There are two reasons for this delayed recap. The first, and less important reason, is that I lived in my car Sunday, going from Chicago to Schaumburg to Morrison to Davenport, Iowa then to Palatine and back to Schaumburg all in one day.
The second more compelling reason for the delayed recap is Saturday’s game simply did not matter and a delayed recap is a reminder we all should not be worried about Saturday in the least and just get to the part where we suffer uncontrollable anxiety until Tuesday’s kickoff in New England.
But a soccer game did happen Saturday so I will give you a very quick recap of the action before getting to the one part that surprised, perhaps slightly concerned, me from the contest.
The Chicago Fire came out with a heavy reserve side and Real Salt Lake proceeded to dominate possession, especially in the first half. Javier Morales was a monster in the midfield, assisting on Olmes Garcia’s 14th minute strike and then scoring two of his own in the 28th and 64th minute. His 28th minute goal came courtesy of a penalty kick after Eric Gehrig foul in the box.
The Fire were better in possession and chances in the second half, thanks in part to the addition of Razvan Cocis and the fact RSL took their foot off the gas with a comfortable two goal lead. The Fire did create some late chances that required some great goalkeeping from Nick Rimando but their only goal came in the 58th minute thanks to Arturo Alvarez and a nice assist from Nick LaBrocca.
Real Salt Lake was never in real trouble of losing the match or even conceding a draw. It was about as comfortable a home win as a team could want.
That result is all fine and good with me. Get guys like Michael Stephens and LaBrocca some work while throwing the newly arrived Luis Solignac in the mix for some experience. The part that was surprising and concerning was some of the lineup choices.
While most of the team was reserve based, David Accam and Michael de Leeuw played 45 minutes of soccer after starting in the first half. I honestly was unsure if Accam and de Leeuw would even make the trip, so to see them start was shocking. Luckily, no one was injured and the 45 minutes does not worry me from a potential fatigue perspective come Tuesday.
But flying from Utah to New England is not the easiest trip to make, so to see them at all was a gamble on coach Veljko Paunovic’s part. Then Johan Kappelhof was strangely brought in for the final 25 minutes of the meaningless game Saturday. Again, I’m not worried it will tire him out come Tuesday but why risk the injury? While he did not play, Sean Johnson also made the trip.
If the Fire lose Tuesday, I am not going to point to Paunovic’s decision to bring and play some key players Saturday as a reason, but it was risky and perhaps even unnecessary.
With everyone leaving Salt Lake healthy, the Fire accomplished the most important task Saturday. Paunovic and company have turned their attention to New England and fans have already had their attention on the Revolution match since the beginning of the month.
New England is coming off a much shorter road trip to Toronto where they were beat down 4-1 despite playing a regular starting XI. The Revolution is desperately holding on to the final playoff spot and should be ripe for the taking Tuesday.