Dispatch: Chicago Fire (1) vs Toronto FC (1)
OTF’s Brian Howe Battle ruins your World Cup afterglow with a soddy, soggy affair…
Sorry to ruin your narrative, America.
Mere hours after images of sunny Soldier Field packed with rabid, earnest U.S. Mens National Team fans flashed across TV and computer screens across the nation, this had to go and happen. Chicagoans (and some poor saps from Canada) had to go and endure an awful, soppy mess of an MLS game.
Not that the responsibility to promote Major League Soccer is solely the Men in Red’s job, but never have the ambitions of domestic soccer soared and dropped so drastically as they did from Tuesday Morning to Wednesday Night in Chicago/Bridgeview.
It was a match so unremarkable that describing it as “empty” still feels like giving it too much credit. The two biggest crowd reactions last night involved events during the “bubble soccer” game and a cadre of T-Shirt Cannoneers at the half.
As if in response to the weather (a grim rain/mist that hit exposed skin sideways from the slate-gray sky), Fire coach Frank Yallop trotted out the most uninspiring of line-ups. Opting for a 4-4-2 with two defensive mids — Captain Jeff Larentowicz and Rookie Chris Ritter— the skipper almost assured this game would implode under its own uninspiredness.
This form of the 4-4-2, which will henceforth be known as The War Games formation, assures mutual destruction. War Games was first deployed in the abominable Colorado Rapids weekday matchup before the MLS break, and its deployment produced an aesthetically disturbing 0-0 away draw.
In this formation, the midfielders don’t just “break up developing plays” as traditional CDMs do, they disrupt the rhythm of a game so effectively as to render it unrecognizable to soccer fans. The “pivot” part of pivoting is the issue at hand. CDM’s are tasked with being destroyers, yes, but they are also supposed to be “deep lying playmakers,” which means setting pace, making the smart pass, and acting as a catalysts to begin effective runs at goal.
Chicago’s interpretation of the double-pivot takes that destroyer/creator idealism and executes a facsimile so poor it actually calls the original into question. Chicago’s double-pivot is prepackaged chicken cordon bleu. It’s a Patrick Nagel knock-off in the window of a unisex salon. It is Jar Jar Binks. It is also not anyone’s fault.
The Fire roster is short on bodies (they have four spots available on the roster, five now that JLA has been put out to Ecuadorian pastures) and they were further hobbled by lingering injuries to key veterans. Add to that the inexperience in midfield and lousy weather conditions, and breaking out War Games for this match and eeking out a draw at home would almost be acceptable. ALMOST.
But Toronto forward Luke Moore had other ideas. Potentially as bored and miserable as the crowd, Moore drew red 30 minutes into the match with a well-placed elbow onto Ritter’s temple. The act allowed Moore to get out of the rain, but it also gave The Fire 60 minutes, three subs, and home field advantage to put one past a Julio Cesar-less goal while Michael Bradley enjoyed his last few minutes of the Brazilian Winter.
That didn’t happen.
Instead, what happened was Jermain Defoe, perhaps nostalgic for rainy days spent in North London, ran down a lobbed-in endline ball and crossed it into Jackson (Gonçalves) who easily headed it home. Jackson had set up shop between Lovel Palmer and Patrick Ianni. Based on glares and pointed fingers it was likely Palmer’s gaffe, but with no other opponent near the box Ianni could have just as easily broken the play up.
Still, down 0-1 with more than a half to play, a response was inevitable and it did come. Our shining little light, Harry Shipp, found himself in the 18-yard box in the second half and clanged one in off a defender for the equalizer.
There was still plenty of time for a kill shot, but it did not come.
Yallop’s late swap of Greg Cochrane for Juan Luis Anangonó—which put three strikers up top against a 10-man Toronto squad—still didn’t create another goal. Attempts were made, but nothing ever materialized. Glanced headers, skied balls, cruel deflections, and questionable offside decisions were endured, but as the 93rd minute came and went the game concluded with yet another one point result.
Not much more to say about this one, and who would want to. It’s time to look forward to the MLS transfer window, which Chicago could be very active in. So, we’ve got that going for us, which is nice I guess.
OTF Contributor Brian Howe Battle is a Chicago local, burgeoning cynic, and soccer nOOb. You can find his other soccer musings at the Owen Goal blog. Follow Brian on Twitter at @OwenGoal.