Optional soundtrack to this preseason contest.
There's something spectacularly preseasonish about these live streams from the Desert Diamond Cup. There's the kids in soccer kits past one corner playing 2-on-2 gridiron football. There's the omnipresent barbeque pit. Hearing the teams chattering so clearly ("Up! Up! Up! C'mon, what the f--k are you doing? Up!"). The slanting shadows. The glimpses of the camera-side stands on wide pans, glimpses that make it clear there's just a camera on a tripod on top of one of those assemble-it-yourself aluminum grandstands that come in pieces.
Mostly it's soccer, but in preseason life just leaks in a little more around the edges. It's not sealed off by spectacle or marketing necessity - this is the beautiful game at a human pace, and with human expectations - win? lose? what can these things mean? We will play, we will see who shows well, we will hope for something lovely. There will be barbeque. The kids will run around a bit. All the pictures have gorgeous lens flare, and the palette is tastefully oversaturated. It's only preseason.
The Fire lost their first game of preseason warmup lovely light liquid ... preseason Wednesday, falling 1-0 to the New England Revolution on a very late goal by Kelwyn Rowe. Rowe finished a quick one-two with Diego Fagundez just after the end of regulation time. The Fire did not go quietly, though, as Quincy Amarikwa rattled the Revs crossbar shortly after the ensuing kickoff, but the rebound squirted away and the game ended meekly.
Chicago had the better of the first half, showing impressive defensive surety with the first-team unit. The starting midfield had difficulty imposing itself on play, despite facing a second-choice selection for New England, meaning the Fire frequently played directly from defense either to the wings or to target man Juan Luis Anangonó. The Revs played quickly on the break, but the Men in Red were impressively cohesive, snuffing out most attacks deftly.
The Fire executed a line-change at halftime, reminding everyone that Frank Yallop is at least quite a bit Canadian. The second group played in a really lovely angling sunlight that made it seem clear that no one was truly competing, that we were all on the same side, truly, forever, even though it seems otherwise so often. And it looked really warm. There was likely barbeque.
- The Fire's defensive shape is becoming clearer. Soumare is playing in a tactically and technically demanding forward destroying role, with Hurtado covering behind, and there are signs that each could be outstanding. Soumare was particularly impressive in his 45 minutes, imposing and aggressive as always, but with an additional gloss of deft touches and inch-perfect interventions. His 70-yard switches have been a steady staple of his game for time immemorial; at least when he's in form, sometimes they work. For Hurtado, this is his game, riding the line then knifing back at that sharper angle to cut out the through ball, and he did it well again.
- The central midfield of Larentowicz, Shipp and Alex did not control play. Alex seemed to play deeper, which left Shipp to connect. After a few minutes, Shipp seemed to realize this and drop deeper, gamely switching this way and that, but this blunted the Fire attack.
- Speaking of which, the Joya-at-right-mid experiment was just ehhh. He made intelligent runs in behind, and dug in on some doubleteams with Palmer along the flank, but mostly I missed his tireless, exuberant play linking midfield.
- Anangonó cannot seem to escape the impression that he's B- talent at best. It seems like every game, it would be fair to write "He battled gamely," while examples of looping touches flicker through one's memory. He's physically both powerful and fleet, but his subtler footballing qualities rate lower, meaning he winds up being a rather exotic version of a stereotypical talented American striker - better as a 'pure athlete' than as a player.
- Amarikwa, on the other hand, continued to impress as a mobile, versatile point of the spear. It's hard to imagine that Amarikwa could play his balls-out style game-in, game-out, but at this point it's been impressive time and time again under two different Franks.
- Piermayr impressed me. He's clever, plays out of tough situations well, positions himself intelligently. He's not going to outrun pure wingers, but if he had all that, he'd be playing in the Champions League, not trialing for the Fire.
Chicago Fire 0 - 1 New England Revolution
Chicago Fire: Sean Johnson (Kyle Reynish 46'); Lovel Palmer (Thomas Piermayr* 46'), Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (Steven Kinney 46'), Bakary Soumare (Patrick Ianni 46'), Gonzalo Segares (Hunter Jumper 46'); Jeff Larentowicz © (Logan Pause 46'); Benji Joya (Victor Pineda 46'), Alex (Yazid Atouba 46'), Harry Shipp (Giuseppe Gentile 46'), Dilly Duka (Marco Franco 46'); Juan Luis Anangono (Quincy Amarikwa 46')
Substitutes Not Used: Alec Kann, Parker Walsh*
*- Guest Player
New England Revolution: Brad Knighton, Donnie Smith (Chris Tierney 61), Jossimar Sanchez, Darrius Barnes (A.J. Soares 61), O'Brian Woodbine (Jose Goncalves 61, Darrius Barnes 63) , Andy Dorman (Gorka Larrea 46, Shalrie Joseph 61, Gorka Larrea 75), Dimitry Imbongo (Jamel Johnson 46, Diego Fagundez 61), Steve Neumann, Alec Sundly (Kelyn Rowe 61), Pierre Omanga (Patrick Mullins 61), Jerry Bengtson (Teal Bunbury 61)
Substitutes Not Used: Luis Soffner, Paolo DelPiccolo, Daigo Kobayashi
NE - Kelyn Rowe (Diego Fagundez) 91'
CHI - Jhon Kennedy Hurtado (caution) 34'