Chicago Fire 3 Nikolic 39’ (PK), Katai 69’, Schweinsteiger 90’+4
Philadelphia Union 4 Medunjanin 31’, Burke 45’+3, 73’, Accam 90’+5
As I’m writing this there’s a fireworks show going on at Toyota Park. The thin crowd that showed up on a Wednesday— with long-time supporters either explicitly told they’re not welcome or staying away out of solidarity— sat through a humiliating loss and then were encouraged to stick around and watch fireworks.
If I were a better writer I’m sure I could tie that together into a metaphor for the state of the Chicago Fire.
While the club set off fireworks, I sat at home trying to think of something, anything, good to say about a 4-3 loss at home to a bad team that we are nonetheless contesting a playoff spot with. Aleksandar Katai is good. Bastian Schweinsteiger is good. Nemanja Nikolic is good, even if his goalscoring is off the pace from last year. Dax McCarty is good, and trying. Diego Campos could be good if he were played in his best position. Richard Sanchez could be good if he had an organized and competent backline in front of him.
That’s all I’ve got for tonight.
For those of you keeping score at home, this was the third home game in a row with no organized support. Just, you know, Thought I’d throw that out there. Pretty quiet at Toyota Park tonight, is all I’m saying.
The opening half hour or so of the game was eventful, if not particularly exciting. Early yellow cards— with one to Jorge Corrales for “not retreating”— and Kevin Ellis forced off with an injury in the 13th minute punctuated an opening half full of Whatevering. (On a related note: we are evidently back to pretending Diego Campos is a fullback. So that’s neat.) This is the kind of game that the Fire needed to come out strong and even get an opening goal early on, and that was just... not happening. Even with Philadelphia seeming so reluctant to attack, the Fire just couldn’t put anything together.
Finally, almost right on the half hour mark, the Union got impatient. Pouncing on defensive mistakes by Campos— who, again, is not a defender— and the newly-returned Johan Kappelhof let Haris Medunjanin in the door and gave Philly the first goal.
The next few minutes by the Fire were all easy turnovers and Baby Giraffe Running. Philly could’ve easily gotten a second goal. This could’ve easily gone very poorly very quickly for Chicago, were it not for the penalty won by Aleksandar Katai in the 38th minute. Nemanja Nikolic converted to level the score, but it all seemed a bit more than the Fire deserved.
Apart from a near-miss toward the end of the half by Katai, the Fire didn’t do a whole lot to show they deserved to be Not Losing. Sure enough, they conceded another goal in first half stoppage time (a header from Cory Burke), heading into the tunnel with a scoreline closer to what they deserved.
The second half didn’t start off much better. Philadelphia came out hangry for a third goal, while the Fire struggled to keep it together. By the time the hour mark came it could’ve easily been 3-1 or 4-1 to the Union but for dumb luck. Chicago, meanwhile, didn’t seem to have much of a plan. At one point Bastian Schweinsteiger was playing as a center forward. It was bad.
Thank goodness for Aleksandar Katai, who tied it up again in the 69th (nice) minute.
This guy’s pretty good, it turns out.
Too bad the Fire could only hold it for a few minutes. David Accam shot from outside the box and Richard Sanchez couldn’t hold on to the ball; it slipped out of his hands and fell right to Burke, who dinked it in for his second on the night.
But ultimately this was a team that didn’t want to win that badly. When you’re at home and you’re losing by a goal with five minutes left in the 90, to opponents with a 1-6-1 record on the road this season, and your big game changers are Alan Gordon and Tony Tchani, I’m going to reserve some skepticism on how badly the club wants to win games like this.
Thank fucking God we have the Big Handsome German, doing it all himself when he has to.
This should’ve been the end of the game. This should’ve been us scrounging a point at the death.
But nope. Because we can’t keep our shit together. David Accam was allowed to traipse through the backline and hit a banger past Richard Sanchez. Got himself a yellow card for taking off his shirt, because he absolutely had to celebrate in front of his old team. Neat.
The Fire got one last chance to scrounge a point with a free kick on the edge of the box in the 7th minute of four stoppage time minutes. But Katai’s shot was over the bar, and that was that.
I don’t know. I wish I knew how to fix this. I wish someone in a decision-making capacity knew. This just feels bad all the time.
The Chicago Fire (6W 5D 9L, 23pts, 8th in the Eastern Conference) are on the road this Saturday as they travel to Dallas to contest the Brimstone Cup. Or, something.