I'm sure that, somewhere, there's some lost footage of a game played in a crazier wind-storm than last night's Desert Diamond Cup final between our Chicago Fire and Chivas Rayados, the U20 side of the big Liga MX club from Guadalajara. There's gotta be. I'm picturing grainy black-and-white clips of air-tunnel testing areas, the massive turbines roaring, soccer on the tarmac, and everyone's hair blowing toward a brave socialist future. Brief shots of the teams before kickoff, faces grim, no children holding their hands or symbolic gifts in evidence.
Tonight was like that, but without the numbing roar of the engines. A gale-force wind blew directly along the central axis of the field, making the game play as if the pitch were tilted toward one goal. The Fire made the best of the conditions, posting their fifth clean sheet in seven preseason starts en route to a 2-0 win over Chivas' JV side. They celebrated stiffly, in parkas in Arizona, and made ready to return to Chicago prior to next Sunday's MLS opener in Los Angeles.
The Men in Red entered the game heavily favored, but found control of the game hard to come by in the howling wind against the energetic and skillful Guadalajarans. Juan Luis Anangonó was equal to the Mexican's industry, fighting like mad for the lofted, wind-riding balls upon which the Fire backline became fascinated. His hard work came good in the 14th when he finished simply back-post; here's to hoping that sound is a dam breaking and not a ratio being confirmed.
Throughout, the weather was more of a feature than any single thing tried by either team. Chicago's attempts to keep possession sometimes bore fruit, but the weather threw out predictability - every time the ball was more than two inches off the grass, it accelerated toward one end as if magnetized. I'm trying to imagine the keeper, staring out into the wind.
The good news is that the Fire defense played in conditions equally horrible and yielded nothing, again. Chivas' U20 side made playing difficult, and the conditions added a gloss of pure gonzo unaccountability, but the commitment of this defense to erasing threats before they grew overwhelming was impressive. Quincy Amarikwa made all that commendable work stand up when he beat the offside trap, ran onto a very early Benji Joya ball, and bent a left-footed finish to the back post to make it 2-0.
The Fire finished the tournament 3-1-0, and won a silver trophy that looked incredibly cold. Anangonó was named tournament Most Valuable Player.
Chicago kicks off MLS play March 9 in Los Angeles against Chivas USA.