In the bedraggled aftermath of this, another almost-shame, almost-triumph draw, it's easy to twist one's lips and declare, "I knew it all before." Chicago, despite mild innovation, weren't good enough to storm to victory in their 23rd MLS contest of the season, yet neither were they sufficiently incompetent to deserve scorn; delicately poised, then, betwixt Utterest Failure and Failure-Tinged Mediocrity, the Men in Red presented all the necessary paperwork for a last-minute extension: Kennedy Igboananike's extra-time equalizer finished off a 3-3 roller-coaster. The draw means the Fire finish the season's 23rd week on the bottom of the league standings.
It all began so promisingly. Igboananike (hereafter 'Igbo') made the kind of incisive center-forward run he was imported to make, just moments after Patrick Nyarko had won a series of heated skirmishes for the ball on the Fire's right wing. The game was barely nine minutes along, and the Fire led, 1-0.
Remember the WonderTwins? Remember how ridiculous their concessions to the conceit of 'one-becomes-animal, one-becomes-water' thing were? "Form of: Eagle!" "Shape of: Bucket of water!" WHAAT? "Form of: Gorilla!:" "Shape of: Ice ladder?" YOU CANNOT BE SERIOUS. Watching this Fire side has a similar feeling - Chicago finds itself so far out of playoff position (not in terms of points, but in terms of teams-to-overcome and quality-of-play) that there's a certain fantastical element to evaluations of their performances. Is Gilberto both strong and fuzzy?
As a result, the simple need for quality moments become a squared version of themselves: Can it be sustained? Chicago's performance continually begged the question: Even at this heightened pitch, what would a season of this be like? Can the Men in Red overcome Maloney and Shipp's undefensive instincts?
In this reality, the Fire struggled to maintain any control over the rampant hosts. Only Sean Johnson's interventions kept the game within reach, including a pair of freakish save sequences in the final five minutes. Philadelphia had apparently snatched a win with Seba le Toux's simple back-post finish (again) deciding things. Thankfully - from the Fire's POV - Chicago broke back, with Harry Shipp's slicing cross dummied to Igbo by Mike Magee for the equalizer. A point on the road!
|2||New York Red Bulls||39||23||1.7||11||6||6||38||25||13||19||11||19||2|
|3||Columbus Crew SC||34||24||1.42||9||8||7||38||39||-1||27||11||11||-12|
|4||New England Revolution||34||25||1.36||9||9||7||34||36||-2||21||12||13||-14|
|7||Orlando City SC||28||25||1.12||7||11||7||32||41||-9||17||2||15||-11|
|8||New York City FC||27||24||1.13||7||11||6||34||37||-3||25||1||9||-4|
What it'd be like
- The Fire would be a whole f--kload more entertaining IF ONLY Yallop would openly adopt a swashbuckling attacking style and load the defense up with defensive midfielders who can hit accurate long, diagonal balls. If only. They spent long stretches of the game in that mode.
- If this is the end of the Maloney non-Era, pfeh. Get bent, wee grinder. Enjoy the money. This team would be better served with Shipp trying to prove he deserves the keys to whole thing than prying around on the margins.
- Mikey Stephens is the truth, and should be included in all future Chicago lineups, while allowing for fatigue and form, of course. WHY WAS HE OUT FOR THIS LONG? Stephens bossed the midfield for long stretches, letting Cocis rest a bit as second fiddle and completing his usual insane percentage of passes. I have a sneaking suspicion that the simple act of completing a very high percentage of passes indicates a whole cluster of necessary skills for a central midfielder - accuracy, sense of space, finding the right foot, an ability to do the thing right-here-right-now while thinking of the larger shape-space-possibility.
- Going deep into the weeds about this group - this is pure bloviating: In Stephens, Polster, and Shipp, the Fire have the makings of an elite 4-3-3 midfield, the shape that Yallop said he envisioned playing in 2015. What would it hurt to line up with those three in the middle, Accam and Nyarko on the wings, and Magee/Igbo as the point of the spear? Who is injured by this experiment? And how much might be gleaned in '16 thereby?