Coming into this season, the back line was an area of concern, especially the center backs. The positioning, vision and pace of our center backs was noticeably poor – particularly in the case of David Horst. Jermaine Taylor had enough about him to be okay with the right partner, but Horst was a disaster waiting to happen. The only option off the bench in the early going was rookie A.J. Cochran, which was not a fantastic option. Anthony Arena was on loan with Pittsburgh and Eric Brunner was recovering from injury.
Employing such an attack oriented offense increased the risk that we could be exposed early and often. While we had a defensive oriented center midfield with Ricardo Clark and Luis Garrido, they were pushed a bit further up the pitch rather than a more defensive approach of having them sit just in front of the back 4. Clark was given essentially box-to-box midfielder instructions while Garrido was set up as more of a deep lying playmaker.
Therefore, it was a considerable surprise when we only allowed an average of 1.0 goals per game over our first 4 matches of the season. However, Taylor and Horst were working well together – they made mistakes but were generally able to recover, and when they weren’t they had Tally Hall to cover their mistakes.
We took our excellent record up to New England on April 12th and our luck started to change.
4/12/14: at New England Revolution
For 73 minutes, our ecstasy over the quick early season start reached new heights. On the road, we went up 3-0 through goals from Giles Barnes, Jermaine Taylor and Oscar Boniek Garcia. Then, unexpectedly but perhaps not surprisingly, the wheels fell off.
The Revs made it 3-1 in the 74′ courtesy of Jermaine Jones. A laser strike by Lee Nguyen in the 83′ minute made it 3-2 and we bunkered in, trying to keep hold of the match. Nevertheless, in the 90th minute a Scott Caldwell golazo leveled the match. We had conceded three goals in the span of 16 minutes and wasted two precious points. Yes, a draw meant a point for us on the road, but it could have been so much more. Moreover, a disappointing result like this could be damaging to morale and lead to more poor results.
Video highlights of our collapse (much better quality than previous videos) are below:
4/19/2014: at Philadelphia Union
When we traveled to face Philadelphia a week later, there appeared to be no lingering hangover from our collapse against New England. We jumped out to a 2-0 1st half lead through a goal from Barnes in the 9′ and Boniek Garcia in the 29′.
Suddenly, though, we were back to collapses as Cristian Maidana pulled Philadelphia to within one in the 42′ and Sébastien Le Toux equalized in the 48′. Boniek came through for us, however, just a minute later and I began to think all was right with the world. Those hopeful feelings came to a crashing end in the 81′ when Michael Lahoud knotted up the match once more. We hung on for another disappointing draw after a collapse.
4/23/14: at New York Red Bulls
Things went from bad to worse in a match where we were clearly the better team. An incredible Tally Hall own goal put us in a hole in the 25′, but we rebounded in the 2nd half through Brad Davis (46′) and Will Bruin (62′). The wheels came off once more, though, only this time we would not pull out a draw. Damien Perrinelle (65′) and Peguy Luyindula (87′) made sure we went home empty handed and with our 3rd straight late collapse.
4/27/14: Portland Timbers
A return to BBVA Compass Stadium ordinarily would have been just what we needed, however morale was low following three straight collapses and it was an abject performance that saw us easily beaten by the Timbers, 3-0. We were dominated start to finish with Portland recording 20 shots, 12 on target and 10 clear cut chances to our 9 shots, 1 on target, 1 clear cut chance. The goals came from Khalif Alhassan (47′), Darlington Nagbe (61′) and Gastón Fernandez (73′).
5/3/14: at Chivas USA
Not even a trip to Los Angeles to face Chivas USA could turn things around for us. Erick Torres scored in 1st half stoppage time and Leandro Berrera (55′) doubled the lead. An 81′ goal by Omar Cummings gave us a glimmer of hope, but Oswaldo Minda made sure of the result in the 87′ minute. Three straight defeats, six without a win, and we were sinking fast.Credit: Football Manager 15
Giles Barnes’ heat map and average position (to the right) is indicative of our issues in this one. Average position way to deep, far too much time spent in our own half.
5/7/14: Columbus Crew
A return home to face Columbus just served to further exacerbate our issues. We jumped out to another 3-0 1st half lead with a pair of Will Bruin goals (1′, 30′) sandwiched around a Giles Barnes goal (28′).
Keen to hold on to this lead, we went with a more defensive oriented set-up in the 2nd half. It would come back to bite us as the momentum completely switched and Columbus found plenty of joy in front of the net. Federico Higuain (52′), Ethan Finlay (64′) and Abdoulaye Faye (69′) extended our misery. The only positive was that we ended our losing streak and picked up a point. We had big issues, though, and they needed to get sorted fast before we sank into oblivion.
Of course, if we didn’t get things sorted then I might find myself on the job hunt once again….