Portland Timbers 3 Moreira 11’, Fernandez 21’ 88’
Chicago Fire 2 Nikolic 74’, Sapong 90’
There’s a scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid where the pair of outlaws are debating whether to jump off a cliff.
They’ve been cornered by the posse chasing them, see, and they only have two options— come out and fight their pursuers (and almost certainly getting killed or captured) or dive into the rocky rapids far below. Butch spends several minutes trying to talk Sundance into jumping. It takes some doing, but Sundance finally— reluctantly— agrees to jump.
Right before they do, Sundance hesitates and tells his partner in crime that he can’t swim. Butch pauses a moment before erupting into laughter.
“Are you crazy? The fall will probably kill ya.”
After weeks of agitating about Kenneth Kronholm being put over by the front office, despite him being a clear liability, David Ousted returned to the teamsheet with the start. It was a decision not unlike many others made by the technical and front office staff— which is to say, one couldn’t tell if Veljko Paunovic was actually learning from his mistakes, or if he was just fucking with us.
I’ve written previously— at some length— about games where Chicago play well but fail to capitalize, and then go on to concede cheaply. The late quasi-rally aside— which we’ll get to in a little while— the Fire did us all a kindness by throwing the game away in the first half hour. First, with allowing Jorge Moreira’s outside-the-box chip to sail into the back of the net. Next, with gifting Brian Fernandez a goal to put the hosts ahead by two. And finally, with Aleksandar Katai throwing an elbow in Julio Cascante’s face to earn him a red card. 2-0 down and playing with ten men put the game solidly out of reach.
And, sure, the Fire had some good moments in the rest of the half, and into the second half. But none of it really mattered.
That’s one of the worst things about this team— any good they do is always too little and always too late. The scoreline flatters, here. The Fire were, on paper, within striking distance of at least a draw, and with two late goals scored the game had all the hallmarks of a rally. But that, I think, is being overly generous.
First, Nemanja Nikolic scored in the 74th minute.
Nikolic pulls one back for #cf97! #PORvCHI pic.twitter.com/S9jhRdGPIz— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 15, 2019
Despite the rally vibes, the Fire pumped the brakes after the goal and failed to make good on their momentum. Fernandez got his brace in the 88th minute, putting Portland up 3-1 and, seemingly, settled the matter.
The rally made another flashing appearance in stoppage time, when CJ Sapong pulled another one back.
Sapong finds one more for Chicago! #PORvCHI pic.twitter.com/YYdM2xNFtM— Major League Soccer (@MLS) August 15, 2019
I call all this a rally, but it wasn’t. These were both consolation goals. They may have come late, and they may have put the Fire close to an equalizer and maybe a smash-and-grab draw on the road. But the miraculous comeback was never actually going to happen. The last two games, and this late rally, notwithstanding, this isn’t the kind of team that rallies from behind. They do know when they’re beat. They know exactly when to quit, and it’s early and often.
Earlier in the evening, Mick tweeted on the HTIOT Twitter account that Katai wouldn’t be available for selection on Saturday because of the red card. I couldn’t help but laugh at that. No disrespect to Mick at all, but it felt a bit like Sundance saying he couldn’t swim. We’re talking about this Saturday like the Fire have a chance to save their season. As if it all wasn’t settled already.
We’re near the bottom of the Eastern Conference. The USOC was a huge disappointment. The players are unhappy and at least a few are desperate to bounce this offseason. There’s no accountability for the technical staff or the front office. That stupid rebranding is coming. The league is cozying up to fascists. And we’re worried about Katai’s availability?
The fall will probably kill ya.
The Chicago Fire (7W 9D 11L, 30pts, 10th place) are at home on Saturday against first-place Philadelphia.