There are moments in every parent's life - moments which, heartbreakingly, grow increasingly less frequent as the years go on - where one thinks, "Oh, my child is clearly something finer! Something purer! Something true and lovely and unprecedented!" And the angels sing the soundtrack to a parent's hopes; surely, this time, it's all breaking right.
So too a new season is a sort of child, a shared hope-vision through time; and so, surely, this is one of those times for Fire supporters. Tuesday evening's friendly against Orlando City, which they won 3-0, was like one of those 'IQ tests' telling you your 3-year-old's estimated intelligence was somewhere between Einstein and Hawking, give or take. It's tantalizing, and certainly based upon something, and has the distinct advantage of telling one exactly what one wants to hear.
It's hard to deny the joy of Harrison Shipp's opener. Set up 20 yards out by Gentile's labor in drawing a foul, the Lake Forest trequartista curled a low, skidding shot around the wall and into the far corner of the net. And there, at the end, was open tryout winner Freddie Braun to bundle home the final goal - it's all so beautiful.
Question is, is it truth? It's not. But it is evidence. It's data. It doesn't mean much. But it's evidence of a sprightly, motivated training camp. And that's something.
- What's the 4-1-4-1?: Things I notice when I see the new formation ... the team is very compact front-to-back, which is a basic precept of modern tactical football that we'd seen precious little of in Chicago in recent years. That compactness isn't naïve, though - there's a clear willingness to blow offside to provide cover ... talent on hand is ideal for the formation, and the pickup of Joya is an absolute 20/20 kill-shot flawless-victory type acquisition if this was the way they were going anyway, because the kid is tailor-made to play fluid pass-and-move football ... something about the four-wide on the two main lines just feels familiar in a 4-4-2 culture ... positioning and concentration are a much bigger deal for the fullbacks in this system than speed.
- Braincrush alert: I have a full-blown crush on Harrison Shipp's brain. He didn't start well in this one - his touch was heavy for a few minutes, and he looked irritable - but once he stroked that low curler for the first goal, he was absolutely in tune with the music of the spheres. I have seen very few American players who are clearly playing the game primarily on the mental level, the way Shipp is; it takes great technique to think space and tempo so completely. He has a knack for cutting against the grain while attacking that gains him space and time, and he takes advantage of those small edges ruthlessly.
- Grant Ward, second look: Ward looked much less comfortable in the middle than on the right, and playing against lesser competition, theoretically. Honestly, Ward looks like a guy we'd consider super promising in the USA - great athlete, idea how to play, but his first touch isn't really there and (because of that) his passing game comes and goes.
- Gentile: If the club is going to play 4-1-4-1, we're going to need a small stash of rugged 'classic No. 9s,' and Guiseppe has looked every inch that in his two halves (I think?) of football. Physically imposing, soft-footed and undemanding, his 22-yard thunderbolt was the second-best shot on goal tonight, after Shipp's opening goal.
- Berry: I know that the defense hasn't given up a goal, but Austin Berry has, for me, looked absolutely like he's on another level every minute I've seen him play in preseason. Now, that may be because he's only played against second stringers, or something, but Austin's almost contemptuous play as a stopper, and the lovely snap and focus of his passing, has me hoping that we'll see Berry/Hurtado on opening day.