Dispatch: Chicago Fire (1) vs. New England Revolution (1)
OTF contributor T.J. Zaremba brings you “the Seinfeld Game”…
As I left Toyota Park Saturday afternoon after Chicago Fire tied the MLS record for consecutive ties, I thought of Seinfeld. Much like the game I witnessed, Seinfeld was a show about nothing. After I returned home, I hoped watching the game on TV would change my opinion. It did not. There is nothing to take away from this game that is new. In fact, what I saw will, I think, be the theme for this season: nothing very good, nothing very bad, just average.
Like the previous home game versus the Union, the Fire left two points on the table with a penalty kick miss in stoppage time. This time, it was a leftover Klopas folly rearing its ugly head: the waste of a Designated Player that is Juan Luis Anangonó, who took the honor of making a shit show out of a PK. Initially, I was encouraged that Anangonó took the ball and showed confidence in taking the PK. That was great to see. But his execution was nothing short of a disaster. Someone should have waved a skunk in front of that wasted opportunity.
Why the Fire do not have a designated taker of penalties is beyond me. Much like a basketball team has someone who takes its technical foul free throws, a soccer team should have someone who can step up and make a spot kick. This is something Frank Yallop needs to fix quickly. This shortcoming has meant four wasted points for a team that is not good enough to waste four points — if it has any ambition, that is.
On my way home from the match, I received an alert from the Fire on my phone that Quincy Amariwka was named Man of the Match. Thankfully, I was not driving, or I may have crashed. Though in Amarikwa’s defense, he scored a beautiful goal. Big Red Larentowicz did an excellent job to win the ball in the midfield and distribute it to Harry Shipp, whose through ball was a thing of beauty. Shipp hit his forward mate in stride, behind the defense, and Amarikwa put the ball where Revs ‘keeper Bobby Shuttleworth wasn’t.
However, after the goal, it was all downhill for the Fire’s spark plug. Certainly, you can debate the merit behind Amarikwa’s first yellow card. To me, there was nothing conclusive in person or on replay that shows whether Amarikwa was fouled or whether he initiated the contact. I am a referee with nearly 20 years of experience. As such, I think Sorin Stoica handled the situation perfectly. Stoica’s choice was to either award a penalty kick or issue a yellow card for simulation. He felt Amarikwa initiated the contact and punished him accordingly.
From that point forward, Amarikwa did nothing but lose his head. He was constantly whining, complaining, and looking for every call — which he did not deserve. Quincy needs to learn to stay on his feet and fight a bit, so when he does go down it will be seen as valid and not leave questions in the referee’s mind.
Amarikwa’s second yellow was simply stupid. His was a reckless challenge. To come in studs up like he did warranted a yellow card at the very least. Had Quincy received a straight red, it may have been considered harsh, but would also have been correct. A flying, studs up challenge at a player’s knee and ankle leads to nothing but bad stuff.
If any good came out of Amarikwa’s red card it was Mike Magee’s appearance to defend his teammate. I am not really sure what type of case Mike tried to put forth, but he made the effort nonetheless. Up to that point, I was convinced Magee was known as the “Magic” one for his ability to disappear. As Forrest Gump famously said, “And that’s all I have to say about that.”
One positive to take away from this match versus the Revs was the way the Fire responded after Amarikwa’s yellow card. Instead of bunkering down and trying to preserve the draw, Chicago, down to ten men, continued to take the game to New England. It was difficult to tell who was playing a man up during the final 15 or so minutes. As mentioned, notable team effort led to a well-earned, yet unsuccessful PK in the end.
Also on the bright side, Chicago’s in-game tactical adjustments made sense and yielded positive results. Yallop’s three subs helped keep the Fire the better team during the match. Effective on-the-fly decision making by the manager is a nice change from recent seasons.
For the most part, the Fire controlled the run of play on Saturday. With a successful PK, a 2-1 win would have been justified. Yet despite its statistical domination, Chicago was rarely more dangerous than New England on the afternoon, so perhaps the 1-1 draw is a fair result after all.
And so, after a sixth consecutive draw, the season about nothing continues…
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T.J. Zaremba was BarnBurner #110 and 1998 second-half season ticket holder in Section 8 of pre-mothership Soldier Field. After over a decade on walkabout, with a handful of guest appearances, he returned in 2011 and has been a regular (when his commitment to Uncle Sam allows it) at Toyota Park with his wife and the Hamster. Follow T.J. @TJZaremba