After an exciting first half which saw the Houston Dynamo go up 2-0 before Arnaud Souquet headed home to bring some life back into the Fire, an extremely controversial sequence of two potential penalties not being granted to the Fire saw the team’s mentality completely collapse as they proceeded to concede twice more to lose by a margin of 4-1 to signify a defensive disasterclass. Here is a short recap of the Fire’s individual performers.
*Players are listed in the order they lined up, followed by substitutes in the order they appeared
Spencer Richey (5.5) – Having had good performances in the Cup for the Fire so far, Richey got the start once again. Although not completely at fault for any of Houston’s goals, Richey could have possibly done better to parry the ball away from Ibrahim Aliyu before he tapped the ball in for Houston’s third goal. Regardless of his efforts as well, four goals cannot-not hurt a goalkeeper’s rating.
Miguel Ángel Navarro (6) – One of the Fire’s only players who looked anywhere near prepared for this game, Miggy was alright given the circumstances. Left wingback has been a different experience for Navarro compared to playing as a simple left-back, but in this match, the Venezuelan had decent service into the Houston box. Miggy wasn’t nearly as bad as his defensive partners, and that’s about all I got.
Rafael Czichos (5) – In potentially his worst game for the Fire, Czichos was just not up to pace defensively despite his high passing statistics. Czichos didn’t win any tackles, had a single interception, and won 33% of his seven duels. Simply just not good enough from the Fire’s captain, but this form is likely due to the congestion of fixtures for the Fire.
Mauricio Pineda (5.5) – Returning to the side after missing the game against Cincinnati due to a head injury, Mauri did not have the performance he’d have hoped for on his comeback. Similarly to Czichos, Pineda underperformed defensively, only having a single interception and winning a mere 25% of his duels.
Arnaud Souquet (5.5) – Despite scoring the Fire’s lone goal, Souquet simply did not defend well against Houston. Defensive statistics may not show it, but he got exposed often in the first half by Houston’s attack. Credit is due for scoring a solid header, however, he also gave Houston a penalty just 10 minutes in (upon review, the contact seemingly is outside the box). That was a poor showing from the Frenchman. Souquet was substituted for Kendall Burks just after halftime.
Maren Haile-Selassie (6) – As the Fire’s right wingback, Maren hasn’t been providing both the attacking and defending characteristics that make wingbacks so dangerous. Haile-Selassie was good at taking defenders on one-on-one down the line to try and get service in, but when the Fire lost the ball, Maren could not get back in time or deal with attackers running at him. Although he could have done better, the Fire’s recent usage of a 3-4-3 compared to a typical four-back formation shows fairly clearly that Maren is best used as a traditional winger.
Federico Navarro (6) – Navarro hasn’t been known for being a cool-headed player, but recently the midfielder has just been outright sloppy with giving away fouls like they’re candy on Halloween. It is getting to a point where it’s just frustrating because of how often it happens for almost no reason. Besides that note, Fede did not defend well in this outing compared to usual, with his only stats being an interception and two duels won. Fede was swapped with Jairo Torres in the 67th minute.
Gastón Giménez (5) – Similar to Navarro, Gastón was nowhere near up to the mental or physical challenge required of him to put in a positive performance in this match. This was shown when Fede got a yellow card for a stupid challenge, and then Gastón does almost the exact same thing and gets a yellow as well just a minute later. Giménez engaged in a single duel and lost it. That’s all the defending he did in summary. Giménez was substituted for Georgios Koutsias in the 74th minute.
Xherdan Shaqiri (5.5) – Shaq’s best moment came after delivering the cross that found the head of Souquet for the Fire’s only goal, but that was about all the attacker did on the night. Shaqiri looked sluggish and mostly lacking the creativity he has shown as of late, which is something the highest-paid designated player in the league simply should not be able to afford. Should is the keyword.
Brian Gutiérrez (6.5) – You really have to feel for Gutiérrez after referee Marcos Deoliveria simply made one of the worst no-calls I have ever seen. Guti was clearly taken out by Houston’s sliding goalkeeper Andrew Tarbell in the 52nd minute in a 50/50 that saw no contact made with the ball at all, but did no penalty was given. There is no VAR at this stage of the Open Cup, but the infringement was as clear as day and is both an embarrassment that this could happen in the quarter-finals of a tournament, as well as a testament to how bad officiating in American soccer currently is. Time to talk about Guti’s actual performance. He had his moments here and there but was never able to pull something out of his bag of tricks.
Kei Kamara (6.5) – Although Kei wasn’t incredibly dynamic or too much of an offensive threat, he at least brought individual energy that was lacking from about 75% of his teammates. Kamara did have a chance he honestly should have buried though, but a lack of power in his strike made it easy for Houston to clean up, which ultimately cost the Fire later on given they lost by three goals.
Kendall Burks (5) – Coming on for Souquet in the 46th minute, it was a night to forget for Burks as he simply was not up to par with what was demanded of him to keep the Fire in the game. Burks did not post a single positive defensive statistic and got absolutely cooked by Héctor Herrera before Houston’s final goal.
Jairo Torres (5.5) – Jairo came on for Federico Navarro in the 67th minute but did nothing to improve the performance of the Fire’s midfield in this match. Another player lacking a good defensive performance combined with one of the lowest accurate passing percentages from both teams does not suggest Jairo is anywhere near justifying his Designated Player label.
Georgios Koutsias (N/A) – Despite earning enough minutes to be properly rated, Koutsias touched the ball four times total. I don’t think I need to elaborate more on that. Not available.
Frank Klopas (6) – It could have been poor match preparation that saw the Fire lose by this margin, but given how Klopas has gotten the team through two rounds (with one against Saint Louis), I believe that is down to issues on the player’s sides. Regardless, Klopas stuck with his 3-4-3 at halftime despite it not functioning great in the first half, and it looked much better until the head referee had dust in his eyes or blinked too long, or had some other excuse for not giving the Fire a clear penalty in the 52nd minute. Some tactical changes should have come, but I don’t think it’s entirely fair for Klopas to be battered for having to deal with officiating so poorly that it literally changed the entire game.