BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — Walking back to his Toyota Park office after seeing his team give up a 91st minute goal to disappointingly tie the Colorado Rapids 2-2 at Toyota Park Wednesday night, Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos slammed the side of his closed right fist against a cement wall.
But the normally calm de los Cobos didn’t just show his frustration physically. He slammed his team verbally too.
“We are frustrated because in the last minutes we lose two points, two very important points,” de los Cobos said. “We are not learning. We are not learning the lessons of soccer that we need to learn. If you lose concentration one second, you have a problem.”
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“We have three points in our pockets and we lose two points [that are] very important to us… The players need to play very concentrated, be very alert all the time, all the minutes. The last minutes are the most important minutes in the game, and we are not learning the situation.”
But anyone would be upset after giving up a stoppage-time equalizer. What really set Wednesday’s game apart for de los Cobos and several of his Fire players was the fact that the Fire dominated the match for large stretches. The team looked good in possession, created numerous chances, improved their finishing, and – on the whole – defended pretty well.
The Fire played especially well in the first half. Not only did the team score both their goals in the opening frame, but also the defense was stout. Outside of Omar Cummings’s 21st minute goal (which was caused by center back Wilman Conde unluckily falling over while he was in possession), the Rapids didn’t register another shot on goal in the first 45.
Colorado really struggled to create any rhythm, much less control possession, in the Fire’s end, something that can be credited to the high line – and subsequent high pressure defense – the Chicago back four took.
“The team played good in the first half,” de los Cobos said. “We have much time on the ball, we get the ball very good, we move the ball very good, and we create options.”
But that line, so advanced in the first half, dropped back in the second. As a result, Colorado had more of the ball, created more chances, took more shots (8 in the second compared to 3 in the first) and ultimately equalized.
The Fire players were at a loss as to why they dropped the line in the second half.
“We dropped and tried to catch them on the counter, which was a huge mistake,” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said. “It was nothing from the coach, he didn’t tell us to drop off we just did it as a team and that wasn’t a smart idea.”
But even with the line drop, the Fire looked like they had the three points in the bag. But the Fire lost their concentration – yet again – at the worst possible time.
With the score 2-1 and only one minute and 15 seconds left in stoppage time, Fire center back Wilman Conde lost Colorado forward Conor Casey at the back post. Substitute Rapids midfielder Jamie Smith played a dangerous cross in from the right flank and Casey knocked his free header in from 8 yards out, sending the Toyota Park crowd of 13,607 home disappointed.
“[Smith] cut it in, serves a very good ball and we just flat out didn’t mark up,” Fire keeper Andrew Dykstra said. “The left back was missing, Conde didn’t make the play and it’s just ... I don’t know what. I got to look at film, maybe there’s something different I could’ve done but that’s just a mental lapse. That’s just mental toughness. You got to stick it out in the last couple minutes, bottom line. There’s no excuse no reason for it, you just got to dig in and have to want it.”
So close to their second straight victory, the Fire now head into their two-and-a-half week World Cup break on a less positive note. They would have liked to end the first third of their season with a win, but the reality dictated something different. All Chicago can do now is regroup and get ready for a summer chock full of soccer.
“[We have to] try and refocus,” Fire forward Brian McBride said. “We have a little break; I think it’ll be good. It would have been nice to go into this break with the win with two wins at our back, but that didn’t happen.”