Postmortem: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

Patrick Nyarko and the Fire: So close, but still miles away...

Patrick Nyarko and the Fire: So close, yet still miles away… (photo: chicago-fire.com)

OTF’s Shane Nicholson would have rather covered a win. But alas, those are hard to come by in 2013…

Chances, chances, chances. How many can one team fluff?

Credit where it’s due to the man MacMath between the sticks for the Union on Saturday, but my god. Professional footballers should be able to find the back of the net given the sorts of opportunities the Fire created at the weekend.

As it were, the broken record continues round: the Fire just are not very good at this sport. It may be a class wally ball organization, or maybe we’ve got a good ping-pong squad in there, but this whole football bit is escaping the vast majority of our side.

Just to take stock in the most simple terms available: the lone goalscorer for Philly, Jack McInerney, has outscored the Fire for this season. We don’t do scoring goals.

Nor do we do defending set pieces. Lapses on free kicks have been as common this season as the sight of empty blue seats at Toyota Park, and Saturday gave us the finest example yet. What should have been a rather routine free kick from the halfway line turned into a comedy of errors for the Fire’s back line as Sebastian Le Toux had a quickie and took advantage of a gap between Jalil Anibaba and Austin Berry wide enough that you could’ve landed a plane in it.

The official match report says the kick was deftly played in behind our defense; that’s a homerism if there ever was one. 

No. The backline went to sleep and McInerney ran over/around/through as a man with a half-dozen goals on the season coming in would be keen on doing, and slotted home comfortably past Sean Johnson.

0-1, and you just knew it was over.

Not that we didn’t get a warning shot as to Anibaba’s level of attention four minutes into the tie, when he gifted possession to the Union inside his own half and Danny Cruz nearly put his side ahead before we’d even gotten all the wrapping off of this round of play.

Mercifully, our own regular “striker” missed this affair with strep throat. I’d hate to think how much more miserable it would’ve been to watch with Sherjill MacDonald pissing away opportunity after opportunity and getting bossed off the ball like a man half his size.

Instead, we were treated to a pairing of Chris Rolfe and Patrick Nyarko up front and there were actual signs of life for a bit. That Danny Paladini effort came from a good bit of work by Nyarko on the left to find Rolfe lurking in the six-yard box. His blocked “shot” fell to Paladini, who hammered straight at Macmath instead of looking for a corner, any corner, to place the ball in the net. Wells Thompson’s follow-up nearly became an own goal, but it was not to be.

Joel Lindpere’s strike in the 37th minute simply should not have been. How many looks at a goal do you need before you decide you might like to put the ball in there, Mr. Rolfe? How many different ways can you take away space created by the runs of Mr. Nyarko? When someone does all the work and lays it on a platter for you, shoot the goddamn ball and mean it. Instead, we were treated to a layoff pass to Lindpere deep in the left channel, and from an angle and distance he was never going to score from.

Out of the half, Nyarko again was the spark, cracking the post just a couple minutes in. It was the one kind of pretty passing movement of the game and it nearly resulted in that rarest of moments – a Chicago Fire goal.

And from there it just kind of went to shit. Nyarko had a chance on 69 minutes that saw him one-on-one with MacMath, dragging a defender on his heels. Nothing doing.

A few minutes later Philly found the goal that would give them the three points. You sat and watched the seconds tick away, knowing there wasn’t really a chance in hell Chicago would find a goal to level this one up.

This is the part where I had all my graphs and heat maps and everything ready to go for some big tactical analysis, but seeing as I don’t have any current coaching badges I’m told that’s not kosher. Besides, the men paid to be coaches by the team don’t seem to look at any of that shit anyway, so why should I waste my time?

Positives

The Dutchman didn’t play, and all it took was a fucking virus for him to be benched. For the love of God, keep him there, Klopas. Please.

Nyarko looked lively, but of course, no one on this team actually remembers what it feels like to score a goal, so it was never going to happen.

But look on the bright side: We get to do it all over again with the same team next week!

Negatives

We get to do it all over again with the same team next week!

Let’s be honest, our point tally in the second week of May is still a number AP style says you need to spell out. That’s not good. We’ve taken seven points from 27. That’s not good. We’ve scored six goals in nine matches, and our goal differential is -9. That’s not good. Sherjill MacDonald. That’s not good. In the futility department, there is only one other team (D.C. United) that’s got us beat.

That’s not good.

Chris Rolfe… I’m just… What the hell’s going on?! He’s had nearly double the shots of anyone else on the team, of which a whole four have found the target, and one has crossed the line. And more than a couple of those shots that didn’t make it through have led to counterattacks for the other side. He’s supposed to be the old man up front for us, guiding hand, all that. He’s got to start playing the part, because right now all he’s doing is a bad Kenny Miller impression. Running a lot and muddying up space in the opposition area just isn’t good enough for him.

On the other hand, we have Maicon Santos, who I’m told can’t run for 90 minutes and therefore shouldn’t start, though MacDonald’s not run for 90 minutes this entire campaign put together and still creeps into the starting XI every week. Santos has cracked 14, five on target, two found the net. That’s actually not a bad conversion rate right there. He’s looked lively, he’s looked like he knows where the football is supposed to end up, and he’s caused trouble for defenses over and over. But somehow, Santos has been handsomely rewarded with a section on the bench named after him.

And then there were the fans – 12,205 announced, of which 8,000 must have gotten to their seats, realized what they were about to see, and left before the cameras were turned on. That was dire. To the constant excuse brigade, please inform me what the competition was today? What was driving people away from Toyota Park to other parts of town? Cold weather’s gone, it wasn’t raining, and there wasn’t really anything else going on to keep people away besides the knowledge they would be going to see some fuck awful football.

We kept being told, “Wait til the weather turns, then people will be in the seats.”

Where are they?

That was a sad, embarrassing sight on a nationally televised game on a Saturday afternoon. Something has to be done to start getting people into that ground.

And if I may just toss in an idea on that, supporters groups are great and fun and can really do a lot to improve the mood and spirit in a stadium. Or, they can recycle a handful of chants, have horns blaring 60 minutes out of a game, and throw shit onto the playing surface. 

I wouldn’t want to pay to sit and have to listen/watch that for two hours either, so I guess I can’t blame some casuals opting for a day at the museums rather than a trip out to Bridgeview. Manufactured atmosphere feels manufactured. I think there needs to be a step back and a look at what’s going on in the north end of the stadium, because right now, outside the tifos, it’s pretty meh.

That aside, ultimately it’s going to be good football and a winning side that will hopefully get more people out and the ground rocking. Sadly, there are no signs of that coming anytime soon. The slow bleed’s going to continue. At least next week it’ll be someone we’re all quite familiar with doing the bloodletting.

Contributing writer Shane Nicholson is the founder and Executive Editor of TheCoplandRoad.org – He drinks a lot, has a beard, and lives in Rockford. You can find him on Twitter at @ofvoid

3 thoughts on “Postmortem: Chicago Fire vs. Philadelphia Union

  1. Pretty sad summary – but true. Damn ugliest game I’ve seen in literally decades. It’s games like this that have me questioning if the caliber of league play is as good as I thought. Ugly futbol in a beautiful stadium will always result in empty seats. Somebody better start to worry about winning because without that you will never solve the empty seat situation. Very sad state of affairs with this club.

  2. Pingback: Reports & reaction as Zac & Mac get it done in Chicago, HCI & Reading win, more

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