Early goal sets tone in frustrating playoff exit for Fire
By Seth Gruen For Sun-Times Media October 31, 2012 11:30PM
Adam Moffat, Chris Rolfe
Updated: December 2, 2012 2:23PM
Through the three days of training the Fire had to prepare for Wednesday night’s play-in game against the Houston Dynamo at Toyota Park, it seemed as if they were excited for their first playoff appearance in two seasons.
But once they took the field, the team seemed overcome by jitters that it could not shake.
The Fire was poor in possession from the kickoff and gave up a set-piece goal from which they were never able to recover in a 2-1 loss to the Dynamo that ended their season. Midfielder Logan Pause thought it came down to which team got the breaks.
“This group was more than ready, more than focused for tonight and excited about the opportunity,” Pause said. “When it comes down to a game of inches, whether it’s for you or it’s against you, it’s tough fighting down two goals.”
Through the first 60 minutes, nearly every member of the Fire seemed to struggled with their touch on the ball.
Will Bruin scored twice for the Dynamo, in the 13th and 46th minutes. The first of his two goals came when he headed a corner kick by Brad Davis just inside the near post.
Fire defender Jalil Anibaba was marking Bruin, but slipped as the Dynamo striker was making his run, leaving him wide open.
The second goal came in the opening seconds of the second half. Fellow Dynamo striker Calen Carr split defenders Austin Berry and Gonzalo Segares, giving him a clean path to the goal.
At halftime, Fire coach Frank Klopas subbed out defensive-minded holding midfielder and captain Pause for Alex, who is known for his creative abilities in the offensive third of the field.
While the substitution is one Klopas has made several times this season when his team has struggled on the offensive end, the move might have come slightly early.
A weaker defensive midfield allowed Carr the space to take his time in getting the ball to Bruin. Alex did justify the substitution when he scored in the 83rd minute.
That provided some late-game drama, but the Fire was unable to capitalize, creating several chances in stoppage time.
“It’s really sad for me, and everybody showed a good effort,” center back Arne Friedrich said. “I tried to push the game [offensively] as well, but this is soccer and everybody is really disappointed now because just one game and everything is over.”