothing else happened this weekend
Aww son of a-
Jack Kelly: Darlington Nagbe's screamer was, well, just that. I hope Bruce Arena was watching. Nagbe is too good not to be in the USMNT's starting XI come June, even with the Europe-based players becoming more readily available.
Also, TFC looked like the team that made it to MLS Cup last season again. It's unfortunate that the Fire had to play them in the game they decided to wake up.
James Bridget: It sucks that a lot of MLS teams still regard us as target practice. "We've been on a bad run of form the past few weeks, but it'll be okay, we're playing Chicago on Saturday so that'll help with our confidence"
Jack: The Fire better hope they can bounce back or they're going to be getting a lot of that in the next three weeks. Especially against NYRB and LA who haven't been great so far this season. It could get ugly if the Fire continue to be complacent on the road.
James Bridget: LA's collapse this season has been spectacular. But it would be totally in character for them to trounce us in a couple weeks.
Jack: The Galaxy have had the Fire's number since he club started -- It makes Fire20 so sad sometimes. That being said, they're really struggling now that their big-name, over-seas stars are aging out. LA could be in for tough times if they don't figure out how to be competitive without old-but-gold guys, who, let's be honest, aren't as valuable in this league as they used to be.
Sean Spence: Did any of you catch that LA-Seattle game? Because that looked like a team that was checking out on its coach already. Curt Onalfo’s like the shit-hands version of King Midas. I’m just a tiny bit optimistic about getting points there.
Alex Picchietti: And, NYRB just dominated Columbus. Which is fun, but not when we're going there next.
Jack: Especially since the Crew have been so good this season. Which no one saw coming.
Sean: I’m praying Velko returns to the 3-back look that beat Columbus, because with a back four I think Red Bull press us right off the pitch.
Alex: Do you find it concerning that Giovinco broke out of his cold spell so easily against us, or are you just chalking that up to a great player inevitably getting hot?
Jack: I certainly think that it's the latter. The fact that he was running at Michael Harrington the whole game doesn't help my case, though. What do you think?
Also, why was Altidore so bad on Friday? He had been carrying that team so far.
Alex: Well, I agree with you, I'm just not that happy that we seemed to make absolutely no adjustment to stop it. So. Much. Space.
Jack: So. Much. Space.
James Bridget: Yeah, at the risk of opening up the floodgates, I think we've passed the point of no return with Harrington. At one point I was hoping he'd do something stupid and get himself sent off.
Sean: If defensive positioning isn’t your thing, and tackling isn’t your thing, and tracking runs isn’t your thing, and keeping possession isn’t your thing ... what’s your thing, as a wingback? And I feel like I can watch him mentally crumbling under the weight of his previous bad decisions, poor performances, and public scrutiny. I’d like him to sit just so I don’t have to keep experiencing this exotic mix of rage and sympathy.
James Bridget: At this point, playing with 10 men > playing with 11 men but one of them is Michael Harrington.
Alex: Literally. It was like 2 passes from their GK to the final third. All game.
I was honestly shocked at our inability to control the midfield.
Jack: Michael Bradley put Dax to work. And Juninho looked like a passenger.
Alex: Yep. I definitely thought Dax would boss Bradley. He'll need to be a lot better against his former team next week...
Jack: We can only hope. I don't think the young-buck they've replaced him with will be able to keep up.
Alex: On Jozy, sometimes I forget and I think he's like 45 years old. Sometimes he's just not on his game and goes missing. At least I've seen that for the MNT...
Jack: Remember at the WC when they tried to make it seem like he was training before the Belgium (might have been Germany) match as a scare tactic? Why would anyone be worried about him based on his form over the last few seasons?
Alex: I try not to think back to the time of Klins. It makes me ill.
James Bridget: Before The Belgium sounds suitably ominous.
Après nous, le Belgique.
Jack: I wanted him to be fired every second he was managing the MNT
Alex: Right after The Great Ghana of 2014.
Jack: Do you all think Arena lasts past the WC next summer?
If we make it.
/knocks on wood
James Bridget: Yeah, that's a big If. Ask me again after we actually qualify.
Alex: I love him, if for nothing but his demeanor in the technical area. Literally the same expression if we're up by 4 or down by 10.
Jack: The happiest man in CONCACAF?
Alex: Everything is milquetoast.
Sean: Arena’s general affect of aloof amusement is a fantastic bit of public performance art. There are times where I’m not sure if he’s amused by his players’ personalities, or their performances, or the officials, or the fans, or the concept of competitive sport, or humanity, or the void, but he’s definitely fuckin’ amused.
Jack: I don't know what it is, but Arena reminds me of John Travolta.
