OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week 18
Play for the draw? It’s a mixed bag from the Roundtable this week…
To begin on a positive note, well done to the Men in Red for their 3-1 victory in Atlanta over the Silverbacks on Wednesday night in U.S. Open Cup play. The win bought Frank Yallop and company a one-way ticket to Seattle for a semifinal that will, unfortunately, not feature the Magic One (Magee was red-carded in the ATL).
Personally, I’m not impressed with a win over a NASL side with a losing record that was missing three starters in attack. Call me an informed skeptic, or perhaps an incorrigible bastard. Your choice.
Anyhoo, while the Roundtable’s not supposed to be about me (the editor) and my opinions, I’ll be its muse this week. After yet another draw on Sunday, this time in Kansas City and the tenth of the season, I tweeted the following:
Roundtable, am I being unfair?
After a very disappointing performance against Toronto that ultimately led to a draw, Chicago was in dire need of three points against Sporting Kansas City. Unfortunately, that did not come to fruition. Earlier in the season, Chicago escaped with a 2-1 victory at home against SKC. This time, Chicago attacked from the start and looked pretty good despite giving up the early goal by a mistake from Patrick Ianni. Mike Magee equalized minutes later and continued to attack, but as the match progressed the Men in Red looked comfortable with another one-pointer as they casually sat back and absorbed the attack.
Throughout the season, many Fire fans have willingly accepted draws despite the clubs poor standing — specifically, Fire Chief Operating Officer Atul Khosla, who famously said after the agonizing mid-week match against Colorado weeks ago that he was content with a point. It is one thing for the fan base to accept draws as the status quo but it’s entirely unacceptable for the front office to do so when the club is so far down the table.
It’s not unfair to be upset at the masses for accepting only a point. The manager, the players, and the front office need to feel constant pressure, otherwise nothing will change. The Fire has maintained its 9th place standing, yet is remarkably only four points off a playoff spot at the halfway point of MLS 2014. That said, time is running out to make a push.
With almost half of the season gone, Chicago Fire should not purposefully play any games for a draw unless they are playing a man down. The Fire has played 16 games and sits on 16 points. It’s turning out to be a woeful season for the Men in Red. If there is any chance for the Fire to make it into the playoffs, they will have to start winning games. There is little room for error now. I can’t see them pulling it off.
Some pundits will argue that a point on the road to current MLS champion Sporting Kansas City is a decent result. Moreover, the Fire was playing without some of their best personnel; Larentowicz was on baby watch and Amarikwa had accumulated too many yellow cards. So, some would say, “What’s the harm in parking the bus and earning another point?”
The issue is the season has been a tale of either terrible defending or a failure to close out games. Those two missed PK’s in extra time will come back to haunt Frank Yallop. Those four points missed were crucial. Going forward, the Fire must play every game as if it’s a cup match if they want to be above the thin red line by season’s end.
The simple answer to the question posed to this week’s roundtable is “Yes.” 3 facts support this;
1. The Fire played a midweek game, while Sporting KC did not.
2. The game was played away from home.
3. The Fire played without two of their regulars (ask Brazil about that).
Moreover, the facts above do not even address the considerable talent gap between the two teams.
Had we asked Fenwick before the season if he would take this result, he would have said “Yes.” However, based on the points the Fire have given away at home this season, the Fire needed to claim all three points. After all, the opportunity was there.
Nevertheless, despite glimpses of quality, the Fire are not a playoff squad. The defense, which was supposed to be a strength, leaks inopportune goals. The offense is only good because of the inclusion of Harry Shipp, who may become fatigued in the coming weeks.
The bottom line? A 1-1 draw at Sporting KC is a good result for any side this season, especially when the three facts are factored in.
Simply put, 2014’s is an average to mediocre Fire side, so the frustration of not meeting expectations should have passed some time ago.
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