It's not worth getting all bent out of shape over this loss. It's just not worth it. Everyone tried; there were moments of real hope; then reality, represented by a pair of substitutions around the hour mark, showed up determined to drive home some hard facts. Those hard facts have been apparent for some time now, and they are as follows: The Fire aren't good enough to contend, not with the roster as it's constituted now, not even in an Eastern Conference as soft and mild as baked brie.
To paraphrase Bill Clinton: It's the roster, stupid. When the game was there to be won - when half an hour was left, and it was all even - the Revolution were able to pull former USA star Charlie Davies off the bench; the Fire answered with Matthew Fondy. Davies scored on his second touch, blazing onto a Jermaine Jones through ball and finishing with panache to the back stick; Fondy's bad touches outnumbered the good, and gosh did he mark some space without the ball. It's the roster, the 2014 roster, which has made this season another for the 'Lost Cause' file. It's the roster that left the bench short tonight, as Davies' goal was the difference: 2-1, Revolution.
It's hard to remember that, in the first half, the Men in Red had a bit of joy. After a torrid first 15 minutes which found New England pressing the Fire hard, keeping them sealed in their own end, Chicago slowed down a bit, strung some passes together, and found that they could counter the Revs effectively when they got their heads up and saw better releasing balls. The striking duo of Sanna Nyassi and Quincy Amarikwa came close once before they hooked up to score, each time with Nyassi flashing into the zone for headers off of crosses from Quincy. 1-0 Chicago, against the odds.
New England didn't panic, despite the Fire's growing confidence with the ball. Lee Nguyen's ability to find space between Chicago's defensive lines meant the Revs seldom surrendered possession before trying a final ball; the Men in Red's opportunities to counter dried up as New England's passing tidied up.
The tying goal came on a situation similar to the one Chicago scored on last week - a corner half-cleared, a central defender chasing it down and making a play. Last week, it was Jeff Larentowicz for the Fire; this week, it was Jose Goncalves for Ningland. Goncalves tracked the ball down near Chicago's left corner flag, where he was challenged by Bakary Soumare. With Soumare pulled out of the middle, and the rest of the Fire still clogging the 6-yard box, Goncalves laid the ball into the penalty area for Nguyen to run onto. He did, and his short cross to the back post found Diego Fagundez storming in from the wing, completely unmarked: 1-1.
The second half saw the Revolution gradually asserting their control over the game, but Chicago hung in there, scrambling and clawing and fighting like mad. Occasionally some football would occur; between those glimmering moments, there was minding the shape, and booting it long, and hoping against hope.
The insertion of Davies broke the game open. The Fire defense, accustomed by now to mauling Patrick Mullins, was left grasping at shadows when the Boston College product moved through the gears. Perhaps most painfully, it was a fantastic play by Jermaine Jones - once seemingly destined for a move to the Red and White - that won it. Jones stepped through a loose pass in midfield and rumbled into the attack, shrugging off Matt Watson without dropping his eyes from Davies' looping run into the right channel. Davies, held onside by Larentowicz' momentary indecision, couldn't be caught as he glided onto the ball and laid a pinpoint finish to Sean Johnson's uncovered back post. 2-1, and New England wouldn't be caught either.
Even a promisingly livewire sub performance from Patrick Nyarko couldn't rescue the thing. It's time to think about 2015. There's a lot to change, and months in which to change it. If we're hearing excuses like 'we lack quality' next year, then we'll know the problem isn't the players. It's the guys scouting them, the guys picking them, and the guy paying them. Start the clock on next year, because this one's done and dusted.