Colorado Rapids 2 Badji 7’, Smith 15’
Chicago Fire 2 Wilson (OG) 21’, Katai 24’
“If you find yourself in a hole, stop digging.”
At this point we at Hot Time HQ are considering putting out a bounty for some brave soul to print that quote out as a motivational poster and hang it up at Toyota Park. Preferable a few scattered throughout the offices, but one strategically placed where it will be seen by key decision-makers should do the trick.
At the start of what might be one of the most welcome road trips in recent Fire history, the Men In Red traveled to Colorado to take on one of the few teams that is obviously, objectively worse than they are. The Rapids were on an eight-game losing streak and had been blanked in their last two games. The Fire really, really needed to win tonight.
So of course they dropped points.
There’s this thing that Veljko Paunovic keeps doing where he fields a four-man backline and only plays one natural centerback. (Usually it’s Johan Kappelhof.) I’m not sure what he thinks is going to happen, but we keep shipping goals because of it and he’s either not made that connection or he just doesn’t care.
Colorado were blanked in their last two games and had lost eight in a row. It shouldn’t be too hard to keep them out of our net. And yet we conceded two goals in the first 15 minutes. Because of course we did.
While I was starting research into whether the club could just play an academy team for the rest of the season, the Fire got back into the game thanks to a Danny Wilson own goal. Katai did a lot of the important work that forced that own goal, but he won’t receive any official credit for it.
He damn well better get praise and epic poetry for the humdinger he scored three minutes later.
(I really hope we sign him to a permanent deal.)
Things slowed down mostly through the rest of the first half. You could tell both teams were a bit discombobulated from the first half hour. They spent the rest of the half trying to make any glaring mistakes and keep the score level at halftime.
The second half saw the Fire in a position they’ve only rarely found themselves in this season— dominating play. Chicago spent much of Act II keeping possession and ratcheting up the pressure, playing a kind of soccer they’ve tended to find themselves on the receiving end of in 2018. It was nice to see, even as it elicited sadness with the knowledge that we might not see the Fire play like this again for a while.
But for all the ways in which the Men In Red dictated the terms of the game, they couldn’t find a breakthrough. The match ticked over into the last ten minutes of regulation with a 2-2 score and no obvious path forward.
And then we got a heaping bowlful of MLS-branded bullshit.
While going for the ball, Kappelhof— already on a yellow and suspended for the next league game— went for the ball and clipped Joe Mason in the face. Nothing about that play suggests malicious intent on Kappelhof’s part and Mason was okay afterward. Play went on for a few minutes before the referee blew his whistle and went to the VAR monitor to review the play. The official came back to the pitch brandishing a red card. I guess we’re going to have an all-fullback defensive line for a few games?
So that’s six minutes of regulation plus five minutes of stoppage time with ten men. We weren’t going to get the win, and getting out of there with a point was going to be a trial.
The Fire pulled it off, of course. A point on the road is fine. But we should’ve gotten more, and it sucks that this feels like the best we could’ve hoped for. This team should’ve done better. Everyone seems to understand this except the people actually doing the thing. If anyone has any credible idea how to fix all of this, I’d love to hear it.
The Chicago Fire (5W-4D-7L, 19pts, seventh in the Eastern Conference) are off this weekend. They’re back at it next week when they travel to Atlanta for the US Open Cup Fifth Round. Their next league game is June 23rd away at Seattle.