Two hours before kickoff, Jeff Crandall was escorting an English Gentleman around the exterior of Toyota Park- more specifically around the Section 8 tailgate area. A journalist I suspect; I never got his name. He asked me what I thought of statistics in soccer. Essentially, I said that they're too primitive, but usually paint a pretty good picture of what a game looked like after it was over.
For example, you'd expect that winning sixty-two percent of fifty-fifty challenges would help a team win the game. You'd expect that having a majority of possession would be conducive to coming away with three points. You'd expect a team with 8 shots on target would score more then one goal. You'd also expect that that giving up four goals would mean that everything was a disaster and everyone played bad.
On March 24, none of those things were true. A little under ten thousand people (announced attendance) came to Toyota Park on a cold March day, expecting a dominant performance over lowly Chivas USA... what they got was the first two acts of a Shakespearean comedy.
In the first ten minutes, the Men in Red came out to prove a point that they were better than they showed in their first three games. And they did. The first chance on goal came four minutes in. Alex fed Sherjill MacDonald through, and he struck it right in to Dan Kennedy for his first of eight saves.
In the 12th minute, Patrick Nyarko went down for the second time. And yet, to him, and to everyone else it seemed like it's happened more often than not this season. And he's clearly frustrated. "I've been hit in the past but I feel like early on this season it's getting worse. I keep getting hit all the time and I don't know. I don't know what the rules are or what, for some reason it keeps happening."
Once again Sherjill MacDonald had a golden opportunity that was struck just wide. A cross put in the box was scissor kicked wide by a foot and a half.
At the end of 45, the fire out shot the American Goats five to two. They had the ball 61 percent of the time, and committed 9 less fouls. The first half was much the prelude to the second forty five. The action before the action if you will.
The play that was the second half started with the Fire coming out confident. In the 50th minute, for the second straight week, Daniel Paladini had a goal scoring opportunity. Sherjill MacDonald played him in onside, and he fired it passed Dan Kennedy and off the far post. There was no one there making a run to take advantage of the rebound.
Chivas had their first real opportunity shortly thereafter. Eric Avila struck a shot that was almost saved by Tornaghi, but Austin Berry got there first to help out. A few minutes later, Edger Mejia scored For Chivas to deflate Fire fan's hopes. Juan Aguadelo hit an absolute scorcher from about twenty six yards out to put the Goats ahead. What looked like a pass to reset the offense initially ended up in the back of the net. And it happened so fast that the Fire defense could do little to stop it.
Yet Patrick Nyarko, one of the best tonight in a red jersey, gave us hope. The 2008 MLS Superdraft product received a ball from Sherjill MacDonald after walking back onside. The Chivas defense knew absolutely nothing about it, and neither did Dan Kennedy. The score was one to one. And there was hope at the corner of Harlem and 71st Street. Shakespeare always ends act one with hope and act two is always chaos. And after minute 65, there was chaos.
Poor positioning by Fire goalkeeper Paolo Tornaghi was the root cause of goals two and three. The second tally was on a free kick. Edger Mejia, the first goalscorer, served a ball which the Italian misjudged, creating the space for Joaquin Velasquez to hit a looping header into the back of the net.
The third goal happened because Paolo didn't properly read the wind. He came out to get a ball that on any other day would have bounced right to him, but because of the wind at his back, cut the ball short, and right on to Juan Agudelo's feet. Jeff Larentowicz got out muscled on the ball too. And in a finish that screamed "I want to play in the Hex" he curled it inside the far post.
To compound things further, Alex, the Fire's best player on the day went down and didn't get up. Mario de Luna took his legs out from under him. He would eventually be stretchered off, and could be seen limping inside the locker room after the game.
Finally, Jalil Anibaba, in an action more befitting a Greek tragedy, struck one in the back of his own net for an insurmountable 4-1 Goats advantage. Up until that point Anibaba had been having his best outing so far this season.
In his post game press conference, Frank Klopas didn't really know what to say. It took a bit of tme for him to arrive to the press room. Maybe because of the game today, or because the microphone was having difficulties (how apropos). "Obviously we started the game very well. We had chances in the first half. We got in good spots in the field and it's a shame. Sometimes the game is not fair but what are you going to do?" No Frank, sometimes the game isn't fair.
And as if this all wasn't enough- as If what happened to the local XI was not punishment for some unknown crime, it started to snow in Bridgeview after the destruction. We now have to wait two weeks for our Third Act, when the [Red] Bulls go on parade.