If the hope was that the last five games would provide a blueprint for the Chicago Fire for 2016 - well, most hopes have gotta die someday.
The Fire started the first game of the Brian Bliss era the same way they ended the Frank Yallop one immediately preceding - flailing about offensively and horribly exposed without the ball. An Andre Romero counter-attack and a Didier Drogba mauler-ball goal were enough to see Montreal past the Fire, 2-1, as the Impact tightened their hold on a playoff position and the Men in Red took firm control of the race for the Wooden Spoon.
The hosts took the lead late in the first half on a blown call by referee Fotios Bazakos. Matched up one-on-one with Fire captain Jeff Larentowicz, Drogba saw a route to a crossed ball and threw the defender to the turf before finishing the play. Despite the Fire's furious protests, the goal stood, and the game trickled to halftime, 1-0.
The Fire tied the game early in the second half. The move began with Patrick Doody sliding a long ball forward to Gilberto, who skinned one defender, pulled the keeper out but put the header off the far post. Accam arrived there to bundle home the rebound after some skirmishing around the goal-mouth.
Romero's winner came as the Fire were trying to stretch for a road winner. Midfield sub Patrice Bernier - whose exclusion for long stretches this season was protested by Montreal fans early in the game - stepped forward to win a 50/50 ball in midfield and slid an inch-perfect through ball to Romero, who was bolting behind a chasing Chicago backline. Romero's back-post finish was impeccable, sending the Men in Red to their club-record 17th loss in MLS play in 2015.
Accam should've had the Fire level just a few minutes later. Slicing in from his favored left side, Accam tumbled and feinted his way all the way across the goal-mouth, leaving hamstrung Montreal defenders and keeper Evan Bush in his wake, but he somehow lost the moment just at *the moment* and stroked a shot well high and wide of a wide-open Impact goal.
Chicago (7-17-6) continues its Canadian sojourn on Saturday in Toronto against a Reds side suddenly in need of points to cement its position in postseason.
- Well, that was a Yalloping of the first order. Really, Brian Bliss? An empty-bucket 4-4-2? Here's to hoping that fatigue was behind the kinda-gross Klopas/Yallop parks-n-rec 4-4-2 tonight. Giving Montreal 65 percent possession through big stretches of the first half - when they clearly couldn't give a f--k less about keeping the ball - was just straight-up awful.
- This really looked like a preseason match for the Fire, which (for the 30th league match of the season) is more than a little bit disappointing. Maybe the good ship Fire is hard to turn away from its bearing toward oblivion? Maybe the struggle is the story? We better hope so, because the struggle is what we've got.
- Oh, please tell me Mike Magee isn't done. Mike, this offseason is your legacy; get some.
- All the previously-noted good dudes are still good. Four to go.