It isn't ideal but having a point on the board is definitely a start to getting the season on the right track. On Saturday the offense looked somewhat potent, the midfield organized, and the defense...well the defense was still a mess but we can work on that later. Doling out some respectable ratings is a huge relief, but some serious issues do remain, so let's get into it.
Bill Hamid: 7
Good stuff from Hamid again, saves on Harrison Shipp and Quincy Amarikwa were the highlights of his game. I can't fault him for the two conceded goals. He did get a hand on the Amarikwa equalizer, but that was a tough shot to keep out. Hamid and Perry Kitchen remain the only defensive players who inspire confidence going forward and I fear Hamid may start getting some offers from overseas sooner rather than later.
Sean Franklin: 5
A similar performance to last week from Franklin with marginally better attacking. His linkup play with DeLeon was even better this week, especially in the early stages of the match and I remain confident in his ability to control the ball in the back. However, Franklin still is getting sucked too far inside and conceding space on the flank. Rookie Harrison Shipp often had a luxurious amount of time to pick out men in the box with crosses because Franklin was standing off too far.
Bobby Boswell: 4.5
Same old, same old on the defensive end. Boswell still has very solid aerial skills, which is useful, but yesterday Amarikwa was the main threat and the back line could never quite handle him. At this point I would only select the Boswell-Parke pairing against a lone striker or a particularly slow pairing, otherwise it just isn't worth it.
Jeff Parke: 3.5
Parke gets a point lower rating than Boswell because of his baffling marking skills on Amarikwa's equalizing goal. Not only did he refuse to go with Amarikwa, he also refused to pass his man off to anyone else, leaving a lovely pocket of space--for the Fire. Parke has many of the same flaws as Boswell: too slow to offset the benefit of aerial presence.
I find myself yearning for Chris Korb with each game. The nutmeg on the tying goal was painful to watch and a fitting cap to a game filled with errant passes and ballooning crosses. Once again, it appears the only positive to his game is his propensity to be close to the ball during set pieces. Other then that, Chris Korb should quickly step back into a starting spot whenever he returns from knee surgery. In the meantime, I'd like to see Taylor Kemp given a chance.
Perry Kitchen: 7.5
Kitchen turned in a very solid performance on Saturday, which is great, but will probably convince Ben Olsen that Kitchen as a lone holder is still a valid option tactically. Nevertheless, Kitchen's possession was superb again and it's been awesome to see that part of his game come along. He held down the fort on defense, but as I outlined in the tactical review that was more down to a mixture of the Fire's quality and Luis Silva going off in the first half.
Luis Silva: 6.5
I actually enjoyed Silva's performance a lot and was disappointed when he went out with an injury. I suspect the rating would have been higher if he played more. In his time of the field he did what I'd been hoping to see for a majority a season and that is dominate the game from an attacking sense. Silva overloaded the field in dangerous areas and pulled the Fire center midfielders out of position, something that's absolutely vital for a quality attacking midfielder. Add on top of that his clean passing and you've got a very strong game from Silva. He even had a shot. While the formation still isn't ideal, Silva needs performances like these to keep the offense clicking.
Lewis Neal: 6.5
Typical Lewis Neal. I mean that in a good way. He played within himself, distributed the ball calmly, and picked good moments to come inside and provide an extra option in the midfield. I feel a lot more comfortable with Neal on the wing than Porter or Arnaud, and I hope he starts there going forward if he isn't in the center midfield.
Nick DeLeon: 7
Awesome stuff from Nick yesterday. I saw a more consistent defensive effort than in weeks past and that's crucial with Franklin still looking shaky at times. On the attack DeLeon improved on some of the combinations we saw against Toronto, slipping a lovely ball through for a Eddie Johnson shot on goal and providing the assist on Espindola's scorcher. An involved Nick DeLeon is a better Nick DeLeon and he's one of the biggest reasons for optimism going into next week's match against the Revolution.
Fabian Espindola: 8
After two weeks of bad Espindola, I suppose we deserved some good Espindola. Look back over his best performances in Salt Lake and New York and this is the kind of stuff you'll find. Rampaging around, picking the ball up in wide positions and running at defenders. The free kick was a thing of beauty and perfectly timed after Robbie Mustoe said he'd been sucking at them in practice. The chemistry with Eddie Johnson is still to come (that goes for the rest of the attack too) but it's getting there. Now if we could only get some more of that good Espindola.
Eddie Johnson: 6
Better, honestly, but still in need of refinement and that will be down to the coaching staff and EJ himself. We saw some vintage Eddie Johnson early on but then saw him drop back continuously into the midfield to get the ball. I harped on it in the tactical review. EJ can't keep doing that. He has to stick himself in the box more often. Wandering too far into a midfield has been an issue everywhere he's played. so the coaching staff will have work with him on this. Other than that the success of Johnson is down to the success of the wingers/Silva, so the better they get, the better Johnson will be.
Davy Arnaud: 6.5
We got an extended look at Arnaud in the center midfield today and the results were positive. After two anonymous games on the wing it was good to see some aggression on the ball coupled with some competent defensive work. So long as Chris Pontius remains injured, I wouldn't mind seeing Arnaud in the center mid and Lewis Neal on the wing. It's not glamorous, but it would help our leaky defense.
Jared Jeffrey: 5
Meh. Didn't do much besides spurn a good chance at the top of the box. I like Jeffrey but I prefer Arnaud because he's a little more direct and aggressive. Jeffrey plays a lot like Kitchen, which isn't the worst thing, but it's better to have some balance in styles.
Conor Doyle: 5
Similar to Jeffrey, didn't do anything notable. I'm still unsure of Doyle, he's a smart player but might not have the physical tools necessary to succeed in the MLS. A partnership with Espindola would be interesting and I would like to see that when it comes time to rotate the squad.