Inward and Upward: Chicago Fire Quash their Seattle Jinx in a Season Saver
“Winning Cures All Ills” may be a cliche, but it’s never seemed more applicable than this weekend at Toyota Park. Despite Section 8’s “bannergate,” Head Coach Frank Yallop’s job security, “#HauptmanOut,” injury troubles, transfer window scrutiny, and Bridgeview finances, all anyone would take away from Saturday was the spark provided by a rejuvenated Mike Magee, Patrick Nyarko, and Michael Stephens and the clutch finishing of Jason Johnson that delivered the Chicago Fire their first victory over the Seattle Sounders ever. E-V-E-R.
In a moment reminiscent of other celebrations in recent Fire history, Jason Johnson’s stoppage time winner against Seattle was not punctuated by a corner flag dash, but a run-and-point directed to Yallop and an emphatic team embrace. Reminiscent of Logan Pause’s final game last season, and Hunter Jumper’s post goal dog-pile the year before, the Fire’s outward struggles in recent history have been countered with some joyous team-first moments.
What else should be expected from a roster that must be feeling the pressure of internal structures, a restless fan base, and increasing speculation from local and national media outlets? It is not as if the Fire didn’t extended their gratitude to the fan base after their circle-the-wagons moment (Lovell Palmer joyously took to the S8 Capo Stand after the match), but if the “us versus the world” attitude produces results like it did on Saturday, I doubt Fire supporters would fault the team for their insularity.
It seems ridiculous to say, but one wonders if the Fire (with 18 points and games in hand) are within striking distance of an Eastern Conference playoff berth still — especially with back-to-back games against the Columbus Crew SC that currently sit in fifth.
Reaching the 24 point mark by next Sunday night would put Chicago right back in the mixer with half a season to go, a chance to “re-up” during the current transfer window (let’s stay optimistic here), and a roster that’s getting healthier.
Some Quick Notes
- Fire’s “B” team (with DP’s Shawn Maloney, and David Accam out) looked very good against the Sounder “B” team (with DP’s Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins out). Despite needing ’90+ minutes to score, Fire chances came often.
- If you’re counting, that’s twice Jason Johnson has earned Chicago points with a clutch finish this season. Johnson now leads the team in Goals per 90min. He was the large, active, attacking presence that we all hoped Guly do Prado would be. Can he continue to be?
- Patrick Doody filled in admirably at left back for T&T Gold Cup hotshot Joevin Jones.
- With a few near misses, specifically in the first 30 minutes of the match, it’s clear Magee and Nyarko are not quite game sharp yet, but are clearly becoming the difference makers they were in years past.
- Razvan Cocis remains the Fire’s under-the-radar hero. If viewers are just following the ball, they may be missing Cocis’s great positioning, physicality, and clinical tackling.
- Two facts about Eric Gehrig: 1) He looks much better at center back than at right back, 2) He looks much better with a shaved head than with hair. Hair like this makes me question his in-game decision making skills.
- How badly did we miss Michael Stephens in the midfield? With more CM options now, and with Stephens movement allowing Maloney and Harry Shipp more freedom, it will be interesting to see where he fits in with Cocis and Matt Polster.
OTF Editor-in-Chief Brian Howe Battle is a Chicago local who’s cool with giant warm Tecate’s for the rest of the season if it means three points. You can follow him on Twitter here: @OwenGoal.