Monday, August 9, 2010

Game #16 Summary

If this game was a Shakespeare play title, it would obviously be Much Ado About Nothing.  For all of the hype of 5 DPs and big names, only Freddie Ljungberg played a full 90 minutes and the Fire tied the Red Bulls 0-0 to split the points.

The real star of the game turned out to be Sean Johnson.  If you still think that Andrew Dykstra should start another game this year, you must believe that he is going to be traded to another team.  Johnson not only made spectacular saves but he also had 100% positional awareness to stay off the shots that were going to slide past the goalpost.  Juan Pablo Angel headers were denied by brilliant stops in the 19th and 91st minutes and Johnson tipping a rocket from Tim Ream in the 90th minute might be the MLS Save of the Week.  The old saying "it's better to be lucky than good" played out for the Fire when Macoumba Khandji couldn't get any kind of touch on a cross pass from Dane Richards right at the beginning of the 46th minute.  I was shocked nothing happened there.  The stars were so aligned for Johnson that his slipping right before Angel's 91st shot was probably fortunate because if he gets a full hand on the ball, you have to think it goes right to the foot of Red Bull forward Salou Ibrahim for a stoppage time tap in.  Instead Johnson's deflection even got backspin and the ball harmlessly dribbled out of bounds.

On the offensive end, Carlos de los Cobos rolled out a 4-4-1-1 lineup.  The Fire announced Brian McBride as playing in the top forward spot but in practice it was more of a 4-4-2-0 with McBride staying back on the left or right side.  Brian, we love what you have done for your country and this team but you simply are not a starting forward in the MLS anymore.  Freddie Ljungberg made great runs and dribbles with the ball in the first 15 minutes only to be taking on the entire defense by himself.  He seemed to stop attacking once he realized that he wasn't playing with the Brian McBride that he remembered from Fulham.  The only real threat that McBride and Ljungberg combined for came midway through the first half when McBride caught his marker sleeping and had the entire field in front of him.  If almost anyone else on the team had the space McBride received, they would have just taken the ball to the goal.  Brian had to spot up about 30 feet from the goal because he was already being caught up with.  He did provide a world-class curved pass but Freddie couldn't handle a bad hop and a very promising opportunity turned into a goal kick for New York.

Marco Pappa provided a very so-so game, Mike Banner gave his usually hustle with little result and Baggio Husidic gave us his patented high soccer IQ with the pace of 2010 Brian McBride.  Logan Pause on the other hand gave his best performance of the season.  Whenever a Red Bull was attacking, Pause was hustling back to get in the way.  Without a crucial sliding block in the box in the last minutes of the game, Red Bulls take all three points.  I have been underwhelmed by Logan this year but I think all he needed was an outlet right in front of him in Freddie Ljungberg.  Too many times I would curse at Logan for passing back to the defense or turning the ball over on the sides to Pappa or Nyarko.  I think he just needed a strong midfield presence like Freddie to feed the ball to everytime.  I look forward to them connecting more and more.

In case we had any doubts about Gonzalo Segares getting his LB job back, Krzysztof Krol answered them for us.  What Department of Homeland Security officer do we need to be extra nice to so that we can ensure Segares' paperwork goes through and he starts our next game?  Krol was exposed many times and was the reason Richards had that great opportunity that Khandji screwed up.  Wilman Conde seems back to being the Conde we have known and loved.  C.J. Brown might need a rest or two.  The fact that C.J. has lost a step meant that he couldn't play up on Juan Pablo Angel and we almost paid dearly for that in the 84th minute when Angel whipped in a shot just over the crossbar.  Dasan Robinson provided adequate defense; nothing special but nothing egregious either.

For subs, Nery Castillo's entry for McBride in the 56th minute was greeted with fireworks.  I thought that was a bit much.  Has any sub ever had fireworks?  I guess it's okay because he failed to provide any fireworks of his own.  Nery looked very fast but he was called offside multiple times.  He did lead a charge that ended up with four Fire players in the box at one time.  Can anyone recall a time when we had four Fire players in the box at the same time on a play that didn't involve the ball going down the wings first?  The 59th minute substitution of Steve Kinney for Dasan Robinson seemed to have little impact of the game.  The 90th minute substitution of Deris Umanzor for Marco Pappa seemed to be nothing but a clock stall.

Overall the Fire are lucky to take away one point from this match.  If Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez are in tip top shape, the Fire easily lose this game 2-0 or more.  The Red Bulls offense stalled when Henry was taken out around the half, stalled again when Marquez was taken out in the 61st minute, and only picked up when we started playing another 4-6-0 formation.  If good things come to those who wait, I guess that works for us while we sit for ten days until the New England Revolution come to town on August 18th.

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