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Twilight Zonal Marking: LA Galaxy 2, Chicago Fire 2, MLS game recap

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Fire roar out to a two-goal lead, get pegged back on eerily similar set-piece goals to end road trip with 1 point from 9

MLS: Chicago Fire at Los Angeles Galaxy
David Accam’s pace had LA defenders like David Steres grasping at straws for much of the evening.
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

This is life as a Chicago Fire fan: It’s so tempting to look at tonight’s game - a 2-2 draw against the Galaxy in Carson - as a decent result. Sure, the Fire dismantled the hosts in the first quarter of the match. Yes, they roared to a deserved 2-0 lead and probably should’ve had more. Absolutely. But ... but ...

It’s at this point that Mr. Brightside shows up in the minds of Chicago supporters. “IT’S THE GALAXY,” he trills, rooting around in one’s memories for images of previous, terrifying versions of this team. “A POINT ON THE ROAD IS GREATLY TO BE CHERISHED.” He summons a vision of Ashley Cole, somehow not the workmanlike nag manning the LA left but the livewire kid in Arsenal red.

If we’re to speak plainly, all that is bullshit. The Fire today played possibly the least cohesive, least balanced team in MLS, and showed in a rousing opening 20 minutes that they understood those deficiencies intimately. Take, for example, the second goal for the Men in Red. Chicago had just converted its general dominance to a tangible lead when David Accam converted a penalty drawn by Nemanja Nikolic. The Fire tactic had Accam sliding up front to pair with Nikolic in transition, hoping to take advantage of both the Ghanaian’s electric pace and the Galaxy’s difficulty getting their centerbacks in sync.

It worked phenomenally in the 16th minute. Brandon Vincent won a ball deep in the Fire half and found Dax McCarty, who upped the tempo with a brilliant one-touch through ball that found Accam isolated on the left. The winger made the assist look simple, waiting for Galaxy centerback Daniel Steres to step forward and feeding Nikolic in the left channel. Niko kept it simple, stroking his sixth goal of the season to the back post for a 2-0 Fire lead just 16 minutes in.

Fifteen minutes later, Galaxy centerback Jelle van Damme pulled himself out of the game, uninjured, apparently for sucking. A few minutes later, LA mid Jermaine Jones had to leave after a collision. There may have been premature schadenfreude. Maybe.

Screen-wipe: Five seconds silence.

Then, somehow, the Fire gave it all back. Then, somehow, the failure, and not even something interesting or exotic - no, it’s pure mundanity. There can be no more common morality play in football than the team that enters halftime up two goals, switches off, and gets punished. Today, the play’s script was entitled “Hey, Let’s Try Not Marking A Dude In the Deep Near-Post Every Time They Get A Corner.”

Spoiler alert: That unmarked dude? He kills us.

The first time it was Steres, falling backwards toward the right channel, heading a corner to the (unmanned) back post, through a crowd of static, stunned Chicago defenders. The second it was Dave Romney, the guy called on when van Damme admitted sucking, skidding a header toward the (unmanned) back post while falling toward the left channel, where Giovianni dos Santos stood to stab it home.

The Fire (3-3-3) host MLS Cup champion Seattle next Saturday.