I suppose, in some ways, it's all a matter of perspective. If you'd come upon Sunday evening's matchup between the Chicago Fire and the Montreal Impact while, say, strolling through a park - if, by some happenstance, you'd had occasion to stumble upon it somewhere warm and comfortable, perhaps a wandering street vendor to sell you a hot dog, a patch of grass to sit upon and watch, it's possible it could have been a good time. But it's still doubtful you'd've stayed to the end.
Sure, there were some terrifically gifted individuals plying their trade in Toyota Park this evening - absolutely. One's inner scout would have surely exulted at the prospect of sussing out which of the players had a future, and which were condemned to spend their remaining careers on these beer-league teams. And the uniforms were bright and crisp - if this was a game in a park, you'd wonder who'd footed the bill.
Sadly, this beer-league damp-squib of a game was a matchup between two actual, bona fide professional football teams, each playing in the top division in North America. The home side, our Fire, still harbored the faintest of hopes of making the postseason when the game kicked off - but 90 minutes of stultifying, soporific soccer took those hopes to a part of the park where no one else ever goes and buried them in a shallow, unmarked grave. The scoreless draw was the team's 18th tie in 31 games this season, extending their already-incredible record.
Like I said - all a matter of perspective.
There were some chances. Montreal's Jack MacInerney delivered the best finish of the game, blasting an overhead kick to the far corner in the 38th, only for the goal to be waved off on a questionable offside call against former Fire winger Justin Mapp in the buildup. For Chicago, Jeff Larentowicz' cannon-shot free kick, saved ably by Impact netminder Evan Bush, was the closest the Fire came to scoring. The fact that the best bit of skill displayed all game came from oft-derided Fire bench warmer Matt Fondy - whose nutmeg/cutback/through-ball combo broke the tedium in astonishing fashion - told enough of the tale: This was a game that failed to live up to even its marginal hype.
Mostly, what was on display were two teams with their lockers half cleared-out, playing loose, uninspiring football of the sort one gets on kickarounds at the park - every dribble lasting two touches too long, the timing of runs and combinations off that critical margin that separates yes-that's-it from damn-it-almost. Every sad fraction of the game favored the defense; there is precious little skill needed to bump a runner, hold a dribbler, or lump a clearance blindly down the field, and those plays were the ones that dominated from the opening whistle.
If any confirmation were needed, the result solidifies the fact that this edition of the Chicago Fire - like three of the four editions which immediately preceded it - will not make the MLS playoffs. In their first 12 seasons, the Men in Red missed the postseason only once. Records for futility are, one supposes, still records.
Chicago (5-18-8) travels to Kansas City to play MLS champions Sporting on Friday evening. Rumor is they're going to keep score and everything - exciting times! Montreal (6-7-18) trundles on down its road to nowhere at home against red-hot New England on Saturday.