Sounder at Heart: Is this the make or break match for the Fire's attempt at a Playoff spot?
I'm not sure and that's more because I think the Fire might already be done. To get 42 points, the Fire must finish 5-1-1 against SEA, SJ, FCD, C-BUS, KC, DC & CUSA. Anything less than 4-1-2 and the Fire have less than 40 points – the historical borderline for entry into the MLS Cup playoffs.
Even if the Fire get 40-42 points, we would need Seattle to get less than 4-6 points in their final 5 games, San Jose to get less than 4-6 points in their last 7 games, Kansas City to get less than 7-9 points in their last 6 games, and Toronto FC to get less than 9-11 points in their last 5 games. Any two of those teams pull that off, and it doesn't matter what the Fire do barring an incredible run of 6 or 7 wins.
I guess you could say that if we give even a point to Seattle tomorrow we are down for the count but I think we are already on life support. The only thing keeping us alive is the distance between now and the end of the season. I believe only D.C. United are ‘eliminated from the playoffs’ so far but we know a couple of other teams have no real shot. Sadly I think Chicago is in that category already.
S@H: When Chicago went a new direction in coaching there was some surprise that they went for foreign leadership. Has this been the issue, or is more about the amount of time it takes to install a new system?
Anyone who wants to see long extended thoughts on this can check out my post last week titled 'These Things Take Time'. I don't think coach Carlos de los Cobos has had any ‘foreign’ problems, just regular first year coach things. He brought in a couple of players from his old team (El Salvador National Team), he tired players in new roles to see how they played, and he made 'tough coach' moves like benching Collins John after he looked great in the LA Galaxy away game because John complained about how hard practices were on Twitter.
Both of the players that CDLC brought in, Julio Martinez and Deris Umanzor, have had little playing time and almost no impact. Julio Martinez is not even with the team anymore. I think every player on the team except for C.J. Brown and Brian McBride have played in an unfamiliar position at some point. It is hard for players to get connections going when their role is constantly changing and the players around them are rotating. Collins John was just starting to light it up and gain confidence and CDLC benches him because he can’t think of any other way to make an example? None of these paint the coach in a good light but I do think he has a decent defense.
The game plan for the Fire was to have Brian McBride and Collins John pair up top. McBride has really fallen off from where he was even last year and Collins John was out in May and June with a stomach issue. Our backup forward Calen Carr was injured all season until the August 18th game against New England. The 4th string forward Stefan Dimitrov was released this summer despite our thin front line… that tells you his quality. Throw in the trades of Justin Mapp and Tim Ward, the release of Jon Busch to begin the season, the acquisitions of Nery Castillo, Freddie Ljungberg, and Gonzalo Segares mid-season, and there just might have been too much change for any coach to overcome. I have supported all of those player moves and I think they set us up very well for the future but it is possible they were made at the expense of the 2010 campaign. Some of these moves might fall more on CDLC than technical director Frank Klopas (the Jon Busch debacle being one of them) but that is a debate for another time.
S@H: What is the biggest weakness you see on this year's Fire?
Chicago leads the league in goals given up in the last 15 minutes of matches. The worst part about it is they have given points to most of the teams they are chasing because of this fault. San Jose Earthquakes stole a 2-1 win in the 82nd minute in the Fire home opener on April 10th. Conor Casey stoppage time header on June 11th gave Colorado a 2-2 draw instead of Fire three points. You are well aware of the stoppage time header by Fredy Montero on August 29th to give Seattle a 2-1 win. That right there is 5 points lost for the Fire and 6 points in favor of the teams they are chasing. If you go down the schedule, Maicon Santos 76th minute header to give Chivas a 1-1 tie, Kei Kamara in the 89th minute to give KC a 2-2 tie, Brian Ching in the 85th minute to give Houston a 4-3 win, and an Omar Gonzalez header in the 90th minute to give Los Angeles a 1-1 tie. They have been snatching defeat from the jaws of victory all season long.
Giving goals up late seems like one of those intangibles you can’t put a finger on but I think there are a couple of things going on here. First, I would blame the lack of consistency in the lineup. Coach’s desire, injuries, what you have you, the back line has not been able to build up a trust of one another. Instead of feeding off one another and knowing their roles, two defenders go for the most threatening player leaving someone else open, the goaltender doesn’t come out when he should, the defense falls back when they should press because they don’t trust the goalie, etc. These are the things that anyone might bring up and I’ll tell you as an observer of this team I have seen all of those happen this year and worse.
The other thing to consider is that Collins John might be right about how difficult practice is. Among the fans who attend practice on a regular basis, there is a consensus that the practices in the World Cup break seemed a little tougher than usual. I’m sure Carlos de los Cobos was just try ing to keep them in game shape but he might have gone too far. CDLC hasn’t coached a club team since 2006 and before that hadn’t coached one since 2003. Don’t forget that we hired him away from the El Salvador national team. It is quite likely that his training regiment for a long season is out of tune with what is actually needed.
I imagine the debate of ‘too much training’ and ‘not enough communication’ will go on all off-season but the debate on Carlos de los Cobos may be a very short one. I personally wouldn’t mind seeing him back as the head coach next year. He seems like a smart guy and I think he could learn from his mistakes. However, the El Salvadoran team wants him back to coach their team and he has people calling for his head here in the states. He might decide he would rather go back to a safe position than stay here where he could be fired after a couple of games in 2011.