In the aftermath of an absolute rochambeaux of a soccer match - Saturday's 2-2 home draw against Philadelphia - Jeff Larentowicz had this to say:
"There's no catharsis," he said, palpably frustrated. "We continue to seem like we're there, but we're not."
The Fire do, indeed, continue to seem like a club that will win plenty of games this season. Saturday, Chicago came out tactically sharp and physically vigorous, and nearly blew out the Union in the opening 20 minutes. They stuffed the Philly midfield engine which had controlled their previous four games, tortured the Union left back right onto the bench, and created chance after chance. And dropped two points, at home, again.
Four draws in a row. It beats losing, but there's no catharsis.
Sean Johnson (5) - Not sure there's anything Sean could've done about either goal - Edu's rebound was walloped from about 5 yards, through a substantial screen, and Noguiera's free kick was three parts cunning placement and two parts team communication meltdown. Thing is, we keep saying these things. CLEAN SHEET NEEDED - APPLY WITHIN.
Greg Cochrane (6) - If anyone on the backline has seen their stock rise in these first five games, it's Cochrane. The 23-year-old plays like a seasoned professional, displaying an acute sense of positioning and knacks for timing runs and playing in combination. He's not incredibly fast, or certainly very physical, but his marking and concentration are top-notch. For most of Saturday, Seba LeToux was just erased as an attacking option in Cochrane's zone. Is Segares entering the Wally Pipp zone?
Bakary Soumare (3) - In almost any contest that Soumare plays in, if you ignore his worst, say, 90 seconds of play, you could think the man is all-world. Thing is, defenders are judged with a different rubric than attacking players - attackers can try crazy stuff all day long, and if any of it comes off, they're geniuses. In defense, the pendulum is swung all the way over to ‘safety first,' which means that Baky's few bad seconds - switching off on a rebound, for example, or just sort of watching a free kick instead of needing to get to the ball - cost him his reputation, and the Fire two points, again.
Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (6) - Hurtado has been precisely what we'd hoped for when he came over - a steady, unblinking, hardass cover back. The worry is that the cohesion he and Soumare established in the preseason could start to unravel if JKH starts worrying about Baky's blown assignments. Hurtado's frustration with Soumare after the first goal seemed palpable.
Lovel Palmer (5) - Lovel is an honest player, which is refreshing and always welcome, but right back is a job, not a calling for him. Kept a couple plays onside in the first half thanks to suspect positioning, and has a knack for fizzing in low crosses which find the first defender. Just alright.
Harrison Shipp (5) - Harry's still finding his feet at this level. His dead-ball service is incisive and thoughtful, which adds a great deal of value to the team, but at times it's clear he's expecting an extra half-beat with the ball that he's just not getting. His commitment to defense is laudable, but constant pressing prevents him from fading into pockets of space without the ball, which is a dark art the lad's mastered. Unfortunately, he's going to have to create a lot more chances to play as a pure trequartista, which is likely his best role (and finish when he gets a chance, like in the 43rd minute Saturday). A work in progress.
Matt Watson (5) - Even after a rewatch, it's a little hard to nail down Watson's role in midfield. A willing runner, an eater of space, it was Watson's boundless energy alongside Larentowicz that set the tone for the Fire's dominant opening 15 minutes. With the ball, though, he adds little - once he sat for Alex, Chicago's attack jumped up a notch.
Jeff Larentowicz (6) - Big Red has been generally quite good in the early going this season - cleaner with the ball than we'd seen before, and more disciplined in space, staying at home in front of the centerbacks.
Patrick Nyarko (6) - From the outset, it was clear the Fire planned to run the clear-out on the right wing for Nyarko, and Fabinho's halftime substitution tells you all you need to know about that matchup. Still, despite constantly torturing the Brazilian and playing well in combination, few actual chances came from all that nutmegging and humiliation. If Nyarko could be more clinical once he's screwed the defender into the turf, the Fire couldn't afford to pay him; if he cannot be more clinical, they might not afford to play him.
Quincy Amarikwa (6) - A very Quincy performance. His standard effort level is somewhere around ‘Herculean,' and it was his opportunistic turn after Okugo's stumble that set up Magee's goal. Opposing center backs have to dread lining up against Amarikwa - he's not very big, but his incredible strength, balance and sense of leverage mean that every ball is a desperate, vicious game of shadow-wrasslin'.
Mike Magee (7) - It's not the usual thing that a guy gets a goal and an assist and then apologizes, stone-faced, for failing the team, but that's Magee for you. Seems to be rounding into form - touch and use of space were better Saturday, and his run on his goal (stopping, backing up, waiting for eye contact and bursting in) was an echo of 2013. His ball to the back post was good enough to give Anangono a chance. Then the PK, the heartbreak, and the apology. Accountability: Just another service Mike Magee provides.
Dilly Duka (7) - Duka and Shipp provide an interesting contrast in styles. Duka's busy, physically direct game was a marvelous changeup to Shipp's cool, cerebral approach, and Philadelphia had a hard time shifting gears once Duka was on the pitch. Created several chances in combination after coming on for the final half-hour.
Alex (6) - Came on with Duka for the last half-hour, and their energy (and more-direct attacking style) led to chance after chance down the stretch for the Fire. His exclusion in favor of Watson from the starting XI seemed tactical, and he did little in this sub appearance to tarnish his credentials as a starter.
Juan Luis Anangono (7) - Needing a good performance to make a case for playing time, Anangono made quite an impact in his short relief appearance. His palpable desire to get on the end of Magee's free kick was fantastic, and putting that header on goal from that angle is simply insane. Earned the penalty kick that broke everyone's heart. This is the kind of performance (and the kind of improvement) that competition for places creates.