Postmortem: Chicago Fire (0) at Columbus Crew (2)
OTF contributor Daniel Casey mulls over Chicago Fire’s third loss of the season…
This week I’m keeping it short.
Rage was the order of the day when Chicago Fire traveled to face Columbus Crew. I was already in a bad mood due to our nation’s most recent gun massacre on the University of California-Santa Barbara campus. I was hoping that soccer would provide some solace. But no.
Chicago Fire came out of the tunnel primed to not compete and were entirely outclassed by Columbus. Give fresh-faced manager Gregg Berhalter credit, he’s created a style of play in Columbus that is staunchly anti-MLS, focusing on ball control — that is, technique & skilled passing.
It’s been rough on the Fire, they’ve had to face some of the better possession teams in the league recently (Real Salt Lake, Sporting Kansas City, and, arguably, New York Red Bulls). Chicago pulled out ugly wins their last couple of matches, and there was hope that squaring off against Columbus, they’d be able to fish out a true win. It wasn’t to be. If the Fire hope to beat a laboring LA Galaxy next weekend, they’ll have to address some serious concerns voiced in the post-match comments.
To my mind, the major factor confronting the team is attitude or, rather, mental toughness. The injury report for Chicago saw major names missing from the lineup: Nyarko, Magee, Alex, Soumare, and Palmer. A starting fullback out, the starting right-winger out, the marquee striker out, and the highest paid center back out. But this is a poor excuse for anything, and manager Frank Yallop knows it: “It’s not an excuse. I never make excuses.”
Yallop was able to pinpoint how the Fire failed mentally. “We were pretty naive generally all over the pitch, especially defensively. We have to make better decisions where we don’t give chances to the opposition. We left the game mentally flat.”
The sentiment was augmented by Jeff Larentowicz. “Every road game is a winnable game if you’re playing right, if you’re turned on at the right moments. Today we weren’t.”
Sean Johnson brought it home. “You can’t really look to blame a different lineup or different person. We are all on the same team. We all train together on the pitch and prepare ourselves for match day. I think it’s down to what we do when we step on the field. We are more than capable of meshing together for 90 minutes and getting a result.” Only this night, knowing and doing were separated by a Grand Canyon-sized gulf.
I’m not going to parse passing, or beat on players, or hack on positioning. Blame is not what needs be done. Anger and dickishness (of which I spewed plenty via Twitter after the match and quite unfairly– I apologize, Ohio) does nothing.
But neither does quibbling. Each and every member of this team should be performing better, full stop. They need some kind of mental buttress or spark — not necessarily the confidence to win, but the fortitude and motivation to do so.