Chicago Fire 2 Gordon 29’, Katai 49’
San Jose Earthquakes 1 Hoesen 74’
There’s a concept in Magic the Gathering analysis called being ROT-y. ROT-y stands for Results Oriented Thinking, and the common wisdom is that you should not be ROT-y. If you’re playing a midrange strategy, and beat a control deck, you should not take the position that a midrange deck is generally good against a control deck. Or in a more relevant example— just because you won an individual match of Magic does not mean you won because you’re good at Magic. Sometimes, you can play sub-optimally and still win. Your opponent could just be worse, so that despite giving them ample opportunity to win, they still find a way to lose.
These were my thoughts as the final whistle blew, declaring the Chicago Fire victors against the San Jose Earthquakes by the score of two goals to one.
The Fire did not outplay the Quakes, not by a long shot. The Quakes had more possession, a higher passing accuracy, won more duels, and had more shots on goal. The first 10 minutes of the match were heinous. The Fire had possession of the ball for less than four minutes. At home. San Jose was in charge of the game from the jump, and looked the better team. Let me say that again. The worst team in the league looked like the better team on the road for just shy of 20 percent of the first half. And it didn’t really get much better for the Fire, if we’re being honest. At least not until the Fire finally broke through with a goal.
The Alan Gordon goal that broke the deadlock in the was a good one. It started with a fantastic find by Johan Kappelhof to Luis Solignac. He, in turn, put the ball on a platter and Alan Gordon did what he does best, and that’s put balls off his head and into the goal past a diving goalkeeper. After that, the Fire had some more control over the game, but even then some mistakes by the player we trust the most put us back on the path to potential misery.
And let’s face it— Bastian Schweinsteiger did not have a great match. For every brilliant piece of footwork or deft touch on the ball, there was an errant pass or him trying to do too much. It appears to me that for the last coupe of games, since his somewhat justified demonstration of frustration during the loss to Houston, Basti has been playing hero ball. In one sense, it’s commendable. He cares a lot about this club and the fans, and it’s clear in the way he cares. He wants the team to be better, to be rolling like when he got here last year. You can see it when he tries to make the hero outlet pass, or dribble past that third defender.
However, it’s also causing unnecessary turnovers, creating breakaway opportunities for opposing teams. And the Fire are most vulnerable on the counter.
Case in point— the San Jose goal. A miscommunication between Alexander Katai and Nemanja Nikolic had the Quakes off to the races. Chris Wondolowski found himself with the ball on the right flank, and he put it right on Danny Hoesen’s foot.
Fortunately that goal only brought the Quakes to within one, as Katai put the Fire up earlier in the second half with a brilliant off the ball run. That left him free to blast it behind the Quakes’ netminder and into the back of the ol’ onion bag.
The real heartwrenching moment of the first half was goalkeeper Patrick McLain coming off with a no-contact injury, which was later reported to be an injury to his right thigh.
I'm told McLain left with a right thigh injury for #cf97 in the first half.— Orrin Schwarz (@Orrin_Schwarz) June 3, 2018
He was replaced by Richard Sanchez, who had some scary moments as well as some strong moments of command of the box. Both goalkeepers played okay. Not Peter Schmeichel level by any means, but well enough to earn the Fire the victory.
I’m unconvinced that the Fire outplayed the Quakes enough to earn their victory. I don’t even think they outlasted them. San Jose was just so poor that the Fire couldn’t do anything but win this game. It will take a hell of a lot more to beat a Columbus Crew side that came back from 3-0 down at halftime to draw TFC on Wednesday in the Open Cup. I’m not fooled into thinking that this team has what it takes, and neither should you. Don’t be ROT-y.