Saint Louis FC 2 Martz 17’, Abend 21’
Chicago Fire 1 Nikolic 72’
In my preview, I said that this should have been easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy. I still firmly believe that. The Fire should have won this game going away. They had almost every advantage. They had an offence poised to get out of their scoring funk against lower league opposition, and a defense, while horribly out matched on most occasions, should have been up to the task against the 9th place team in the USL Championship Eastern Conference.
The First five minutes looked promising. They forced STL goalkeeper Tomás Gómez to stand on his head; making three saves in the span of fifteen seconds. Even before that they had a quality look on goal that was also saved. But after seventeen minutes the Fire’s defense did what it always seems to do, and that’s break.
Both goals were similar in nature. A cross comes in from one side; on the first goal, it was from the run of play, and the second a set piece. A fire defender loses their mark; the first goal was Raheem Edwards, the second was Marcelo. The Ball then gets headed past Kevin Kronholm who has zero chance to do anything about it. All of a sudden, the Fire are down two goals.
The Fire got a consolation goal halfway through the second half when Djordje Mihailovic drew a penalty and Nemanja Nikolic put it into the top right corner with authority. They forced some more saves late as well, but couldn’t find the equalizer. The result is that the Fire are out of the US Open Cup.
But this game isn’t really about the result. Tonight wasn’t about the scoreboard, or the players playing badly. This game is about the Front Office and coaching staff’s absolute failure at putting together the 2019 Chicago Fire.
This result was set up way back in January. For whatever reason, the Chicago Fire brain trust decided that they were okay rolling the dice on unproven and untested talent at fullback, arguably the most important position in the modern game. Fullbacks do so much in the game. They’re attackers that have to be smart enough to know when to defend, and defenders that need to be smart enough to know when to attack. To not have nay natural fullbacks on the roster to start the season is tantamount to admitting that the season doesn’t matter.
Raheem Edwards and Diego Campos are clearly out of their depth. Edwards in particular is outmatched there every time he plays there. He is a good soccer player when asked to do things in his skill set. He’s good at being a nuisance for defenders, and can score a goal or two when he is around the box. He’s not good at positioning himself against defenders, nor good at tracking runs. The fact that he has to play at left back because they have nothing better is absolutely damning.
As for Campos, he always seems to be on the back foot— acting instead of reacting. He’s not great at reading attackers and their intentions. This causes him to be a half step late when closing out crosses. The problem here is that they have a better right back option in Johan Kappelhof, who was playing at center back, and had to be subbed off because of an injury for the second time in three games.
This was an unmitigated disaster, and if we had seen the signs, we would have seen this coming before the season started. Some of us did see the signs, and chose to believe that the offense would carry the day. That was my mistake.
Joe Mansueto needs to be on the phone to Andrew Hauptman, and they need to fire everyone involved. They need to axe the technical staff, cut the scouts, let go the coaching staff, and future endeavor the general manager. The only way this gets better is going scorched earth.
The Chicago Fire (4W 6D 6L, 18pts, 9th place in MLS and out of the US Open Cup) are back in action June 22nd, at home vs Real Salt Lake.