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Fire Suffer First Loss of 2012 at the Hands of Rapids | Chicago Fire
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DSC_0269-1Fresh off their first victory of 2012 last weekend against Philadelphia, the Chicago Fire traveled to Commerce City, Colorado looking to build on their recent success and keep pace near the top of the Eastern Conference table. The match started out with some early fireworks, as both clubs had a go at net in the opening 15 minutes, but after that the match seemed to slip more and more into Colorado's hands. The Men in Red certainly had their fair share of opportunities to put the ball in the net, but they just couldn't beat keeper Matt Pickens. 

The match went in to halftime drawn at 0, but you had a feeling that the Fire were going to have to seriously pick up their play in order to come away from Colorado with any points. They did neither of those things, and lost 2-0 to a beatable Colorado Rapids squad.

 The most maddening part of the match was where the Fire fell flat. The midfield has been a fairly strong group for this club, especially since the arrival of both Pavel Pardo, and Sebastian Grazzini. I hope that yesterdays performance was the exception and not the rule. 

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Marco Pappa played like the player I used to tee off on regularly last year. He was trying to score heroic goals from 25+ yard shots. He was trying to make Beckham like passes that switch the field and sail 40+ yards in the air. He was the Marco Pappa of old, the guy who had to do it all. It was infuriating, and it left me yelling at the TV - wishing that we had sold him to FC Twente when the rumors were swirling about.

The Pappa play was not all that surprising, we've gotten used to those kinds of things from him. What really shocked me was the play of Sebastian Grazzini. Since his arrival in Chicago last summer, Seba has been a magician in the midfield. Creating space with his passes, carving up midfielders and defenders, and his overall ability to pass or shoot, depending on the situation. He looked lost yesterday. He was slow to get to balls. He was slow to get on the end of great passes from some of his teammates. He was just plain slow. He looked confused, like it was the first time he had ever played with this club. I hope that he finds his old form soon, because we can't afford to have 2 Marco Pappa's out there. 

As bad as those two midfield performances were, there was one worse. Rafael Robayo made his first start for the Men in Red, and you could've fooled me. I don't remember seeing him more than two or three times with the ball, and I don't remember hearing his name called at all. (The game was in spanish, which could explain that) He had no impact on the game, and contributed nothing to help push his club forward. He really needs to do better with the opportunities he's given. With Pardo, Pause, Grazzini, and Pappa, Robayo isn't going to get many starts - he needs to prove he deserves them.

Most surprising of all, Paolo Tornaghi had a poor game as well. His backline didn't do him any favors last night, but he gave up WAY too many rebounds. It seemed like every time he made a great save, there was a rebound to be had and it took some heroic movement from one of his defenders to clear the danger. At one point, the camera spent an awful lot of time focusing on Pavel Pardo's fit of rage - which was presumably directed toward Tornaghi. 

Of course, Tornaghi is a rookie, and we've been treated to something pretty special during his first two matches, this kind of hiccup was bound to happen. I expect we'll see Sean Johnson back in net in two weeks, and Tornaghi will return to the bench and reserve matches where he can practice his technique and be ready to step up and provide those solid results when called on again.

All in all, it was a terrible performance by the Fire, and the film from this match will provide head man Frank Klopas with plenty to work on in training over the next two weeks.

Next up: Houston Dynamo @ Toyota Park (4/15 6PM)