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The Soft Bigotry Of Low Expectations: Real Salt Lake 2, Chicago Fire 1, MLS Game Recap

The Fire B-Team fought bravely against RSL but it just wasn’t enough

MLS: Colorado Rapids at Real Salt Lake Jeff Swinger-USA TODAY Sports

Real Salt Lake 2 Kreilach 45’ + 3, 75’

Chicago Fire 1 Schweinsteiger 48’

You have to grade games like this on a curve. (I suppose you don’t have to, but I can say that it helps me process the grief.)

We all expected the Fire to lose this game. And they did. But we also expected tonight to be a bloodbath, and it wasn’t. We hoped Cleveland would get the start in goal, and when he did we still worried that he might get torn apart. He did fine, under the circumstances. The team had good moments. Basti scored a worldy. This should all mean something.

But there’s also something so deeply, maddeningly frustrating about games where a close loss where the team did their best feels like the best anyone could’ve hoped for.

Welp, he did it. Pauno played his B-Team tonight. Cleveland in goal— as Adnan suggested— plus Tony Tchani and all our reserve defenders (except Nicolas del Grecco, who we assume missed the bus or something) in a 5-4-1. Exactly the kind of game you set up to just try not to lose, with an eye toward a more important game within the week.

The opening minutes of the first half followed a discouraging yet unsurprising pattern. Raheem Edwards would put in work getting the ball forward, only to get the ball to Alan Gordon, who would either fail to get to the ball or immediately turn it over. The Fire would then get beat on the counter. The home side could’ve easily been up 2-0 in the first 20 minutes. It seems having extra bodies on the backline didn’t help much.

Credit to Stefan Cleveland in the first half. His first few minutes playing in MLS featured some solid work, including a big save in the 22nd minute.

The Fire tend to have a setback around the 30th minute. Usually they concede a goal. This time it was an injury; Diego Campos put his leg wrong while fighting for possession and went down in pain. He was brought off in short order, likely adding to our already-much-to-long injury report.

There were moments of strong play for the Fire, with Luis Solignac’s close call late in the half being a highlight. But for the most part, Chicago focused on holding it together and trying not to lose. Given that this was the B-Team, holding it together was about as good as they could’ve expected.

But it wasn’t enough. Damir Kreilach headed home from close range right before half time to put RSL ahead.

Still. Only being down 1-0 at halftime wasn’t so bad, given that we were playing the reserves.

The Fire started the second half with Bastian Schweinsteiger checking in to the game, a sign that Pauno hadn’t quite given up on the game yet. I appreciate the sentiment, of course, but this can only really hurt us for Wednesday.

Then again, the move paid immediate dividends. Basti let one rip from 25, maybe 30 yards out, and it sailed right past Nick Rimando. It was gorgeous.

All of a sudden Fire fans had... well, not hope, exactly, but something vaguely resembling. Something you could sell as hope if your customers don’t look too closely.

RSL weren’t going down that easy. Their midfield invoked the Dark Arts, as any team with Kyle Beckerman is wont to do. Their forward line continued to pepper Cleveland’s goal. Jefferson Savarino nearly regained the lead for the home side, putting the ball in the back of the net in the 57th minute but was immediately met by the offside flag. With a het up home side and only one substitution, it was clear the last half hour was going to be hell.

To their credit, the team held up pretty well for a while. But we are who we are, and it was never going to last forever. Kreilach nabbed a second in the 75th minute, regaining the lead for RSL.

Cleveland came up with some incredible saves down the stretch to keep the Fire in the game late. But the rest of the team couldn’t put a credible threat together. The game, predictably, ended in a loss for the Men In Red.

So are there any positives here? Basti’s goal was pretty sweet. Cleveland had a decent performance, all things considered. The Fire didn’t get their ass kicked, as expected. Things didn’t go as bad as they could’ve.

Maybe that’s the best we can hope for right now. With the Fire on a six game losing streak— and counting— I guess you have to find your light wherever you can.

The Chicago Fire (6W 5D 13L, 23pts, 10th in the Eastern Conference) have but one chance to salvage their season on Wednesday, when they face Philadelphia in the US Open Cup semifinals.