The Fire appeared on the road to recovery after a dismal 2-7-2 start to the Major League Soccer season. Now, however, there’s some doubt about that.
Sunday’s 3-1 loss to the Whitecaps in Vancouver was the Fire’s second in a row and third across all competitions if you count the 2-1 setback to Mexico’s Club America in last Wednesday’s friendly at Toyota Park. The encouraging nine-game unbeaten run (including a 4-0-2 stretch in MLS matches) is becoming a distant memory.
[STATS: Fire drop tilt to Whitecaps, 3-1]
Unfortunately, the Fire’s tendency to allow the first goal in too many matches is becoming a growing concern. The Vancouver match marked the 15th times in 18 games the Fire has done that, and in those games the Fire is a lackluster 4-9-2.
Suspensions to defender Gonzalo Segares and Daniel Paladini didn’t help the Fire’s cause against Vancouver. Segares sat out thanks to yellow card accumulations, meaning new Jamaican acquisition Shaun Francis got the call at left back. Though he had spent time with the Columbus Crew, Francis was acquired from the minor league Charlotte Eagles and he wasn’t ready for the hottest player in MLS at a critical moment on Sunday.
Camilo Sanvezzo, the little Brazilian striker, got away from Francis in the 66th minute to score the first goal of the match and he tallied again five minutes later. That basically determined the result. Vancouver rookie Kekuta Manneh scored in the 84thminute and the Fire’s Patrick Nyarko in stoppage time to create the final score.
Camilo is good. His brace gave him 12 goals this season and the lead in the MLS Golden Boot race. Ten of those goals have come in the last nine games. Vancouver is also hard to play at their B.C. Place facility, a downtown arena that is also home to the Canadian Football League’s British Columbia Lions. The Whitecaps are 7-0-3 there, making them the only MLS club still unbeaten in home matches.
Still, the Fire (6-9-3) must regain form and quickly if a return to the playoffs is to happen, and the next match is a good place to start. Lowly D.C. United (2-13-4 with only eight goals scored in 19 matches) comes to Bridgeview on Saturday.
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The back-to-back losses to Sporting Kansas City and Vancouver left the Fire with 21 points and eight behind Houston, which holds the last playoff spot in the Eastern Conference. The Dynamo, which has 29 points in 19 matches to the Fire’s 21 in 18, hosts the Fire on July 27.
Segares will be back for the D.C. United visit, but Paladini – a valuable man as a spark off the bench – won’t. The MLS disciplinary committee added a second game to the suspension he received for the red card, handed out after a hard tackle, against SKC. The Fire will also be without starting goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who is with the U.S. for the month-long Gold Cup tournament, and the status of captain Logan Pause doesn’t look promising.
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Still recovering from a back injury, the 11-year veteran has been ailing most of the season. He didn’t suit up for the Club America friendly and wasn’t available at Vancouver, either. Pause’s season has been limited to eight games and he hasn’t played in any since June 26 at Columbus.