Philadelphia Union 3 Burke 60’ 77’, Sapong 86’
And still I dream he’ll come to me...
I’ve been a fan of this team since they were founded and an active supporter for 5-6 years. I’ve had to learn the hard way that hope is dangerous. The key to getting by as a fan of the Chicago Fire Soccer Club is to not expect too much. And to be ready to revise expectations where necessary.
I didn’t expect much from this team in 2018. Last year seemed like such a magical fluke that it felt wrong to expect anything approaching it this time around. I just hoped that this team would try their best and stay competitive down the stretch.
That, clearly, was too much to ask for.
That we will live the years together...
With the league campaign long since lost, the Fire bet the farm on tonight’s US Open Cup semifinal against Philadelphia. The club’s marketing/hype machine focused on this game more than Saturday’s fixture against Real Salt Lake. Pauno named a weaker team for that game so that his strongest XI would be good to go in Philadelphia tonight. The club put everything in this game, knowing that their season would be defined tonight
And then they went and shit their pants.
Whatever issues I had with the Starting XI— up to and including the fact that Brandon Vincent Is Not A Centerback (tm)— seemed beside the point when I saw Dax McCarty was back. He was still listed as Out on the injury report when I wrote the game preview last night, so seeing him back was a welcome surprise.
The opening minutes of the first half were frustrating but not for the usual reasons. This team came out swinging. Strong pressure, strong attacking play, a few early chances (including a near-miss from Raheem Edwards, who has proven himself to be a real asset in his first few weeks with Chicago). It was encouraging to see. And also deeply maddening; imagine if they played like this more often.
It didn’t last. Philadelphia regained momentum around the 15th minute and wouldn’t relinquish it for some time. The Fire stayed level through the half hour mark with a mix of dumb luck and, it must be said, Richard Sanchez (mostly) doing his job. Chicago managed a few more promising moments of their own, including a short range bicycle kick from Basti that flew just over the bar.
Composition and defensive frailties aside, the Fire did well to keep the score level going into halftime. Which, I realize I’ve been saying a lot this season.
But there are dreams that cannot be...
If you’re a Fire fan you could be forgiven for watching the start of the second half and counting the seconds until Philadelphia score. It very nearly came in the 53rd minute when Sanchez had to make a heroic point blank save to deny Alejandro Bedoya.
But we know this team, and we know that the opening goal for Philly was just a matter of time. And so it was that Cory Burke scored just before the hour mark. A goal that never should’ve happened due to a second ball on the pitch, which the ref either didn’t see or chose to overlook.
Even for this Fire team, the drop off was remarkable. Whatever fight they had before the goal had completely evaporated. Runs turned into jogs. Passes became slower and haphazard. This was a team that had given up. We’ve seen this team a lot over the past month in MLS play. Now they were giving up on the Cup.
And there are storms we cannot weather...
Burke notched a second goal in the 77th minute, essentially ending the game.
Around the 84th minute the play-by-play commentator on the stream said that Chicago wasn’t going to go down quietly. I laughed and said, out loud, “of course they will!”
C.J. Sapong added an insurance goal in the 86th minute.
At length, mercifully, the whistle blew for full time. The Fire’s 2018 season was effectively over.
I had a dream my life would be... So different from this hell I’m living...
I don’t know what happens now. I’m not sure how we’re supposed to get through the next two months worth of games that don’t matter. I couldn’t tell you how the club could even start to dig themselves out of this funk ahead of 2019. I don’t know how you fix any of this without outside intervention.
So different now from what it seemed...
I just wish loving this team wasn’t so goddamn hard all the time.
Now life has killed the dream... I dreamed...