There was an air of unreality about Wednesday night's proceedings at Toyota Park - Frank Yallop started a lineup from a nearby universe, keeping both his starting centerback tandem and the prohibitive favorite for Rookie of the Year on the bench. What was this fresh new thing? Jeff Larentowicz at centerback? Homegrown player in Larentowicz's usual spot, deep in the midfield? Vancouver's more-settled lineup stood as a stark reminder of the turmoil in the Chicago XI. Everyone in white started approximately where they were expected to, while the Fire had shuffled the deck. It was exciting and odd, an exotic thrill.
Then the game began, and reality resumed: The new back line, clearly terrified of the mind-blowing speed of the attack arrayed against them, anchored a cautious, pragmatic performance from the Men in Red. No goals were recorded. No goals were achieved. Chicago showed little attacking verve or intention, and the game ended deadlocked at nothin' - a fair result for a home side less concerned with victory than potential embarrassment.
The Fire share the points for the 12th time in 20 MLS games in 2014 - if you're betting a CF97 game, and you lay money on anything other than 'draw,' just stop gambling entirely right. now. Cold turkey. Do it! You're clearly not rational enough to do anything other than damage yourself and the people around you.
Tonight's sister-kissing was at least understandable. Remember how, in Jordan's prime, there was all that talk about getting 'posterized' by him - just google 'Michael Jordan posterizes Patrick Ewing' if you're not up to speed. The gist was that, worse than getting beaten by a guy is getting humiliated by him, and, worse yet than that, getting 'posterized' was having one's humiliation held in a sort of Museum of Humiliation, a perpetual moment, you there (always) getting dunked on, Jordan there (always) still just rising.
Vancouver's offense, despite its occasional misfires, inspires that sort of dread; what is a new, makeshift back line to do? They do what the Fire did - they play a little deep. They try to keep the ball when they can, but not if any risk rears its ugly head. They focus on keeping the zero, not breaking one.
The odd occasion raised hopes. Quincy Amarikwa seemingly broke through behind the Vancouver defense with half an hour or so left, drawing a foul that led to little. A bit less than 20 minutes later, a clever turn by Mike Magee opened up Vancouver on the break, and he fed Amarikwa with half the goal gaping, but he skied his finish into some empty bleachers in Harlem End. The new guy, Ravzan Cocis, came on and looked comfortable. No one punched each other or broke down in tears (although Amarikwa's reaction to being subbed pushed the red line, emotionally).
It's a work in progress. There are 14 games left in the season; there are rumors of a week a frenetic changes:
Lalas: Jermaine Jones deal gets done for around $3 million to Chicago. Chicago trying to do multiple deals this week
— MLS Transfers (@MLSTransfers) July 31, 2014
... and it was another point. 21 from 20. It was a draw. There was some football played. Some several thousand people game. The Fire are reshuffling the deck mid-game, again; the process is always interesting, even when the results are not.
Chicago (3-12-5) hosts Eastern Conference rival Columbus Saturday at Toyota Park. Vancouver (6-11-4) get a week and a half off, next hosting Kansas City Aug. 10.