San Jose Earthquakes 4 Wondolowski 21’, Wondolowski 48’, Wondolowski 75’ Wondolowski 77’
Chicago Fire 1 Katai 83’
We were feeling too good.
Last week’s wins over the Revs and Loons prepared us for the opposite of what happened at the Avaya Stadium on Saturday afternoon. The Fire were flying high all week leading up to the match with the Quakes. Despite the missing Nico Gaitán and Bastian Schweinsteiger, the Fire had the momentum. Not even the dreary weather (both in Chicago and in San Jose) nor the lack of Djordje Mihailovic, the Fire’s most creative player available. And it wasn’t like Chris Wondolowski, now 36 and a shell of his former glory was doing anything this season. It would take either a poor performance or massive negligence for the Fire to come away with nothing.
They had both.
The Fire gifted Wondo the MLS goal scoring record with two horrible defensive plays. On his first goal, the Fire’s newest disaster Francisco Calvo got caught ball watching. As Shea Salinas cut back toward the middle of the field, not only did Calvo lose Wondo, but he also shuffled himself in the opposite direction of the rest of his back line. So he lost his mark, and kept his mark onside. And Wondo had all the time in the world to put the ball in the back of the net. That goal tied the record.
The second one was the literal worst. Earlier in the season, I wondered if the goalkeeping problem was systemic. And I can’t help but think of that after what happened. Two minutes and change into the second half, a cross came in from Cristian Espinoza on the left. It was one of those hopeful balls. Too deep and too floaty to do much of anything.
You see these all the time. The goalkeeper catches them, or it goes over the end line for a goal kick. These balls are harmless. For some inexplicable reason, David Ousted decided that he didn’t need to catch the ball on the fly. Instead, he decided to knock the ball down to the ground to control it better or something. Except there was one problem. Chris Wondolowski was right next to him. He took advantage and toe poked it into the net. The 2-0 lead, and Landon Donovan’s record was his.
It never got better. The brand new record holder would go on to score twice more before he was subbed off in second half stoppage time. The third was a banger scored on advantage, and Marcelo committed a potential denial of a goal scoring opportunity on Espinoza. Wondo kept running toward the ball and burred it in the top corner of the far post.
His fourth came after a diving stop sent Ousted’s face into the post. The rebound was cut back inside and Wondo found it, and put it into the empty net.
Aleksander Katai managed to save some dignity with a goal in garbage time. As most Katai goals do, this one came from absolutely nowhere. He ripped the shot from thirty yards out. The worm burner took a deflection off of a San Jose defender and went in. There was no celebration.
The Fire got out played, out energy’d and out coached. The players brought in to replace their missing superstars, Bronico and Marcelo, were particularly noticeable in their absence. Bronico had no effect on the match was invisible until he came off for Mo Adams in the second half. Marcelo looked like he wasn’t match fit, which makes sense. He was questionable up until the lineup card had him in the XI, and coming back from a groin injury is never easy.
Nemanja Nikolic still can’t score the easiest of chances. He had two today in front of an open net and missed both. It’s getting to the point now where he’s becoming a liability on the pitch. If he can’t score goals, the club needs to find someone who can.
The Fire got a wake up call this weekend. There’s more work to do if they want to have a hope of making the playoffs. It all came crumbling down. Lets see if they can pick up the pieces.
The Chicago Fire (4-4-5, 16 points) are back home next Saturday when they take on NYCFC.