Fighting spirit not enough for Fire

Fire rally, but struggle to defend Houston's set pieces

 

Halting a four-game unbeaten run is painful enough, but when a good run of form is snapped despite scoring three goals in a road game, that really hurts.

The Fire’s streak came to a grinding halt Saturday night, when they fell to the Houston Dynamo, 4-3, at Robertson Stadium.

WATCH: Full match highlights

“Obviously it’s disappointing to lose when you get three goals on the road,” Fire technical director Frank Klopas said. “If you would have told me before [the game that] we would score three goals, I would have guaranteed you we would’ve walked away with points.”

Down 3-1 after 59 minutes, the Fire were given new life in the 70th, when Houston defender Bobby Boswellknocked a Freddie Ljungberg ball into his own net. Chicago defender Wilman Conde headed in a Ljungberg corner kick to tie the game at 3-3.

But there was still time to find a winner, and that’s exactly what Houston forward Brian Ching did in the 85th, heading home a corner kick to complete his hat trick and hand Houston the win.

All four Dynamo goals came via set pieces.

“We defended poorly on set pieces today and they punished us,” Fire winger Patrick Nyarko said. “That was their strength, we talked about it, but unfortunately we couldn’t hold our heads up and defend… We got to go back to the drawing board.”

The match started poorly for the Fire, who looked tired after Wednesday night’s hard-fought 2-1 win over New England.

“In the first half you could tell that we played a game midweek,” Klopas said. “We were a little bit sluggish, not very good with the ball and we had problems in the middle.”

Halftime saw head coach Carlos de los Cobos bring Calen Carr on for the unfit Nery Castillo. The Fire attacked more vigorously after Carr’s introduction, but any hopes of a quick equalizer were extinguished when Lovel Palmer smashed home from a well-worked free kick in the 50th.

The Fire increased their urgency after Palmer’s strike and halved their deficit when Carr finished nicely in the 55th. But Ching immediately cancelled out Carr’s strike, giving the Dynamo a 3-1 with a fantastic bicycle kick in the 59th.

Nyarko came on for Brian McBride in the 60th. His introduction pushed the Fire’s attack into high gear. The Ghanaian winger – who played at forward on Saturday – pressured Boswell before the veteran defender scored his own goal.

Pushed on by Nyarko, Carr, and Ljungberg, the Fire continued to press until Conde equalized in the 81st. The Colombian’s goal demonstrated good fighting spirit from the Fire, something both Klopas and Nyarko noted after the match.

“I thought the guys really responded well when we went down,” Nyarko said. “Everyone pushed hard, everyone fought for each other and we got back in the game. The subs made a push and some of the starters picked up their game and we came back from the two goal deficit… I liked the fighting spirit of our guys today.”

Of course, fighting spirit doesn’t earn anyone any points, and the Fire – while they’re able to take solace in their comeback – will ultimately view Saturday’s match as a missed opportunity.