James Bridget: ...
That's a hell of a statement.
Alex: That's tough, I'll always see him as Vincent Vega. And imagining Arena looking like that gives me the shakes.
Jack: It's just the way they shape their mouths.
James Bridget: Isn't it always?
Jack: Best MLS (past or present) player-celebrity look alike?
James Bridget: I almost want to steer the discussion back on topic but the Fire stuff is so sad today I just don't have the heart for it
Jack: Personal favorite—
Alex: Michael Harrington looks like my garbage can.
Jack: I've never seen them in the same room together.
Alex: Anywho...what are your guys' feelings on Nikolic right now? I might have a hawt taek.
James Bridget: I've been sort of lukewarm on him but he's played well in recent weeks (Toronto notwithstanding).
Alex: Something about him isn't clicking with me. He's got a knack for being offsides and I'm not sure how clinical he's going to be. I really like the dude, I just haven't been convinced personally.
James Bridget: Sounds about right. And I'm worried that Pauno and the club have seemingly invested so much in him. I'm concerned he's going to end up being another Gilberto or JLA.
Alex: Yeah, that's my worry. I just don't see the player I thought I would. Now, I'm going to give it time. He's new to the team, country, etc. and so is our main distributor. And Dax. but the early returns have concerned me a bit.
Jack: I mean 4 goals in seven games isn't terrible. A lot of strikers would take that. Niko being offsides a lot is just his play style. Happened often in Poland too
Alex: This was always my thing with Cisse @ Newcastle. He scored goals but he was a ghost when he wasn't scoring. So the stat sheet looked good, sometimes, but there were matches where he was just completely absent or misfiring. But that's true, 4 in 7 is good. I just hope to see more consistency between the goals.
Jack: I think he's still trying to figure out how his play style works in MLS. Give it a few more weeks before we start to decide if it was a good signing or a bust. I am hoping that Dax will start to have a more noticeable impact, though. I think that a game against his former club will be telling on how good he is going to be.
Sean: I largely agree with what you’ve said about Niko - we’re still in wait-and-see mode there. But with Dax, I’m surprised you guys are as phlegmatic about his performances as you seem. For me, he’s been outstanding, exactly what was expected. We didn’t lose to TFC because of Dax.
John Carollo III: I'd like to thank Veljko Paunovic for reading my previews, because there's no way he could gameplan the exact opposite of what I suggested without reading it.
Alex: Long ball or die.
John: I was about to say that's why Niko isn't clicking. His style of play is more of a quick possession attack finishing with a cross in to him. What we do is pump it down the pitch and hope for the best (at least when we get frightened). He played well when we held the ball well.
Alex: I don't really understand why we wouldn't try to use link up play to generate offense. Hoofing long balls to de Leeuw and Soli isn't the best use of our talents.
John: But I would like to add that possession vs. quality possession is a debate. We got 55.5% possession this week, culminating in just a single shot on goal.
One of my points was the need to counter against this team, due to their weakness in their defense. We didn't do that. Instead, we tried to push through their midfield and when that didn't work we just carpet bomb the final third.
If you look at everything except shooting, we seem like we were the better team by stats. Better passing, higher possession through both halves, but we made scoring our last priority. You need to score to win and until the rules change and possession becomes the tiebreaker, I don't think it should be our priority.
Alex: And, that possession is misleading. We caould pass the ball between the back 4 and the holding mids all day, and down 2-0, TFC were happy to watch that.
James Bridget: So does this change how we're all feeling about NYRB? Less confident? More confident? Bout the same?
Alex: Well, I was already predicting 2-0 to New York, so... less confident for me.
John: About the same. It was one gameplan against one team. Plus, Dax is a bit of a wildcard going into that game. He might go off, he might back off. I think he's someone to keep an eye on this week.
Mike Tooley: Hey, its me... I am more optimistic about our chances this weekend. A lot of teams are going to get bullied and beaten in Toronto this summer, good ones too. I feel like Toronto was due for a big game that they just haven't had this year, wrong place and time for the Fire. I don't feel GREAT about the NYRB game but I could also see the Fire bouncing back and getting a result. This is why that home stretch was so important.
Alex: This thread has been off topic enough, right? ... NEWCASTLE PROMOTED!
James Bridget: And they get to hi-five Sunderland as they head down lol
Alex: Oh, it makes it that much sweeter. Although it would have been cool to see them smashed by Rafa's squad next season...
Well, this worked as a sort of distraction from the disappointing result Friday. Hoping next week is different!!
Jack: What did we think of Bava this week? He was nominated for Save of the Week.
John: A good goalkeeper can make difficult saves.
