Atlanta United 2 Escobar 9’, Kappelhof (OG) 26’
Chicago Fire 1 De Leeuw 24’
One of my favorite webcomics is the now-defunct “A Softer World.” There are too many to name a favorite, but I think about this one a lot.
On a completely unrelated note, the Fire got trounced by Atlanta this afternoon in their second-to-last game of what has been an utterly dismal season. And I just can’t be bothered to care anymore.
The teamsheet might have been the most Pauno lineup we’ve seen all season. Several major changes, except the ones that needed to be made. More goalkeeper rotation (welcome back, Patrick McLain). Diego Campos suddenly back from “loan,” except he’s playing at fullback, picked over the two people, Raheem Edwards (on the bench) and Nico Hasler (not in the 18) we brought in mid-season specifically to play that position. Djordje Mihailovic as the #10, for some reason. And, completely out of the blue, Matt Polster on the bench.
I don’t know. I’m tired.
The game started as well as you’d expect. Atlanta started pressuring early and didn’t let up for quite a while. It paid early dividends, with Franco Escobar bagging a goal within ten minutes. Brandon Vincent nearly stole an equalizer a few minutes later, but other than that Atlanta dominated from kickoff. That Atlanta weren’t up 2-0 or 3-0 by the half-hour mark seemed down to dumb luck more than anything else.
Somehow, somehow, the Fire managed to grab a goal in the middle of all this. Michael De Leeuw, just a teensy bit offside, managed to finish off a lightning-quick counterattack and equalize.
That rally lasted all of two minutes. Half of that was taken up by VAR review. Atlanta came roaring back and re-established their lead thanks to a Johan Kappelhof own goal.
The rest of the first half was similarly lopsided and desperate for Chicago. The hosts piled on the pressure, the Fire hung on for dear life. 2-1 at halftime seemed a bit too kind for this Chicago team, if we’re being honest with ourselves.
The Fire came out for the second half with a new gameplan: press high. The idea, it seemed, was to try and catch Atlanta out while they played out of the back and potentially force turnovers in dangerous areas. On paper, a solid enough plan. With this team? Who knows.
There were some positive early returns. De Leeuw and Mihailovic combined well around the 56th minute and nearly got another equalizer, but Brad Guzan manage to snuff it out just in time.
But the efficacy of this rejiggered gameplan was limited. The midfield couldn’t keep the team knitted together, due in part to Dax McCarty having a rough afternoon. (Maaaaaaybe Pauno should’ve rested him.) The forward line tried their best but couldn’t exert any pressure on the host’s defense. Pat McLain was forced to scramble way more than he should’ve. None of it was working. The Fire, in this game and the season as a whole, ran out of gas. Atlanta were awarded a penalty on the cusp of stoppage time, but was called back after VAR review. Not that it would’ve mattered, at any rate. 2-1, the final score.
I don’t know, y’all. I’m tired. Everything sucks. I just want to go home.
The Chicago Fire (8W 7D 18L, 31pts, 10th in the Eastern Conference) close out the season next Sunday at home against DC United.