After weeks of hearing how the Chicago Fire was in desperate need of a legit right winger, John Thorrington stepped up and made a good case for being that very player. His two goals lifted the Fire to a 2-1 victory against Colorado and kept the Fire near the top of the East standings.
The loss dropped the Rapids to 2-3 in the West and raised more concerns about a team that was coming off an embarrassing home loss to San Jose a week earlier. Colorado played better against Chicago, but still didn’t leave Toyota Park with any points.
SBI Correspondents Stephen Wattles and Craig de Aragon watched the match and provide their views on the Fire’s 2-1 win against Colorado after the jump:
Another Fire win, but questions still linger
By STEPHEN WATTLES
I should be happier, I really should. Saturday night’s 2-1 win over Colorado closed out the first month of the season with 10 points, only two off the pace being set at the top of the league. But I can’t help but see storm clouds on the horizon. Some are originating here in Chicago, but others are popping up in cities all over the eastern half of the league.
In contrast to last week’s loss to Kansas City, the play on the field was far less encouraging despite the win. Colorado’s roster doesn’t exactly instill fear in your heart. So despite the three points earned, I’m sorry to say the negative signs that presented themselves last night are far more prevalent in my mind.
Colorado’s domination of possession for the majority of the first half and the Fire’s readiness to resort to kick and chase tactics are worrisome. But the fact that the Rapids out shot the Fire at home, despite Logan Pause effectively marking Christian Gomez out of the game, is more than worrisome. It’s downright scary. Especially as the Fire hit the road for three of its next four games, and five of their next seven.
In general, the Fire lack shape in their midfield with so many offensive players on the field. When their opponents hold the ball, there is too much chasing and an over dependence on Pause’s endless work rate and the backline. Perhaps a sign that the Fire’s league best defensive record thus far cold prove to be a mirage.
On that backline, Diego Gutierrez was consistently beaten for speed on Saturday. As CJ Brown’s absence begins to look indefinite, there is a need to bring a true center back in to partner Bakary Soumare. If only we had one of those languishing on our bench. Maybe one from Colombia who we found so valuable we fought to keep him this off-season.
Offensively, the Chad Barrett situation is coming to a head. After a couple of his typically poor decisions in short succession, the Toyota Park crowd roundly booed him in the 25th minute. With Chris Rolfe returning to health (he looked to be ready to go when warming up on the field at halftime) and John Thorrington stating his case to remain a starter with a pair of well-taken goals, Barrett simply needs to be moved to the bench. I am unconcerned with his confidence or feelings, and Denis Hamlett should be as well. Of the offensive options (assuming Rolfe can go Saturday in New England) Barrett is easily the least deserving of seeing the field based on current form.
Luis Arroyave quoted Hamlett on the Chicago Tribune web site this week as saying his reason for not plugging Wilman Conde into his line-up was ‘He didn’t want to mess with a good thing’. Well, there’s nothing good about the Barrett situation, and hesitancy on the part of any coach to make change is a sure way to ensure mediocrity. Now is the time to make that change. Being continually penciled into the lineup card isn’t helping Barrett improve. Perhaps watching the game from the bench for a few weeks will.
After watching the Eastern Conference go 5-0 versus the West there may not be much room for error for this season in the East. And if the old adage is true that fortune favors the brave, I ask Dennis Hamlett to be brave and make a few changes to the team in an effort to get even more out of them in May than he got in April. If not, I fear these weekly accounts will slip deeper and deeper into the mire.
Disappointing loss eased by the struggles of the West
by CRAIG de ARAGON
In what has to be a letdown, the Colorado Rapids went to Chicago and came back empty handed. Hopefully while they were there they got a miniature Sears Tower, some other trinket to commemorate this trip, because they’re not going to want to remember the actual game.
I know it would be easy to bash this team. They’ve lost 3 of the last 4, and done so in underwhelming fashion. In the first game of the season the Rapids scored 4 goals against Los Angeles and since then, they’ve scored a total of 4 goals in 4 games. It would be easy to pile on. But it’s hard for me to do that when I look at the standing and see the Rapids still sitting in 3rd place in the Western Conference.
It’s early, I know. I know I shouldn’t be chanting “scoreboard” to anyone just yet. But, it’s all I have right now, ok? When you look at the West, not one team stands out as being dominant. Houston has yet to win a game. San Jose, even though they beat the Rapids, don’t look very good. Salt Lake is bad like usual (You’ll never hear me say anything good about them anyway). Chivas USA is schizophrenic, they can look really good, but also can play undisciplined, take stupid cards and hurt themselves. LA’s defense is terrible, and if anything happened to Landon Donovan and/or David Beckham, they’d be up a creek. Dallas has played pretty well so far, but looked a little shaky against New England.
What I’m trying to say is that all the teams in the West are flawed and I don’t see anyone pulling away from the pack. The Rapids current form definitely needs work, they won’t stay in the position they are if they lose 3 of their next 4 again. But they’re not as bad as the last 4 games have made them look either. They have the talent to compete with anyone in MLS. Let’s just hope they figure out how to use it before it’s too late. (Hmm…when do we play Salt Lake? That usually helps our form.)
I have to add one random aside; Tom McManus is quickly scaling his way up my list of favorite players on this team. He runs and runs and runs, and never gives up on plays. He finally was rewarded for his hard work and pace with his first goal as a Rapid. I am definitely looking forward to watching him make life miserable for defenders as the season goes along and I don’t see him relinquishing his starting role for a while either.