It's not like the Chicago Fire, considered as people, are horrible lads or anything. They seem lovely. Frank Yallop - I'd love to have a few beers with Frank Yallop. CJ Brown's a legend. Clint Mathis is a self-effacing good ol' boy who, oh right, was the best striker of the ball the US has yet produced. The whole group seems like they'd be fun to play with, fun to travel with, just fun - Mike Magee's hilarious, Quincy Amarikwa's got this whole 'is-he-parodying-himself-or-not' thing going - it's just great.
It's just the results. It's just another home draw that feels like a loss, another missed opportunity. Another swing and a miss from an organization and team that is starting to feel more Dave Kingman than Frank Thomas. Chicago squandered another chance to make up ground on one of the league's elite, wasting a depleted foe and 60 minutes of man advantage to draw, 1-1, with Toronto FC Wednesday night.
The terrifying fact is that the Reds likely feel hard done by tonight. The red card on Luke Moore (for elbowing Chris Ritter, who would play for 25 minutes with a Revolutionary War-style headwrap before being withdrawn at halftime) was fair, but it was also the type of call everyone has seen go a more moderate way. Prior to that, what precious little play escaped through the slanting rain favored the visitors. Chicago, its two wins in 14 securely tucked under its hat, seemed content to lump balls long and hope for the best.
The game trickled on, neither offering much in the mire, until Jermaine Defoe ran onto an angled ball in Toronto's right attacking corner. Greg Cochrane, the cf97 left back, was caught upfield and unable to help with the mercurial Englishman.
The Fire responded to the crisis by clutching to each other, screaming and crying. Bakary Soumare's cover for Cochrane wasn't decisive, allowing Defoe to cross past him and toward the far post, where Patrick Ianni and Lovel Palmer stood, arms outstretched, weeping and in need of comfort. Jackson arrived to thump home a header, leaving Ianni and Palmer to express their extremes of regret and frustration to one another. Cochrane, arriving late on the scene, decisively marked an imaginary runner through the channel, while several other phantoms got the bodying-up of a lifetime. As usual, the 2014 Fire had snatched misery from a powerful position, and trailed, 0-1, 42 minutes in.
Halftime was a welcome respite. Alex came in for Ritter, who had misplaced his drum & bugle corps sometime around the 30th minute, and Chicago tried actually possessing the ball. Alex's runs into advanced areas meant Magee, Shipp and Amarikwa had another foil to combine with, and the results were immediate - the Fire carved out chance after chance against a step-slow Toronto defense.
The equalizer came on a play of that type. Magee and Amarikwa exchanged passes on a short corner, Quincy having played it on the trot, forcing the tempo to stay high. Magee slid a pass in front of Shipp's outside-in run, and a touch by the Rookie of the Year frontrunner put it onto his favored right foot. The blast, when it came, was hard enough to skip through Joe Bendik's fingers and spray into the roof of the net. 1-1, Fire, with a man advantage and 33 minutes remaining. The goal was Shipp's team-leading sixth of the season.
And then ... the fizzle. Toronto seemed to sense the possibility of zero points with some dread; every move in the last half-hour from the Reds was defensive, which is certainly understandable, down a man and on even terms on the road. The Men in Red, try as they might, couldn't again find the magic of that combination in the 57th. Juan Luis Ananagonó, the DP on as a substitute in the 73rd, came closest with a crackling drive in the 85th that sailed a good 2 feet high.
The Fire (2-9-4) travel to Kansas City to face the defending MLS Cup champions on Sunday. Toronto (6-3-4) host DC United Saturday evening.