Dispatch: Chicago Fire (0) vs. Vancouver Whitecaps (0)

Mike Magee plays against Vancouver White Caps


OTF’s Brian Howe Battle runs out of bad things to say about Chicago Fire’s impression of a soccer team

While Kansas City made a bold move earlier this week to become “Soccertown USA,” the Vancouver Whitecaps and Chicago Fire continue to fight for the title  “King of the Draw.” Diving into deeper and deeper levels of irony, both team succeeded last night as they managed another un-win. This despite Vancouver’s supposed “shots fired,” moment yesterday when coach Carl Robinson claimed to be going for the win on the road against the Fire in an MLSsoccer.com article.

The Fire v Whitecaps slugfest had a predictable finish…

It’s not so much that the Chicago Fire are “missing something,” they’re missing anything.  A spark, a key player, a rallying point, a style of play, a reason-to-be. “Something,” in the form of a new player allocations, seems to be on the horizon, but right now this team is nothing, means nothing, and inspires no one.

Ever more frustrating is the fact that they didn’t even look that bad last night. Chicago shut down a very fast Vancouver team and looked much more confident on the ball.  They even won the “possession” stat with 51.5% of the ball — a rarity this year.

Jeff Larentowicz still has some kinks to work out at center back but he did well.  Big Red got in the way of chances, out-jumped attackers, and showed good instincts on when to cheat forward. As Larentowicz acclimates to the position it’s likely he will feel more comfortable advancing passes instead of skying it downfield.

Moving Larentowicz to center back is a good sign in a number of ways.  First, by benching Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare it shows coach Frank Yallop’s intolerance for sloppy play, and willingness to make changes.

Secondly, it shows that the Coaching Staff can make smart moves. The organization cannot afford another over-priced CB in this transfer window, so we’re seeing Yallop & Co get creative by converting Captain L back into a linesman.

Thirdly, and this one is a bit optimistic; moving your starting CDM back to CB makes room in the starting XI for a marquee defensive midfielder. Perhaps a German/American one… with dreadlocks… that scored in the World Cup.

In the meantime, the rest of the defensive line is still in shambles.  Example A, in which Vancouver’s Erik Hurtado easily runs past Gonzalo Segares, Patrick Ianni, and Lovell Palmer for what should have been the opening goal of the game.  (Thanks again, Milkman).  Take a look at a still photo of this play…

Chicago Fire terrible offsides trap

Example A: The least-convincing “trap” since Marv Albert stopped crossdressing.

If this doesn’t enrage you, you must already be catatonic from the months of Fire defensive ineptitude.  The funniest part was that after the  through-ball, Ianni and Palmer had the audacity to RAISE THEIR HANDS like Hurtado was offsides?  They may as well have been raising their hands to request being benched next.

Defensive hustle seemed to be a team epidemic. In the second half, keeper Sean Johnson could be heard yelling at Mike Magee, who had been guarding the near post for a Vancouver cross, to get back upfield before an easy secondary volley could be put into the box.  Later in the half, Fire loanee Grant Ward decided not to close down a winger on the left flank and allowed another dangerous cross.

Despite these hiccups, the Fire did pull a clean sheet on this one, so… congrats to The D. It’s worth pointing out that the Fire got this clean sheet by sacrificing all attacking potential.  Both starting center-mids — Matt Watson and Chris Ritter — think defense-first.  With Harrison Shipp taking a breather, Chicago was without any true playmaker.  Sure, Yallop could’ve swap a CDM for a CAM (as he did with the Răzvan Cociș/Ritter swap in the second half), but you have to wonder with one more offensive threat and one less defensive  one, if the game would have still wound up as a 1-1 or 2-2 draw.

The Fire are running what you could call a “Catch-4-2-2-2”: The match will always be a draw, so what kind of draw would you like to see?

Vancouver and Chicago attacking and counter-attacking in action.


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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.

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