Seattle Sounders 1 Dempsey 22’
Chicago Fire 1 Katai 9’
If you asked me back in March or April if I would’ve taken a point from this came, I would’ve jumped at that. The Fire’s dismal start to the season was just beginning, and it wasn’t clear how long it would continue. (It’s still TBD, but we at least have a better grasp of the shape of things now than we did three months ago.)
Tonight, though, it sits uneasy in the gut. A point on the road against the Sounders, giving our dismal track record, is perfectly fine. In theory. But here’s the thing— we had them by the scruff of their kombucha-infused hipster necks. We could’ve won this game. We should’ve won this game.
As has often been the case this season, I find myself walking away from the fixture frustrated. Frustrated that it feels like this is the best we could’ve hoped for. Frustrated for wanting more and rarely getting it. Frustrated that we just can’t seem to get even the basic things right.
I know I complain about Pauno’s lineups a lot but I, just. How do you justify playing Brandon Vincent as a CB and Diego Campos, a rookie forward, as a fullback? Vincent is great out wide, but his performances in central defense have cost us points. Pauno must know this, right?
I expected something stomach-clenching to start the game. The Sounders feeling themselves in front of the home crowd, the Fire having to scramble to keep the score level, that sort of thing. I figured if we could get to halftime at 0-0 we might be ok.
Needless to say, Aleksandar Katai’s 9th minute goal was a welcome sight.
Those 12-13 minutes until Clint Dempsey leveled the score were pretty nice. Flashes of 2017 all over again. It’s easy to become resentful of these fleeting moments where the Fire play strong attacking soccer, because we know the drop is coming. But I’m starting to think that being a fan of this team means not thinking too far in advance. Enjoying these moments as they come, knowing another may be a long time coming.
Try as they might, the Fire couldn’t retake the lead before halftime and both teams went into the tunnel on level terms.
The second half didn’t start out great for Chicago. Some glaring defensive lapses gave the hosts too many looks at goal, too much time to find a rhythm. That they managed to keep things level was owed in equal parts to Seattle’s ongoing struggles and a bit of luck.
But the Fire did managed to find their way back into the game. From about 65’ or 70’, Chicago started piling up the pressure, forcing Stefan Frei to come up big a number of times. The Sounders made things interesting as the clock ticked toward 80’; Cristian Roldan tried to take advantage after ending up in the box with Richard Sanchez well out of position, but his shot was too high.
The latter 10 minutes were frantic and chippy, with both teams nearly bagging a go-ahead goal. Neither side looked like they wanted to settle for a draw. (After Dax McCarty nearly scored an own goal in stoppage time, a draw started looking pretty good to me.)
That gamewinner never materialized. The Fire left Puget Sound with a point. Which is fine, in the greater scheme of things. But too many of these draws this season feel like missed opportunities. Tonight was definitely one of them.
The Chicago Fire (5W 5D 7L, 20pts, 7th in the Eastern Conference) are back at home next Saturday to face NYCFC.