Fire salvage draw, but winless streak hits 9
Fire defender Cory Gibbs' 80th-minute header salvaged a 2-2 draw against the San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday in front of 11,926 at Toyota Park. But Chicago's winless streak reached nine games (0-4-5 during that stretch), leaving them at 1-4-6 overall.
"Right now we're not getting results," Fire captain Logan Pause said. "Listen, let's be honest. One win out of 11 is not good enough, and we know that."
Gibbs' diving header struck just inside the near right post to equalize the match. Baggio Husidic sent the ball in from the right side, and Gibbs dove straight forward. Former Fire and current Quakes goalkeeper Jon Busch was trying to cover the near right post, but he could not get there in time. Gibbs ripped off his shirt in celebration, taking a yellow card in the process.
Dominic Oduro also scored for the Fire, posting the 100th regular-season goal in team history.
Both Fire goals came after Chicago fell behind on two different occasions in the second half. Ramiro Corrales and Chris Wondolowski netted goals to garner 1-0 and 2-1 leads, respectively, for the Quakes.
"We are not focused in important moments of the games," Fire head coach Carlos de los Cobos said. "A dead ball, a set piece we conceded a goal in the first minutes of the second half. That is a very important moment for us to lose focus."
The Quakes (3-4-4) looked like they had the upper hand following Wondolowski's tally in the 74th minute. Wondolowski, who will be joining the U.S. National Team for the CONCACAF Gold Cup, headed the ball inside the far left post. He had plenty of space to receive the ball from Anthony Ampaipitakwong, and Yamith Cuesta did not get back in time to mark up Wondolowski.
"He wasn't marked," Gibbs said. "I think Cuesta didn't know that he was in front of him or whatever the situation. I was on the front side of him covering the space for the cross, and [Wondolowski] was open. You can't do that. Those are the things you need to tighten up on specifically. We can get specific and say, 'How should we have organized it?' At some point we need to take ownership and step up to it and just play focused."
Corrales got the Quakes on the board with a header off of an Ampaipitakwong corner for a 1-0 lead. Corrales rose above a couple of Fire players -- Cristian Nazarit being the closest. He sent the ball into the right side of the net past Fire goalkeeper Sean Johnson, who was making his first start since a 4-2 loss to the Portland Timbers on April 14.
Oduro leveled the match at 1-1 in the 56th minute. Nazarit took the initial shot, which grazed off of Quakes defender Steven Beitashour and hit the left post, then ricocheted and hit the right post -- incredibly reminiscent of a sixth-minute strike by Diego Chaves that also hit both posts. In this case, however, the ball dropped into the middle of the goal area and Oduro was there to clean up for the tally.
Analysis: Only one win is in the books through 11 games -- almost a third of the 2011 season. The team preaches "baby steps" and "improvements," but clearly it is not showing on the scoreboard, where it matters most.
The Fire posted a 0-1-3 record in May, a month that included a majority of teams at the bottom halves of their respective conferences. The schedule only gets harder, and the Fire will be without midfielder Marco Pappa, who will represent Guatemala in the Gold Cup and miss a couple of Fire matches.
Chicago had a reasonable first-half performance on Saturday, but the defensive effort was a letdown after the break. Allowing San Jose's leading scorer, Wondolowski, to have significant space is not acceptable for a team that is struggling to simply stay afloat in the Eastern Conference.
Is there a breaking point where the Fire will resort to significant changes personnel-wise, or coaching-wise? Is there a point where the patience has worn thin?
Chicago already has a double-digit points deficit behind the East-leading Philadelphia Union (20), which is playing in only its second season. Pending a total reversal of fortune and results, the Fire are well on their way to a second straight playoff-less campaign.