James Bridget Gordon: Alright friends, let's dive in. 3-1 loss in Columbus. An utter embarrassment. The Fire are now down to 3rd place in the East.
What went wrong?
John Carollo III: Dumb turnovers and the lack of a killer touch.
I feel like this moment was coming for a long time. We haven't been sharp on the road at all. NYCFC and SKC were good excuses for losing, but this really was the real test to see if we can compete on the road and we didn't step up.
Alex Picchietti: Could fatigue be playing a role in the recent dip in form? or is it just the squad leveling out to their true potential?
John: Might be a mix of both. We'd been playing over our heads for a couple months and now we're suddenly dropping fast.
Alex: As we get closer to playoff time, it might be a good idea for Pauno to rotate the squad a bit more. not to the point where we're not fielding competitive XI's, but Basti/Niko/Kapp/Meira need to have a spring in their step when the regular season ends.
John: That's the thing. Pauno doesn't really "rotate" so much as he waits until players are unable to play. I guess that wouldn't be the right way to say it.
Alex: No, I get what you're saying, and I agree. and some of the best managers/coaches in the world know how to rotate and manage their XI. I'm hoping Pauno can navigate those waters sooner than later.
John: Pauno wants to win every single game which is really admirable, but he puts a lot of his first choice players at risk when he has them go full strength in games they don't need to do that in.
James Bridget: Let's talk a little bit about Matt Lampson, who had a rough evening and, the New England game notwithstanding, kind of a rough few weeks. Do you think he's being hung out to dry by his defenders? Or was he just having a good spell earlier in the summer and is now regressing to the mean?
Alex: I think it might be that his defenders were actually aiding him during that good spell, and now that more is being asked of him, we're seeing a bit more "True Lampson."
John: Yeah, Lampson isn't that great of a goalkeeper. Sure, his distribution is pretty good, but that isn't really his main job. His main job is to keep the ball out of his net and he isn't exactly great at it. Problem is, he's not great; but he's the best we have.
Ruben: The new guy could be better.
James Bridget: Yeah, I'm wondering if maybe it's time to give Richard Sanchez a shot.
John: I've been wondering about giving Stefan Cleveland a shot, but sure, let's check with the new guy.
James Bridget: John, if it were up to you the Starting XI every week would be Cleveland, DJ, Mihailovic, Callistri, half the U18s, and Christen Press.
John: Press and Huerta.
James Bridget: There is no evidence that Cleveland is ready for regular MLS minutes. Stop trying to make fetch happen.
John: My point is that we already drafted a young goalkeeper, why did we need to sign another one.
James Bridget: Because Cleveland isn't ready for MLS yet.
John: At least he isn't taking up an international slot, but I'm still not sure about our signing.
James Bridget: You throw young talent in the deep end too soon and you'll ruin their careers.
John: Sanchez might not be ready either.
James Bridget: Again, citing no evidence.
John: They're the same age and honestly the only difference between them is that Sanchez has Mexico caps. Sanchez has 19 pro starts, mostly with Ft Lauderdale. Cleveland has 4 pro starts in half as long of a career. Those numbers are different, but they're both really small.
James Bridget: That's not enough. You're basing your argument on speculation and specious numbers, all in some vain hope that at some point in the future you can be all, "see! told you so!"
If Cleveland were ready for the big time he would've gotten his chance already. They fact that they brought in Sanchez is a pretty clear indication from Pauno and NR that they don't think he's up for it yet.
Hell, the Tulsa Roughnecks won't even play him right now. He's been on loan with them most of the season and he's played exactly one game. And you want the Fire to call him back and throw him into MLS play with two months left in the season and with playoff qualification on the line?
John: He's been called back for a while. Bava's been injured since around June or so.
James Bridget: Source?
John: Our last lineup.
He's been on the bench for almost the entire season.
Since May 13th, with a couple of games with Bava there in late May/early June.
James Bridget: His one game with Tulsa was on May 27th. Your timeline doesn't add up.
And in any event, that doesn't dispute the fact that he hasn't played for the senior team this season and signing Sanchez indicates that's not going to change. Arguing over whether it's time to give your pet fringe players a chance is pointless and derailing.
We're moving on.
Thoughts on the apparent communication breakdown between Kap and Meira?
Jack Kelly: I think that this game was more an anomaly than anything else for the back line. Kap and Meira seemed to be completely confused as to what one another were doing, but the super top-heavy lineup Pauno put out didn't help that. I think they were more concerned with keeping their outside backs (who none of us would have thought would be playing outside back at the beginning of the season) under wraps so they, could, ya know, help defend. Something the Fire forgot how to do on Saturday.
Cleveland has been in and out of Tulsa a lot this year. But was definitely there more recently than May 13th (because I wrote about him).
In terms of the goalkeeper situation, Lampson had a tough time in his homecoming. He was sloppy between the sticks, but also dreadful with his distribution. Now, I'm not one to slam someone after one game, and he's been alright up to this point in the season, but if he struggles again on Wednesday against another very talented attacking team in Montreal, maybe we should give Sanchez a shot. He was a stud as a youth player, and, well, we don't really have another good option.
Plus, like, we spent some funny money on him so we might as well use him.
Alex: For the record, I'd love to see Sanchez given a shot. Home to MNUFC might be a good opportunity for him...
James Bridget: Let's wrap things up. Montreal on Wednesday and then the big one on Saturday against Toronto. How are we all feeling heading into this week?
Jake Payne: Not great. Toronto seems to just be widening the gap on being the best team in the league just based off of their ability to win on the road as well as at home.
Ruben: 6 points. Have faith.
James Bridget: You know things are grim when Ruben is the optimistic one.
John: It's at home. We'll be fine.
Jack: I'm also predicting 6 points! (I've got your back, Ruben <wink>)
James Bridget: I think we'll win at Montreal, but it'll be close. And I don't see us beating Toronto, even at home. 2-1 over Montreal, 2-2 vs Toronto. I hope I'm wrong about Toronto.
Alex: I'll go for 3 points, here. Montreal W, but Giovinco is simply on another level and I think he'll get the best of us again.
James Bridget: If we do lose to Toronto I think we're probably out of the Supporters' Shield race. After that it's just holding on to a playoff spot. Which is... still a huge improvement over the past few years, but it will still feel like a let-down.
Jack: Yeah it would be quite the gap to overcome. And, well, Toronto is stupid good right now. They scored 4 goals this weekend and Giovinco didn't have any of them.
John: I think Montreal is usually a good place to get our stuff together, so we take home those three. And we're playing Toronto at home. I think we can handle them while here. I'm a cynical person, but we should be fine this week.