An already disappointing week was made that much worse Saturday night as the Fire stumbled to a disheartening 2-0 defeat to rivals New England at Gillette Stadium. Kelyn Rowe and Benny Feilhaber both scored goals within five minutes of each other in the second half, condemning the Fire to a third defeat in the span of just seven days.
A sloppy first half saw Gonzalo Segares double his scoring tally for the season, but his header from Pavel Pardo’s free-kick came back off the right post for what was either team’s best opportunity so far. After the break, Dominic Oduro also struck the woodwork with a header as the Fire came out of the traps committed to breaking the deadlock. Unfortunately for the men in red, the match turned on its head as Feilhaber found substitute Rowe in far too much space, allowing the Revolution to open the scoring against the run of play. In similar circumstances, Feilhaber doubled the home side’s lead as Rowe turned scorer to provider in the 73rd minute. Even the much anticipated return of Chris Rolfe – who came on seconds before the Revs’ opener – couldn’t prevent the Fire from slipping to a second consecutive MLS defeat and a fourth loss in five matches.
Defensive frailties – Midway through the first half I found myself reflecting on how well Jalil Anibaba and rookie Austin Berry had done to fill in the void at CB. However, midway through the second half I found myself ruing the absence of Cory Gibbs and Arne Friedrich. Anibaba and Berry have performed well at times, but Saturday’s defeat made in painfully obvious just how much the Fire miss the experience of Friedrich and Gibbs. With Gibbs most likely out for the entire season, Fire fans can only hope Friedrich recovers from a hamstring injury as quickly as possible to avoid more results like this.
Target man – Orr Barouch was handed a rare start up front for the Fire as Oduro was assigned to a role on the right wing. Meanwhile, Federico Puppo found himself dropped to the bench following the team’s shocking defeat to the Michigan Bucks in midweek. For the most part, Barouch was relatively ineffective throughout the match, particularly with his link-up play between the midfield. His best contribution arrived immediately after the break when his knocked down a cross with his head into the path of Oduro, although the Ghanaian’s header ended up bouncing off the far post. Despite being positioned on the wing, Oduro remained the Fire’s most dangerous player. Regardless, the Fire need more reinforcements up front, and they need them soon.
Uncharacteristic – Gonzalo Segares has always been one of the most consistent performers for the Fire and has made the left-back position his own over the past few years. Even after a defeat, it’s very rare to fault Sega for his performance. Saturday night was an exception, however. The Fire defender looked good when going forward, but defensively it wasn’t one of his best performances this season. He was beaten by Rowe on a few occasions and had to be bailed out by a superb stop by Sean Johnson, before being beaten again in the build-up to the Revolution’s opening goal. And as for Feilhaber’s goal, a combination of mistakes paved the way for the New England DP to score but an out-of-position Sega was one of them.
Hopefully we’ll see Segares, as well as the rest of the team, bounce back in two weeks when the Fire host the New York Red Bulls. After four defeats in five matches, a two break could be exactly what this team needs… as well as another striker, perhaps?