The Fire's short-term narrative had been firmly established coming into Chicago's game near Boston Saturday: Stealthily, they'd become one of the better teams in the East. They'd found a formula based upon not having a formula - Magee and swirly movement and defending that was just good enough. Mike Magee's brain and heart, one part Duka, one part Lindpere, two banks of four, eye of newt, bathe thrice in the urine of a virginal goat on the new moon - presto: A Winner.
The Fire, then, entered New England's plastic pitch full of confidence. They'd been playing well. They'd added, in Juan Luis Anaragono and Edigio Arevalo Rios, players of not only quality, but industry. It's true, they had some injuries - Patrick Nyarko's worrying concussion, Rolfe's ongoing issues - but they'd put out a smart, hard-working XI.
What they didn't put out were artists.
Eduardo Galeano once wrote, "I go about the world, hand outstretched, and in the stadiums I plead: 'A pretty move, for the love of God.' And when good soccer happens, I give thanks for the miracle and I don't give a damn which team or country performs it.' In that spirit, if one feels the need to cross oneself after the above, please do so.
Somehow, New England's team of lightweights survived our half of body-blows to turn Saturday's game into a competition about grace, a competition the Fire lost on merit and fading away.
It was Juan Agudelo who led the way. In a pulsating 68-minute performance, the 20-year-old was consistently dangerous for a Revolution squad who had little else going. Running in the channels, fighting for balls deep in midfield, Agudelo was both strong and subtle. He created chances; he kept possession when advisable; his swagger was evident from kickoff to his withdrawal.
Of course, everything is colored by the Moment. Such is Art.
I've done the Agudelo flick like, 1,000 times. Seriously. I'm not even kidding.
I came to Williams College in 1987, a child of mid-Indiana. My background in soccer was limited to a week each year in PE. Williamstown was a foreign country. At an early party, I shambled - beer in hand - into what I now know was a hacky-sack circle. Everyone else had a beer. I relaxed a little.
The game they were playing I'd never seen before. No hands, okay. Just keep it in the air? Drink if you fail? Simple enough. As I'm putting this together, the sack sails over my right shoulder, and I just ... I don't know ... flicked it back over my head.
I was as surprised as anybody.
So the game had gotten stomped flat by the time the Moment came. Chicago seemed to run out of ideas in the midfield, resorting to desperate through-balls into impossible areas. Perhaps responding in kind, New England's Chris Tierney lobbed a through ball that found the Fire back line flat-footed. Agudelo ran onto it, with Sean Johnson onrushing hard.
Johnson couldn't get there, and a wipeout looked imminent, and then the choir of angels weighed in. (See above video.)
Faced with a conspicuously obvious challenge from Fate to harken to the trumpet of Beauty, the Fire were able to summon Alex, Daniel Paladini and Quincy Amarikwa, presumably under the supposition that hard-working hard work is the gosh-darndest most beautifulest thing there ever wizzy-was. Amarikwa worked quite hard. Alex worked hard to create possession, which can in some circumstances can be beautiful, and certainly succeeded in working hard.
Eventually, the hard-working hard work led to a necessary, rational need to pitch men forward, with the concomitant loss of numbers in the back. A series of fast-breaks were finally finished by the Revs' Kelwyn Rowe, and only confirmed the judgment: Thumbs down.
In the wind-down, manager Frank Klopas and centerback Bakary Soumare were ejected, as well as New England's Saer Sene. After the whistle, Sene was seen (say that three times fast) shoving Chicago coach Leo Percovich, Klopas' assistant. Could next week's game see a depth crisis both in the back and on the bench?
Chicago (9-10-4) now face a daunting uphill climb to make the playoffs. The Fire return to action against Kansas City in Toyota Park; at which point they will likely be eight points out of postseason position with 11 games to play.
New England (9-9-6) surges back ahead of Chicago in the standings, but still lies one place out of the playoffs. The Revolution stay at home and get an extra day's rest, hosting Philadelphia Sunday, August 25.