There's this desire to turn the lead of this story into some kind of pun on 'Zeus' - Graham Zusi won it for Kansas City, after all. "Zusi's lightning bolts turn aside the Fire." "Olympus Rising: Zusi and his blue pantheon send Fire to Hades." Or something.
I'm trying to resist that impulse. It's pulling on me, though. It's scratching at the front door, asking to be let in. And it's tempting. I mean, Zusi's franchise, Sporting Kansas City, did guarantee themselves a playoff berth with the 2-0 win over our Fire, and that win was secured (to the enormous relief of the blue hordes) by two lovely bits of skill from the pragmatic winger. First he scores a beauty, an absolute beauty, and then his curling cross delivers the second. And the dude's name is pronounced Zeus-EEEE!, which squealing sound would be made by Japanese schoolgirls upon Zusi's arrival in an imaginary world where he's suddenly a sensation in Japan.
Here in Chicago, it's a bit different. It's the preseason here, so watching roughly 20 thousand people turn themselves inside out at the result - setting off flares, screaming and dancing to music, and so on - is like stumbling onto some new subset of fandom: "Oh hey, you guys ... I remember feeling like that," we stutter quietly, townsfolk from a stiller town. Our guys lost, sure, but that was hardly the point for us, was it?
It was? Seasons like this are like flirting with dementia; do you really want to remember? Didn't think so. Which is why we'll remember this - when we remember it at all - as another in a long series of scouting missions.
- Sean Johnson was outstanding for much of the game. His frustration was obvious even before the goals - he had to be bailed out by Bakary Soumare (of all people) on one occasion in the second half where he got too aggressive and was caught away from goal.
- Alex's second start at left back has to be termed a solid outing. Sporting wanted to exploit his inexperience there, but his positioning and tackling were clean and astute.
- Florent Sinama-Pongolle showed he could be a serviceable squad member, but lacked the glimmer of inspiration the team is looking for. He combined well a few times, but couldn't put shots on frame.
- Harry Shipp was worryingly loose with the football, although some of that could be down to Kansas City's withering pressure.
- Quincy Amarikwa is a defender's nightmare. Playing against him has to be like working 14 hours in the Suck Mines. His ability to maintain contact and somehow find a way to leverage a defender into bad positions is nearly a superpower. Unfortunately, his finishing isn't similarly astonishing.
- Matt Watson would be a very valuable glue piece on a better team. His ability to imagine different roles for himself, and then insert himself in those roles, is really great to watch.
- Patrick Nyarko looks like he's saving himself for 2015, in which case, well-played, sir.
See? It's not a loss - not really. It's just a scouting exercise. I just wish I'd gotten data on Benji Joya, or Chris Ritter, or Greg Cochrane. Don't you?
Chicago (5-18-9) plays in the District Saturday night against DC United; they will kick off simultaneously with Sporting (14-7-11), who travel to Philadelphia.