There are those who will tell you that Harrison Shipp wasted four years while playing at Notre Dame. They'll tell you that he would've been better served signing up first thing with a football factory - who knows, maybe even our own little factory here in Chicago - honing his game, obsessively, day and night, working on bending a shot far-post after a wall pass, grinding on opening his hips and switching it wide.
But there are some players - and I would posit that Harry Shipp is one of them - whose primary contributions, past the simplest physical requirements, are mental: They broaden the play, sense the approach of runners not yet seen, or know in a moment that the presence of the destroyer here means that there's no cover in the hole there. For those few, perhaps, the repetitive demands of the training pitch, useful as they are in the control of the ball, need supplementing with a movement of Mozart, a view of Frank Lloyd Wright, or a few pages of García Márquez.
If Shipp is the argument for liberal arts in the football, then Saturday's 2-0 friendly win over DC United became one of the (very early, and still inconclusive) bits of evidence in favor. The Notre Dame graduate's sprightly follow of a Benji Joya post-knocker in the 48th gave the Fire the lead, and his clever, swashbuckling run through the left side of the penalty area set up Grant Ward for the second.
Grant that, as always, we should bear in mind the NSFW advice of Mr. Winston Wolf. Allow, also, that this was a preseason workout against a DC United bench that doesn't quite pass the sniff test. Still, Shipp managed a goal and an assist in 45 minutes of play. What's more, his every touch seemed purposeful, controlling tempo and space, alertly challenging but never foolhardy. After his promising first 30 minutes against college kids last weekend, a most tantalizing debut against MLS competition. We shall see, but it's exciting, no?
- I compared the Fire's 4-1-4-1 to New England's from last year in the pregame comments, and nothing I saw tonight changes that comparison much. If this is the formation CF97 stick with this season, I'll be delighted, as a fan of fluid football based upon movement. The high defensive line is a work in progress, but it necessarily must be at this point in the season.
- Anangonó as the point of the spear: Yucko. Of course, it's very early, but JLA had no joy against Parke and Boswell, his battling looking more like flailing. This could be down to him just not being in form yet, or it could be down to the traditional CF97 Designated Player half-year fade.
- Marco Franco had a tough introduction to the first team, twice holding DC United onside on lavish long balls from the back and struggling to make an impact on the offensive end. Franco's positioning was all-of-this or all-of-that, either barreling into the right channel or three yards deeper than Hurtado, the cover back. The guess here is that this is all rookie head-static, and that Franco will come good, but it bears watching.
- Interesting that Soumare got the nod ahead of Berry alongside Hurtado. Baky looked solid in his ungainly way - he certainly gave Eddie Johnson plenty to think about, and he passed the ball well, showing ambition where it was merited. Berry, though, looked very smooth in the second half; this is a battle that has yet to play out.
- Tottenham product - and potential Chicago loanee - Grant Ward was impressive in the second half. Direct and athletic, he dominated the Fire's right flank. While his goal was created entirely by Shipp's brilliant layoff, it is the kind of chance we've seen countless trialists screw into the 10th row, and he finished it with cold-eyed aplomb.