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Wednesday, May 22

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Soccer Thu Nov 01 2012

Playoff Loss To Dynamo Ends Fire Season

The Fire's return to the MLS playoffs lasted only a little more than 90 minutes. Wednesday night, in front of a home crowd, they lost 2-1 to the Houston Dynamo in a single elimination game to finish their season. It's a very disappointing end to a season that was so full of promise that it was easy to forget it was actually a rebuilding year. The focus of the off-season should be to keep the core of players together and get them a little more prepared for playoff soccer.

The playoffs are about peaking at the right time and the Fire didn't do that. I'm not sure if the Fire went winless in three games all season, but 2012 ended with a loss to New England, a tie against DC, and the loss to Houston. In the opening 20 minutes against Houston, they didn't quite look sharp enough for the playoffs. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson had too many nervy moments, they weren't as quick in the tackle as Houston, and though they managed to get behind Houston's fullbacks, they were too hesitant in executing their chances.

Houston, on the other hand, is developing a reputation as the quintessential playoff team. It showed last night. During the opening stages they were fiercely competitive on 50/50s, the center of their defense was a big orange wall, and their set plays are among the best in the league. Seriously, I'd put Brad Davis' left-footed delivery up against David Beckham's right any day.

So, it was not surprising when Will Bruin scored from a Davis corner kick in the 12th minute though it was frustrating that the goal came thanks largely to Jalil Anibaba slipping while he was marking Bruin. From there, it was an uphill battle for the Fire. Frank Klopas made a substitution at halftime, taking out captain Logan...Pause for a more attacking midfielder in Alex. It almost instantly backfired, as a Gonzalo Segares clearance ricocheted off a Houston player to a free Calen Carr in midfield. He quickly slotted it through to Bruin, who finished off for his second goal of the night.

Would ...Pause's more defensive positioning and ability to read the game have slowed that play down? It's tough to say, and you can't fault Klopas for making an attack-minded substitution. But it was certainly a night where everything that could go wrong for the Fire did.

From there, the Fire sent wave after wave of attacks at Houston. Unfortunately, they must have lost the coin toss and had to spend the second half attacking the goal in front of an empty "Miller Light Party Deck." In situations like this, I wish Section 8 could just up and switch sides of the field, or at least join in with the smaller Sector Latino supporter's group in the Southwest corner. The Fire needed a crowd to roar them on as they poured on the pressure. They got a few guys waving towels.

Still, the Fire never quit fighting and never gave up on any play. They managed to get one goal back through Alex, and gave Houston a few scares during the last ten minutes, but it wasn't quite enough to beat a Houston team that comes alive in the playoffs.

Soccer is a cruel, cruel game. A slip here, a ball bounces off someone's shin the wrong way there, and the season is over. That shouldn't take away from the fact that after two poor seasons, the Fire started moving in the right direction this year. With more time together, they are only going to get better.

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Tally Hall / November 1, 2012 2:58 PM

No mention of Tally? Seriously, who names their kid Tally?

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