BRIDGEVIEW, IL - APRIL 28: Jalil Anibaba #6 of the Chicago Fire and Osvaldo Alonso #6 of the Seattle Sounders FC fight on the field in the second half during their MLS match at Toyota Park on April 28, 2012 in Bridgeview, Illinois. (Photo by John Gress/Getty Images)
Most of you have read the recaps of Saturday's 2-1 Fire loss at Tribune, Sun-Times, Daily Herald, Fire Confidential, or MLSsoccer.com by now. Overall I thought the game was a decent result for the team. Seattle is a top 3 team in MLS if not the top team in the league. The Sounders have given up just three goals in six games now. Chicago managed to create several dangerous opportunities against this top defense. On the Fire's defensive end, similar problems led to familiar goals. I think these problems can be fixed. More on this and the theatrics stealing the attention from the 2-1 scoreline are after the break.
David Estrada's 'strike' in the 39th minute was all Arne Friedrich trying to do too much. If Friedrich left the ball alone, it would have fallen to another Fire player. Instead, the German defender stuck his foot out and tried to stop the ball himself. The trust and the teamwork should come with time.
Eddie Johnson's 'strike' in the 67th minute was all Sean Johnson once again misplaying a set piece. The Fire goalkeeper looked like a baseball outfielder trying to judge if he should make a diving catch or allow the single as he hesitated on moving toward the ball. When it became clear the ball would land at his feet, Johnson dove sideways to punch the ball away. The ball went to Jhon Kennedy Hurtado who couldn't quite get all of it but Seattle's Johnson was there to finish it. This kind of play from Sean Johnson is inexcusable. He needs to be working on set piece after set piece in practice if Chicago is committed to him being the starting goalkeeper.
Johnson has claimed the starting job through positive performances in the first U.S. Open Cup game two years in a row now. I'm all for giving Paolo Tornaghi that opportunity when Chicago plays it's first U.S. Open Cup game this year on Tuesday, May 29.
Pappa as a Sub
Frank Klopas started Daniel Paladini in Marco Pappa's regular position on Saturday. The Fire head coach attributed Pappa's benching to the fact that Pappa had played in an international friendly on Wednesday. However, I'd like to see Pappa come off the bench from now on. He played with a different spark. The Fire's energy went up instead of down as it tends to do with the other subs on the team. After a long goal drought, Pappa finally found the net on a goal that was called off sides and a goal that came from a corner kick. I'm now firmly convinced that Chris Rolfe should be starting up top, Patrick Nyarko should move to the midfield and Pappa should be moved to the bench once Rolfe is healthy. It should make for a much better team.
Chicago continues to show fight in coming back in games. They weren't able to manage a full comeback but the team has kept its spirit from last year. If this group goes down a goal or two, they don't let up. Pappa's corner kick goal helped the team continue its streak of not being shutout at home since July 16, 2011.
Frustrations boiled over between the two teams resulting in a minor dispute after the game. Pappa and Anibaba were the most present players for the Fire. Sigi Schmid out there. Sigi might have been on his way, I'm not sure. The fight was reportedly a result of the Sounders feeling Anibaba went too hard in on a late tackle in stoppage time.and Marc Burch were the most present players for the Sounders. and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado also made contact. Frank Klopas himself got on the field but I did not see
I don't know how other people are feeling but I'm willing to let this all be swept under the rug as long as no one from either team gets suspended. This is a healthy part of budding rivalries. I wouldn't call it a rivalry yet (the Fire need to win once or twice) but this is the kind of emotion I wanted to see from the Fire since they were playing the Sounders for the first time after the U.S. Open Cup final last October.
The only problem with sweeping it under the rug is Jalil Anibaba appears to have received a red card 17 hours after the fact for fighting. That's ridiculous. The red card was reportedly not made known at the time to anyone on the Fire. The card certainly wasn't displayed on the field. Anibaba didn't even start the fight. Hopefully the red card in the game summary is an error. The major delay in a recap of the game has much to do with waiting to see if the league would clarify this. That's a big 'no' as of right now.
If Anibaba in fact has a red card, he will be out for Friday's game against Chivas USA. Rookie defender Austin Berry would start in his place. That would be a big blow for the defense given the problems Friedrich and Johnson are displaying. A rookie getting his first MLS start in the last thing Chicago's back line needs going up against a fairly weak opponent.
Hopefully all slates are wiped clean and no suspensions are given. That would be be the best result. It's great to see another chapter added to Seattle vs. Chicago. Time to learn from the mistakes. Time to build on fighting for one another. Time to move on and vent Saturday's frustrations into defeating Chivas USA this weekend.