Fire remain winless on the road after loss to Montreal

Fire remain winless on the road after loss to Montreal
April 28, 2013, 10:15 am
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Len Ziehm
It was not good enough defending for me, and I felt like I let the team down a little.
—Fire captain Logan Pause after his team's 2-0 loss

The Major League Soccer season has a long way to go. It’s not even at the one-quarter mark yet.

Still, the Fire is in trouble and the sense of urgency for improvement is getting more critical with each match.

Saturday’s 2-0 loss to the Impact in Montreal wasn’t encouraging. The Fire (2-5-1) couldn’t get the first goal and couldn’t shake off a highly questionable red card handed to midfielder Jeff Larentowicz in the 63rd minute.

The numbers don’t lie. The Fire has yet to win on the road. The Fire has allowed more goals (14) than any other team in MLS, and the club’s minus-8 goal differential is better than only D.C. United’s minus-9. Saturday’s defeat was the Fire’s first-ever to second-year MLS member Montreal (5-1-1), which took over first place in Eastern Conference.

Not only that, but Fire coach Frank Klopas has used eight lineups in the eight matches and is still trying to find the right one. He’s been extremely patient with Dutch striker Sherjill MacDonald, the Designated Player who has yet to score this season. The back line has featured a converted midfielder at right back for the last six matches, as German defender Arne Friedrich continues to nurse a sore hamstring.

Clearly something must be done soon, with a signings window closing on May 6. The Fire didn’t sign a foreign player in the offseason, losing out in a bid for Chilean striker Humberto Suazo. Polish midfielder Sebastian Mila, who will be out of contract on June 30, has made overtures to the Fire recently. Last week, Fire owner Andrew Hauptman said he "hopes" for some signings before the window closes. Time will tell, but the club has considerable time to ponder what to do next. The next match isn’t until May 11, when the Philadelphia Union comes to Toyota Park.

As for the latest loss, the Fire went to Montreal without Wells Thompson –- the main fill-in at right back what with the injuries to Friedrich and Steven Kinney, the starter in the first two games before a quadricep injury put him on the sidelines. Thompson served a one-game suspension for an incident in the previous match, and captain Logan Pause dropped back from the midfield to take his place.

"(Pause) has played there before, and we didn’t have any other options," said Klopas. "(Daniel) Paladini was in good form and my other option was Mike Videira, and he’s had enough concussions. So, we put in a right back that is experienced and has played that position before."

"Individually, being involved in both goals, I feel like I could have done better," said Pause. "It was not good enough defending for me, and I felt like I let the team down a little."

The Impact’s first goal came from the left flank, where Andres Romero put the ball into the net from a difficult angle in the 57th minute. As if that wasn’t painful enough, the Fire was victimized six minutes later when Larentowicz was sent off by referee Fotis Bazakos on a call that Klopas deemed "terrible."

He had a good case. Larentowicz appeared to clip Andrea Pisanu’s heel as Pisanu made a move into the box with goalkeeper Sean Johnson blocking his path. Bazakos ruled that Larentowicz denied a goal-scoring opportunity, but he didn’t award a penalty kick. The Impact was given a free kick outside the box. Johnson stopped it, but the Fire had to play a man down the rest of the way.

Italian striker Marco DiVaio, a force the entire match, kissed a shot in off the left post in the 76th minute to give Montreal an insurance goal. Johnson called it "a very unfortunate game….When they scored, it went down from there."

As per most of the season, Klopas inserted Maicon Santos for MacDonald in the 66th minute. One positive note for the match was the return of Brazilian midfielder Alex. Recovered from a painful contusion on his ankle, he relieved Joel Lindpere in the 78th and Dilly Duka finished up for Patrick Nyarko from the 83rd minute one.

"The red card changed everything….It’s always different when you are playing with 10 guys," said Klopas. The Fire is considering an appeal of the red card, which currently means Larentowicz will sit out the Philadelphia match.

In an unfortunate coincidence, the Chicago Red Stars also were 2-0 losers on Saturday. The entry in the new National Women’s Soccer League bowed to the Portland Thorn (2-0-1) in Lisle. The Red Stars (0-1-1 after two home matches) play their next two on the road – against the Boston Breakers on Saturday and Sky Blue FC in New Jersey on May 8.