Fire fail to capitalize on golden opportunity

Fire fail to capitalize on golden opportunity
September 12, 2013, 1:45 pm
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Len Ziehm

The Fire isn’t out of Major League Soccer’s playoff chase by any means, but the last three matches have certainly been disturbing.
 
Nine standings points were on the line in those three, and the Fire was in position to get all nine. Instead, they came away with only two.
 
To give you an idea of how big an opportunity the Fire blew in that stretch consider the Eastern Conference standings. Five clubs make postseason play. No. 4 now is the Philadelphia Union, with 39 points in 28 matches, and No. 5 is the New England Revolution, with 37 points in 27 matches.
 
On the outside looking in are the sixth-place Houston Dynamo, also with 37 points in 27 outings, and the seventh-place Fire, with 36 in 27.

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The Fire (10-11-6) started the season at 2-7-2, so its comeback has been impressive – but it is by no means complete. In the last three outings, the Fire tied Houston 1-1 at home, lost at Seattle 2-1 and played lowly Toronto to 1-1 draw in a Wednesday road match. Houston and Seattle both got critical goals in the 89th minute of those matches.
 
Toronto (4-13-11), a team in turmoil, didn’t figure to be much of a problem – but it was. The Fire has to win matches against opponents like that if it is to make the playoffs, and only seven games remain in the regular season.
 
"It’s been frustrating over the last stretch of games," said striker Mike Magee. "It feels like every game we have the ability to score two goals and the ability to get a shutout. Playoff teams get shutouts and playoff teams put teams away, so we’re not doing it on either end. It’s a lot of bad feelings after games, to say the least."
 
Playing its third game in eight days, the Fire scored first at Toronto by catching a good break. Dilly Duka’s long, high pass to Magee charging the net was too long for his teammate to touch but the ball took a big bounce. Toronto goalkeeper Joe Burdik couldn’t keep it from going into the net in the 20th minute.
 
The Fire lost only once (at Seattle last week) in 34 matches with Klopas as the head coach when scoring first, but this 1-0 advantage didn’t last long. The Fire defense was non-existent six minutes later when Robert Earnshaw scored for the host team.
 
Prior to Earnshaw’s goal the Fire had been an attacking team. Afterwards not nearly so much. The Fire had a few chances the rest of the way, but the best one was by Toronto FC – a shot off the crossbar by Alvaro Rey in the 45th minute. Overall, the Fire didn’t play well enough to win this one but the draw did at least produce a point the further tightened the playoff race.
 
Coach Frank Klopas did all he could with the players he had to produce a second goal. His substitutions were all for offensive purposes – Quincy Amarikwa for Patrick Nyarko in the 56th minute, Daniel Paladini for Duka in the 68th and Juan Luis Anangano for Alex in the 78th.
 
Midfielders Alvaro Rios (Uruguay) and Joel Lindpere (Estonia) weren’t available because of national team duty in World Cup qualifying. Both will be back on a critical Saturday, when the two clubs owning the last playoff positions at the moment square off against the two just outside of it. The Fire hosts New England and Houston visits Philadelphia.
 
"We want to put ourselves in a spot where we can play for something, and we are right there," said Klopas. "It really is in our hands."
 
New England won both previous matches with the Fire this season, 1-0 at Toyota Park on March 9 and 2-0 at New England on Aug. 17. The Revolution has a goalkeeping issue this time. Matt Reis will be serving a one-game suspension for drawing a red card in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Montreal. Bobby Shuttleworth will start in his place.
 
Reis was the starter when the season began but Shuttleworth manned the nets in 20 straight midseason matches before Reis was returned as the starter.

The Fire isn’t out of Major League Soccer’s playoff chase by any means, but the last three matches have certainly been disturbing

 

Nine standings points were on the line in those three, and the Fire was in position to get all nine.  Instead only two were earned.

 

To give you an idea of how big an opportunity the Fire blew in that stretch consider the Eastern Conference standings. Five clubs make postseason play.  No. 4 now is the Philadelphia Union, with 39 points in 28 matches, and No. 5 is the New England Revolution, with 37 points in 27 matches.

 

On the outside looking in are the sixth-place Houston Dynamo, also with 37 points in 27 outings, and the seventh-place Fire, with 36 in 27.

 

The Fire (10-11-6) started the season at 2-7-2, so its comeback has been impressive – but it’s by no means complete.  In the last three outings the Fire tied Houston 1-1 at home, lost at Seattle 2-1 and played lowly Toronto to 1-1 draw in a Wednesday road match.  Houston and Seattle both got critical goals in the 89th minute of those matches.

 

 Toronto (4-13-11), a team in turmoil, didn’t figure to be much of a problem – but it was. The Fire has to win matches against opponents like that if it is to make the playoffs, and only seven games remain in the regular season.

 

``It’s been frustrating over the last stretch of games,’’ said striker Mike Magee.  ``It feels like every game we have the ability to score two goals and the ability to get a shutout.  Playoff teams get shutouts and playoff teams put teams away, so we’re not doing it on either end. It’s a lot of bad feelings after games, to say the least.’’

 

Playing its third game in eight days, the Fire scored first at Toronto by catching a good break.  Dilly Duka’s long, high pass to Magee charging the net was too long for his teammate to touch but the ball took a big bounce.  Toronto goalkeeper Joe Burdik couldn’t keep it from going into the net in the 20th minute.

 

The Fire lost only once (at Seattle last week) in 34 matches with Klopas as the head coach when scoring first, but this 1-0 advantage didn’t last long.  The Fire defense was non-existent six minutes later when Robert Earnshaw scored for the host team.

 

Prior to Earnshaw’s goal the Fire had been an attacking team.  Afterwards not nearly so much.  The Fire had a few chances the rest of the way, but the best one was by Toronto FC – a shot off the crossbar by Alvaro Rey in the 45th minute. Overall, the Fire didn’t play well enough to win this one but the draw did at least produce a point the further tightened the playoff race.

 

Coach Frank Klopas did all he could with the players he had to produce a second goal.  His substitutions were all for offensive purposes – Quincy Amarikwa for Patrick Nyarko in the 56th minute, Daniel Paladini for Duka in the 68th and Juan Luis Anangano for Alex in the 78th.

 

Midfielders Alvaro Rios (Uruguay) and Joel LIndpere (Estonia) weren’t available because of national team duty in World Cup qualifying. Both will be back on a critical Saturday, when the two clubs owning the last playoff positions at the moment square off against the two just outside of it.  The Fire hosts New England and Houston visits Philadelphia.

 

``We want to put ourselves in a spot where we can play for something, and we are right there,’’ said Klopas.  ``It really is in our hands.’’

 

New England won both previous matches with the Fire this season, 1-0 at Toyota Park on March 9 and 2-0 at New England on Aug. 17.  The Revolution has a goalkeeping issue this time.  Matt Reis will be serving a one-game suspension for drawing a red card in Sunday’s 4-2 loss to Montreal. Bobby Shuttleworth will start in his place.

 

Reis was the starter when the season began but Shuttleworth manned the nets in 20 straight midseason matches before Reis was returned as the starter.