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We Claim This Universe In The Name Of The Chicago Fire: Chicago Fire 4, Seattle Sounders 1, MLS game recap

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Men in Red explode for three second-half goals as they turn their usual story-lines on their heads

MLS: Seattle Sounders FC at Chicago Fire
Michael de Leeuw reacts emotionally to David Accam’s go-ahead goal, which the Dutchman set up in the culmination of a lovely team move.
Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

There’s universes next door. We know it. We feel them. Aren’t there places just next door where President Clinton is tied in knots by another recalcitrant Congress? Aren’t there times as close as yesterday where Prince lives, chastened, after a last-minute intervention? Don’t tell me there aren’t. You feel it, too.

The internet-meme version of this is the Mandela Effect: The idea that there’s tiny, latent evidence of other universes in people’s cross-wired memories. If one follows the Mandela Effect far enough down the road, it emerges that there’s moments where the universes swapping places are crossing paths; theoretically, anyone paying close enough attention at the time could notice the transition.

I’m not saying two universes switched places during the Fire’s 4-1 punch-out of the Seattle Sounders Saturday night. I’m not. I’m just saying it’s possible to make that argument.

Witness: Chicago had ridden good fortune to a 1-1 draw at halftime. A soft-ish penalty call led to an even more inexplicable encroachment call, erasing David Accam’s weakly-taken and easily-saved penalty in favor of Nemanja Nikolic’s viciously-lashed take from the spot, and the Fire led, despite Seattle’s superiority in the run of play. (This wasn’t a spur universe, obviously, because Clint Dempsey immediately equalized for the Sounders.)

I would submit that two universes shouldered past each other sometime after the 53rd minute of Saturday’s contest in Chicago. The 53rd minute was notable for Michael de Leeuw’s classic ‘welp I’m out of ideas’ cross into the seats behind the Seattle goal, as a Fire team short on both energy and thought struggled to find a way to impose itself on the game.

In the 58th minute, the Men in Red converted a long possession against a packed defense into a goal - Drew Conner winning a fight for the ball on the right wing - a fight he’d been losing all night - to slide the ball to de Leeuw, gassed and clueless just five minutes before, but somehow full of vim and verve here. De Leeuw’s centering pass finds Bastian Schweinsteiger checking into the right channel, and his return thru ball is perfectly weighted for de Leeuw (who has suddenly transformed into a rainbow unicorn, striding forward in glory) to meet at the endline and cut back for Accam, the Fire’s Swiss Army Knife. The Ghanaian took a cat-quick touch and then banged the ball near-post: 2-1 Fire in this world, somehow.

The rest flowed on from the pivot. Given the chance to really boss the game against a visiting foe, these near-universe Chicago Fire took the mic with infinite swagger and called out a half-hour to remember. A shift to a countering 5-3-2 took the sting out of the Sounder’s direct shape, and the Men in Red got two goals to put the game out of reach.

The first came from the left wing, Brandon Vincent crossing into Niko running near-post. Nikolic’s attempt to settle the ball didn’t come off, but it did skip to the back post, where Luis Solignac was completely unmarked to make it 3-1. The final goal was a product of the shape, as no Seattle player picked up Johan Kappelhof’s forward run into the right channel; the Dutch centerback merely continued forward until challenged on the edge of the box, then gave to Accam, whose cross found Niko to complete the scoring.

Whatever the rules are in this new universe, I’m willing to learn. The Fire (4-3-3) host Colorado on Wednesday, while Seattle (2-4-4) continue their killer road-trip with a visit to Sporting Kansas City the same evening.

Notes

  • If this is how David Accam intends to put himself in the shop window, then 1) Hallelujah, and 2) prepare yourself emotionally for him to be sold by mid-August. Most of the critiques of David’s game - that he’s too selfish, that he doesn’t see the field, that he’s a one-trick (speed) pony - have simply evaporated as he’s adapted his game to the better talent around him this season. Barring an injury or a truly disastrous run of form, Accam should be one of the hotter transfer targets in North America not named ‘Cyle Larin.’
  • Tonight’s double pivot of Dax and Basti was good enough to make Juninho’s return a little bit of a head-scratcher. In the first half, the two played mostly with Dax further forward and Schweinsteiger attempting to launch attacks from deep in a Pirlo-esque role, but Seattle’s willingness to sit deep in defense took away the long-pass fast-break option. In the second half, they played more as a conventional pair in midfield, and their quality and increasing comfort with each other gives the Fire tremendous stability - they recognize, and adjust to anticipate, shifts in the game’s phases.
  • Sorry, Seattle support, but the PK debacle didn’t lose you this game. Dax McCarty marking Nico Lodeiro into irrelevance lost you this game.
  • That said, the PK debacle was especially debacle-y. The call itself looked fine to me - the defender got the ball after going all the way through Niko. But the retake, to me, looked like Accam Jedi-mind-tricking the ref from the get-go - realizing his take was complete shit, and with the memory of last week’s called-back penal fresh in his mind, Accam is immediately asking for a retake. I’d be interested to learn if someone else (Dax? Basti?) was also calling for it, and the ref just sort of bought it. Because if that’s encroachment, then every penalty taken in every league at every level since maybe 1950 could be called back for encroachment.
  • Luis Solignac just continues to grow and grow on the right wing. His effort has never been a question, but the end product often has been. This season has seen the rangy midfielder turn all the things one sees when scouting him (soft first touch, ability to combine, plays with head up, imaginative in small spaces, has plus speed and quickness, great engine) into a productive, reliable part of the starting XI