My Sunday started off with a nice breakfast at a quality diner. It was busy but our waiter Max was at his hilarious best. Clearly dolled up for his best money making day of the week. Hair on point. Jokes on point. Service on point. Coffee was only so so but I’m not holding my snobbish tendencies against the man. We returned home and I fired up the television for Sunday’s big matches. I absent mindedly watched the Classico. Vaguely rooting for Real. Irritated that I wasn’t able to find a reliable stream for OM (They won!). Brushed about a pound of cat hair off of Sunshine. Flipped on Red Bulls vs DCU (Lloyd Sam is super fun everyone). Missed Mike Petke and his cardigans (nice scarf Jesse but you aren’t Mike). Suffered through the smart but yet poorly phrased commentary of Taylor Twellman. Laundered some sheets. All the while being anxious about the Fire match.
Here’s the thing. I hate Sunday Fire games. Sunday nights should be a relaxing event. Perhaps a nice film, some high quality professional wrestling or a book to let your mind wander and prepare for the upcoming week of work. Instead I’m wound up. Waiting for the lineup to get announced. Hoping I don’t see a certain name at right back. The lineup shows up and there it is. Gehrig. FUCK. In fact the entire lineup is unchanged from last week except for the return of Sean Johnson. Which in some ways is OK (Jones in the midfield!). In others it is not (Sorry Eric).
If I was at the stadium I’d be around some friends to commiserate in this unfortunate set of circumstances that has now upped my angst by 100%. Instead I’m at home. On the Fuego Couch with the cat. On the bright side I have coffee and chicken quesadillas.
I’m not a big fan of game write ups from the TV feed. You don’t get to see everything that is happening. Evaluations are difficult and someone who looks disastrous live looks OK on TV. I’m going to try anyways. Join us on the podcast this week for a live report from the match as we have TWO correspondents in San Jose. Our referee today is Ricardo Salazar.
So what did the first half bring us? Sean Johnson was not very good. Yielding two goals off of two very bad decisions. A poor decision on a corner cost the team the first goal. Sean comes flapping out and fails to punch the ball away. The corner was otherwise well defended. We have seen this far too many times from him. It is an area of his game that he has yet to improve in any way since he started playing for the Fire. The second goal also comes from a set piece. Sean fumbles an easy shot right at him and the rebound is predictably put away. Inexcusable. Another veteran making mistakes. First week it was Jeff Larentowicz, second week Lovell Palmer. This week Sean Johnson. All of these guys are, in theory, better than this.
Is Sean really better than this? You can make an excellent argument that he hasn’t improved in three seasons. His continued call ups to the national team are starting to make less and less sense. We saw last week what a good keeper means to the team. Jon Busch didn’t make any silly mistakes. Jon Busch is one of the best keepers in MLS history and isn’t exactly at retirement age for a goalkeeper yet. Would this game of been different if Busch gets the start?
Joevin Jones and Harry Shipp combine to pull one back. A very nicely worked goal with Jones finding Shipp on a perfectly weighted pass. The Fire’s first goal of the season was a pretty one. Jones calmness on the ball is one of his defining traits. He doesn’t seem to panic and is a composed attacker.
The rest of the first half sees the Fire hold a lot of possession and looking like a composed MLS side for more than just five minute stretches. Eric Gehrig even looked relatively decent after a rather sloppy foul to start the game. He still conceded too much space behind him but he appeared to be more effective going forward in the first half than he was in the entire game last week. He hit an absolutely thunderous header off a set piece that was unfortunately right at the keeper. It still took an exceptional reaction save to keep it out of the net.
Halftime comes. I mute the TV. The Fox marketing machine is ungodly annoying. I am not going to watch your stupid show that isn’t about soccer after your MLS game of the week Fox. The muting allowed me to avoid the Don Garber speech at halftime for the third week in a row. Damn, that dude is everywhere.
The second half gives us the debut of David Accam. He comes on for Jones in a straight swap. Accam getting 45 minutes makes a lot of sense this week. I didn’t like seeing Jones leave the field. I was slightly baffled but maybe there was something that wasn’t right with Joevin.
Accam has an immediate impact. Looks lightning quick on the ball. Relatively strong on the ball as well. Immediately created some opportunities but his lack of playing time with his teammates rises up as an issue as everyone is not on the same page yet. I hate to keep saying that. Unfortunately this continues to be true.
The Fire hold a significant amount of possession in the second half. San Jose looks rather content to just let us probe and find weaknesses. Gehrig has a very positive half as he works well as an offensively fulcrum on the right hand side. We see some slick one touch passing from him linking up with Accam and later Igboananike (who comes on for Stephens). Accam flipped to the left later and was less effective on that side. That had more to do with a lack of service than anything he was doing though. I can see why Yallop likes Gehrig on the right. When his head is in the game he is a solid passer with a good engine who will sacrifice himself for the cause. Defensively he leaves a lot to be desired but he was better this week than he was last.
Guly shows up as the last sub in the 75th minute. Coming on for an openly irritated Quincy. Guly has a productive five minute burst and then proceeds to disappear again. Looking for fouls each time he touches the ball. The whistle never blows. Guly’s age is apparent. He looks like that old man still playing Sunday ball with the young kids and not wanting to get hurt.
The offense becomes more ragged as the match wears on. San Jose starts to control the ball a bit. Kinnear waited to make his subs and he uses all three late. Providing his team with a fresh burst to harass the tired Fire defenders. It certainly helped to disrupt the Fire flow late in the game.
Accam gets free a few times down the left as things enter desperation stage for the Fire. Nothing really comes of them though. Eric Gehrig gets an excellent opportunity and hammers a ball towards goal that Clarence Goodson ably blocks with his posterior. The clock ticks down and the game eventually ends 2-1 as San Jose claim another early season win. The Fire are off to what can only be termed a disastrous start. Again. For the fourth season in a row.
Matt Polster was effective this week much like he was last week. This time going the full ninety even after picking up a yellow in the first half. His tackling technique is excellent. His calm demeanor and good passing vision should make him one to watch as the season progresses. He is in only his second game as a professional so I will try not to get too excited.
Sean Maloney was more effective than last week but faded in the second half again. He hit some solid corners had a few excellent spells showcasing why Yallop was so hot for him. His performances aren’t good enough yet though. He will miss next week on international duty.
Overall this was a good enough performance to steal a point (or even three) in San Jose. Unfortunately our keeper gift wrapped two goals to the opposition. The Fire had long stretches of solid play but were again undone by the rather mundane performance from the bench and lack of team cohesion as they tried to overcome the mistakes that put them two goals down.
Player ratings are below. Episode 72 of the Fuego Cast will drop Wednesday morning. We will have live match thoughts along with the usual huddalis.
Johnson - 2
Gehrig - 5
Adailton - 5
Larentowicz - 5
Palmer - 5
Polster - 5
Jones - 6
Shipp - 6
Maloney - 5
Stephens - 5
Amarikwa - 4
Accam - 5
Igboananike - 4
Guly - 4