A special goalkeeper can make difficult saves look easy.
A lucky goalkeeper can make a difficult save once in a while.
A bad goalkeeper makes easy saves look difficult.
That looked like it should've been an easy save.
Jack: I don't know about that...
John: You can infer my feelings towards Bava in net.
Jack: Altidore had the whole goal in front of him from 13ish yards out.
John: Not that one specifically, but Bava is a keeper that makes easy saves look difficult.
Jack: This is a hell-of-a save to me. Good reaction time from the 35-year-old.
I still think Bava is better than Lampson. He has a stronger presence in the team and helps keep the back line as organized as one can.
John: I think Lampson should start.
Jack: But why....?
What does he bring to a match like the upcoming one against NYRB that will make a difference in the game?
John: First, I don't think it'll really make too much of a difference, but there was a couple he could've stopped on Saturday and another couple against Montreal and then you can go back.
Jack: The Fire have only conceded eight time this season. That includes the meltdown 4-0 that happened in Atlanta.
John: And many of those were goalkeeping errors.
Jack: What's your definition of "goalkeeping errors?"
John: Late reactions, bad distribution leading to a red card, bad positioning.
Jack: Because when a team scores four times from four uncontested strikes in the box there's not much a goalkeeper can do.
Also, the Fire have kept three clean sheets.
John: That was possession and our centerbacks doing a good job of holding the line.
Jack: You have a reason to drag on everyone.
John: Only Bava and Harrington. And I won't even get into what Harrington did Saturday.
Jack: So you're argument is this: When the Fire get scored on a lot it's because Bava is bad, and when they play well and keep a clean-sheet it's because everyone else is good?
John: Bava has nice moments, but his mistakes are too often and too costly.
Jack: Please assemble a list of mistakes that would constitute the word "often" being associated with them.
First goal from Toronto (assist by Harrington): Too far to the far post.
Second goal against Montreal (assist by Harrington): Extremely late reaction.
Red Card vs. Atlanta (assist by Harrington): Bad pass out from him.
Second and third goals against Atlanta.
And he stood like a statue on the first goal scored on us all season vs. Columbus (assist from Harrington not marking the crosser).
Literally a lot of problems can be solved by replacing Bava and Harrington from the pitch.
Jack: No one makes a save on this goal....
John: Raise your left hand.
You just saved that goal.
Jack: Stop it. That is ridiculous.
John: I just want to see Lampson out there at least once to see how he can do with an improved defense.
Jack: You can't justify benching Bava with things that are wrong. I don't care who is in net no one saves that header in the season-opener. Agreed he could have done better on this one. Then again, no one closed down on the shot:
John: That part was Harrington, thank you for taking note on that one.
This year proves that if you change a few key players (CM with Dax, Basti, and Juninho), you can do so much better. But it also proves that it just takes one weak link to slow you down. Bava isn't that much of a weak link, but I think he's a downgrade from Sean.
Jack: Fail to see how this is his fault when it should not have been a red and the ball came from midfield:
Of course he's a downgrade from Sean John. Sean John is one of the better keepers in MLS.
John: Highlight cuts the part where Bava's pass out of the back goes out and Harrington tries to play in a quick throw that no one except for Julian Gressel was expecting.
Jack: The goal isn't his fault then...?
Fail to see how a striker running clean at him one-on-one from the top of his box is an expected save. [Editor note: 1m33s in previous video.]
John: He stopped short and flailed his legs instead of going all the way. Maybe he was aware that we were already down a man, but he should've gone for the ball, not hope he'd run into him.
Jack: This is essentially a PK when he was off balance and didn't have a clear look at it: [Editor note: 2m8s in previous video.]
John: Needed to take that extra step at him.
Jack: This one is iffy but it's the Atomic Ant from the top of the box. Sure a save would have been nice but bad defending didn't help:
From my count 1.5 of the aforementioned mistakes count. In 7 matches, that ain't too shabby.
John: The reason why I'm going in so hard on Bava is because he takes up an international slot in a position that you can easily fill domestically. Unless the international is by far the best available (Andre Blake is a solid example of this), it just feels like a waste.
Sean should've stayed, but if he really couldn't, we should be starting Lampson.
Jack: You see, that's a much more reasonable argument than "Bava is bad."
Anyways, I have nothing further to say on the matter than Bava is a decent keeper, and that he made a damn good save in the 94th minute against TFC.
John: I was trying to work argument more towards "Bava isn't that good," but we should probably end this.
Jack: But he's pretty good.
Ruben Tisch: As an aside, this is some hot content.
James Bridget: Truer words were never spake, my friend.