On Becoming A Pillar Of Salt: Chivas USA 3, Fire 2, Recap

Kelvin Kuo-USA TODAY Sports

Fire display the hallmarks of the Klopas years in Yallop's first game - defensive miscues? Check. Conservative sub choices? Check. Gut-wrenching loss in the opener? Check.

In the book of Genesis, Lot is the only godly man in Sodom, a city YHVH is about to get down to smoting, as vengeful sky-gods seem wont to do. So they get a warning: Get out of Dodge (well, Sodom) NOW. Don't stop and grab your stuff. Don't fiddle around telling your friends. Just GTFO, like, NOW - and don't even look back.

It's that not looking back part that's hard, right? I mean, to leave, that's one thing. it's not impossible to reconcile a change, whatever it may be; but to stride away from whatever life you've been living entirely, and not even look back? Not even a glance. That's a hard ask. And YHVH's a hard god, obviously, because Lot's wife had the audacity to look back over her shoulder, and BAM:

Gen 19:26: But his wife looked back from behind him, and she became a pillar of salt.

The Chicago Fire have spent the offseason leaving Sodom - err, the Klopas era - behind them. Out went the younger defenders Frank I trusted, and in their place came more experience. Out went the older attackers Frank I favored, and in their place came more youth and enthusiasm. Just ahead, it seemed, just over that little rise there, was a happier ending. Just over there, we're winners. The preseason seemed to settle everyone's nerves on the issue: We're better off - full speed ahead. Which is why it's particularly puzzling that the Fire, in their first real match of the season, seemed determined to relive the Frank I playbook; by looking back, they paid the price Lot's wife pioneered in a 3-2 opening-day loss to Chivas USA.

After a preseason spent buzzing around, pressing like mad and working hard to keep the ball, the Men in Red staggered out of the gate Sunday against Chivas USA, their shape loose and their passing wayward. The Fire did respond well after falling behind 2-0 - although determination was never an issue during the Klopas years, either - but overall, the play and the outcome were familiar in the most depressing of ways.

  • The first goal, Erick Torres' penalty, was set up by Gonzalo Segares' foul in the box - but it was Bakary Soumare's flailing whiff on the centering pass which surprisingly put Torres through.
  • The guy up top, Juan Luis Anangonó - while seeming to try, at least - was dishearteningly ineffective both in hold-up and attacking play.
  • As was often the case in 2013, the best chance of the game fell to Chris Rolfe, and as was often the case in 2013, he absolutely gacked it.
  • The winning goal featured Soumare getting beaten again, this time in the air by CUSA centerback Bobby Burling.
  • After clawing back to level terms, with Mike Magee, the reigning league MVP, sitting on the bench and 15 minutes left on the clock, the third and final sub was Logan Pause for Rolfe. Fotios, we hardly knew ye.

The first half was scoreless, but worrying. Chicago's passing wasn't good enough to keep the ball, meaning the pressure which was the hallmark of the preseason could never materialize. The Goat's double pivot of Osvaldo Minda and Agustín Pelletieri dealt contemptuously with dribbling runs in their area, and the Fire settled for cranking aimless crosses toward no one on the odd occasion they found themselves near goal.

The game was nearly turned to the good by the energy and positivity of the two subs. Benji Joya, entering after an hour to play on the right, scored with his first touch in a Fire uniform, running onto a rebound to trim the Goats' lead to one. Barely five minutes later, Quincy Amarikwa - on for Anangonó - took a touch from 22 yards and belted a curling right-footer to the back post to tie the game. Improbably, despite controlling very little of the game at that point, the Fire were even, and seemed ascendant.

That ascent was short-lived. Pulling Rolfe for Pause seemed to signal the end of CF97's effort to win the contest. In the final 15 minutes, the hosts dominated possession as the Fire conceded the ball in favor of focussing on shape and marking - which, of course, made the missed mark on the game-winning goal especially pleasant to contemplate.

The Fire (0-0-1) travel to Portland next Sunday, while Chivas USA (1-0-0) hosts Vancouver later that same day.

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