As I sat at the Cubs game last night with family from out of town - just for reference, I'm not much of a baseball fan - I thought to myself "Wow, the Cubs actually have something going for them." They hired one of the best managers in the game, bought some high priced veteran talent to help teach the younger players, and they made the conscious effort to stress to their fans their plans to build through youth. Well. it's paying off quicker than they thought, and I immediately went back to thinking about the cf97 game this past Saturday.
I'll keep this recap pretty short - Saturday saw the Fire host the New England Revolution in a must-win game. After a high-pressure start from the Fire which yielded chances but no goals, it was the Revs that took control of the scoreboard when Scott Caldwell's shot - low and hard at the far post - was knocked straight into the path of Lee Nguyen by Sean Johnson. Nguyen had a simple finish to make the score 1-0. Right before halftime, the Fire were saved by the ref for the first time on the night, when the ref judged that Jose Gonçalves took down David Accam in the box after a broken Fire corner kick. If you look at the replay, Gonçalves got the ball, and Accam sold the PK by going down rolling around in "pain". Up stepped the other Seán on the Fire, and Shaun Maloney buried the PK to even the score heading into the break.
The cf97 nation had hope that this was going to be their night and that all of the recent failings would be forgotten with a win versus the hated Revs and a new DP signing (more on that later). That's when the ball ping-ponged around the Revolution box it found its way to Razvan Cocis who contorted himself to knock the ball in the net. The stadium was buzzing after that goal; it was something the supporters needed
... but it was all for naught as Chris Tierney found space on the left side and smashed a cross along the 6 yard box which eventually found Kelyn Rowe, who simply tapped the ball in while 3 Chicago defenders did nothing but watch.
If it wasn't for the ref saving a point for the Fire, the Revs would have had a game-winner as it was perceived that the ref played advantage as Charlie Davies ran through to goal and put the ball past Sean Johnson only to have the ball brought back for offsides which turned out to be a foul from the advantage play. Confusing huh? That's how the game ended as the Fire done in by what has plagued them for it seems like an eternity, a mental lapse cost yet another 3 points at home.
The stars that weren't
In all honesty I can't really give a rating to anybody on cf97. No one on the team played particularly well and no one really stood out. Every single player seemed just to play below average. Maloney did have a goal but he - along with Accam and Kennedy Igboananike - were very unimpressive all night long. Shipp was non-existent on the outside and the other mids in the middle were doing there jobs but also were mistake-ridden. The defense was also not very good either and Sean Johnson was left to rot by the field players. The subs, Patrick Nyarko and Michael Stephens - yeah, not much of an impact. I don't know if you have other opinions but I just couldn't find a bright spot on the field.
What's our plan again?
Back to the Cubs thing. It just seems as though, like the Blackhawks, they are doing things right to build a dominant winner or at least trying to build one. The Cubs hired the right people to build their team, have brought back a hope to the fan base, and are actually packing the stands of Wrigley yet again. Why can't the Fire follow suit? Why can't the Fire hire the right soccer people to help make this team dominant once again? Bliss and Yallop have been quoted that the plan they have is to build the club following the same model as RSL, DC, and SKC. If this is true than why were you going after Drogba? Why can't you make your own model in building a club and not follow others but actually take the lead? I'm not the only one with questions and I hope that the powers to be at cf97 would stop freezing its fans and local media out of information that the fan base wants to know.
We all know by know that yet another high profile player decided to not come to Chicago. Didier Drogba wanted to go Montreal instead and the Fire were left with MLS funny money and Gilberto from TFC. Will Gilberto help this team? I don't know, but the stats don't lie - he is a better DP than all of the others we have had since Blanco. It just seems a little odd that yet again the Fire get another MLS DP reject from another team. If he doesn't work out along with KI and Maloney, this fan base could really turn against this club because of the lack of actually trying, I mean really trying, to get a high impact player that can make a difference like a Giovinco. Who knows - our other DP, David Accam, could be gone with the right offer from a European club and than the rebuilding would start all over.
I could be wrong about everything. Maybe the Fire will make an impressive run to end the season but they could fail and leave the fan base wondering why the Fire always settle for plan "B" when they should be sealing their plan "A+". I think a Fire legend (Hristo Stoichkov) summed it up best - when asked about the growth of MLS he said: "Yes, everyone is growing except for my team Chicago Fire. Everyone slips away from them."