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The Future, Tense: Fire 0, DC United 1, recap

"Let us start with the bold presumption that MLS is an actual sporting competition, and not a superannuated soccer-themed mutual fund designed to sit atop America's burgeoning love for the beautiful game and suck profit the way a tick sucks blood"

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

Question: In what tense was this statement spoken?

Answer: Future tense. F--king future tense. I'll be under pressure if I don't win. I will be under pressure if I don't win.

The Fire have won four, drawn two, and lost nine after a thorough offseason makeover, the second in two years under manager Frank Yallop. They'd just lost 1-0 to a DC United team who started a striker at left wing and a centerback at right back. The defeat dropped Chicago into uncontested possession of the bottom spot on the overall MLS table.

16 Philadelphia Union 18 18 1 5 10 3 20 30 -10 9 1 11 -11
17 Montreal Impact 17 13 1.31 5 6 2 17 21 -4 13 6 4 -10
18 New York City FC 17 16 1.06 4 7 5 17 19 -2 10 0 7 -2
19 Colorado Rapids 15 16 0.94 2 5 9 12 15 -3 6 -4 6 1
20 Chicago Fire 14 15 0.93 4 9 2 17 23 -6 11 2 6 -8

Let us start with the bold presumption that MLS is an actual sporting competition, and not a superannuated soccer-themed mutual fund designed to sit atop America's burgeoning love for the beautiful game and suck profit the way a tick sucks blood. Let's assume that the teams are more akin to real football clubs than the 'branch offices' MLS' detractors purport them to be. Let's pretend the salary structure, the lack of solidarity payments and the obsessive message control are just the over-reaching of safety-first executives and not the outlines of a plan for capital to do to football what it's done to every other profitable nexus of modern life: Farewell, joy, we barely knew ye.

Let's assume all that, and answer me this: How can a manager who's won 10 of his previous 49 league matches say, "Yeah, if this keeps up, mebbe someday - hoo! There'll be, like, pressure, or summat." (I'm paraphrasing, angrily. Gimme some space.) HOW? How can we pretend that MLS is truly a competition, and not a series of athletic pseudo-competitions staged for the benefit of a few interlocked investment groups? Because, anywhere else in the world, the only team in the third-largest media market in the country just cozying down for a nice summer's nap at the bottom of the table would be a FIRST. CLASS. BUSINESS. EMERGENCY.

But not for Frank Yallop. Someday - maybe someday soon! Gosh! - he could be held accountable for the astonishingly insipid results of his tenure on the Chicago Fire bench. Will it be soon enough to rescue Harry Shipp? Or Toyota Park? Or the Chicago Fire?

Wednesday's game was, like much of the Yallop Era, a series of promising moments which didn't quite come to fruition, followed by a bitter twist of fate and a bit of fruitless spasming before the spirit left the body. The lineup from the visitors promised they'd try to keep the ball, which they utterly failed to do. Meanwhile, the Fire were trying to play incisively over the top to Kennedy Igboananike; the Nigerian's pace worried United all night, but to little avail, let down by more examples of his less-than-clinical finishing.

The game seemed fated to end a churlish, curdled scoreless draw when, in the 73rd minute, Fire substitute Jason Johnson was whistled for a handball on DC's left wing. Fabian Espindola - subbed in to try to add a spark to moribund United - lofted a high free kick to the back post which Steve Birnbaum (the aforementioned centerback-playing-rightback) climbed highest to win, heading it down in front of goal. A thunderous follow-up shot was snuffed out by a diving Eric Gehrig, and the ball squibbed free to Conor Doyle, 22 yards from goal.

Here's the thing when you're cursed: It's not just that crappy things happen to you. It's that really great things happen to the wrong people right around you. And, let's say it - the Fire are cursed.

The ball spun out and Doyle strode forward, buoyed by the ill fortune of the Men in Red gawping at it spinning there. He struck it and it shifted up the energy spectrum past simple matter to some hybrid form for a moment, blurring and skipping through spacetime until interrupted by the crossbar and net behind Sean Johnson's head.

The introduction of Mike Magee twitched at the heavy, felted curtain of fate, but could not lift it, and the time ran out like the soggy last half-smoke in a long-forgotten pack: Damp, and bitter, and full of regrets. The crowd booed the display, and the results, and the ennui, and the curse, deepening all of them in the process.

The Fire (4-9-2) host Charlotte Independence of USL in the Fifth Round of the US Open Cup Tuesday at Toyota Park.


- Shout out to Guly do Prado for some serious yeoman labor in the defensive phase tonight. Do Prado's willingness to pitch in defensively - and his penchant for wandering wherever the mood takes him - meant he largely cancelled DC's 3v2 advantage in central midfield tonight. Of course, that meant that there was no foil for Igboananike when he'd get behind the defense ... nobody rides for free.

- Shipp seems to be trying to split the difference between what he's being told to do and what he naturally wants to do, and I'm aching for the kid. Especially on a team as bereft of ideas (beyond 'turn and scoop it into space for the fast guy to run onto'), chaining him to the right side of the field means he's either cannot scheme in space, or cannot cover his defensive post. It sucks.

- Oh, if only Kennedy could finish. He's fast, and clever, and selfless, and the collected edit of his worst misses just in a Fire uniform could only be scored with 'Yakety Sax.' Slow down and find a corner, man - we want this to work out!

- Magee immediately showed what a difference he can make - his movement and timing had United grasping at straws, even if he did get a couple of narrow offside calls against him. At this point, though, Magee's return feels like it's coming just as the team spirals completely out of contention, again. Can Magee find the 2013 magic again?