It wasn’t pretty, but you can call the scoreless tie between the Chicago Fire and Real Salt Lake a fair result. It figured that no goals would be scored when the league’s two toughest defense squared off, but seeing so many missed chances was still a bit puzzling.
With every league game ending in a tie, the Fire-RSL result kept RSL in first place in the West and kept Chicago in playoff position. Whether either of these things remains the same a week from now remains to be seen.
SBI correspondent Stephen Wattles and Scott McAllister watched (most of) the match and shared their views on the match with us:
Large crowd at Toyota Park treated to ugly game
By STEPHEN WATTLES
It wouldn’t be a summer of MLS without nights like this. Sticky evenings when the play drags a bit, the play is sloppy and when you sit down to write about it there isn’t a heck of a lot to say, since not that much happened.
The 0-0 tie between the Fire and Real Salt Lake wasn’t the worst of these ‘midsummer classics’ played at Toyota Park. Both teams did create a few chances and rattled the woodwork on several occasions, but the quality of the strikers on the field for both teams never gave you a sense that the game would have a goal.
It’s really too bad since the largest home crowd of the season was on hand for the evening and it would have been nice to bring a few back with the promise of more goals. Unfortunately, more goals is not the calling card of this particular team.
In three games in April and May versus New England and New York, the Fire tallied 12 goals. In the other thirteen games played this season the Fire has scored, you guessed it, 12 goals. So for more then three quarters of their schedule, the Fire have now averaged less than a goal a game.
The offense is the reason the Fire are closer to out of the playoffs than they are to the top of the standings. The offense will also be the reason that the Fire will not make the playoffs unless something is done about it.
It’s impossible to blame the defense; still the league best by a significant margin and Saturday night was a clear example why. The combination of Jon Busch coming up with the big save, the four in the back being solid if somewhat erratic, and Logan Pause pitching in once again impeccably, reading the game and continuing to display his knack to show up in the right place at the right time.
That combination has combined for six clean sheets thus far this season; unfortunately the anemic offense has had the trick turned on them six times as well. The reasons for its struggles were all too clear on this night as well. Besides the aforementioned players that form the defensive core and Cuauhtémoc Blanco those taking the field are young and still primarily untested.
On this night, the undersized Chris Rolfe was reasonably anonymous, marked out by the physical and effective RSL defenders. Justin Mapp was his usual self, electric at times yet invisible for long stretches. Stephen King tried and failed to fill the hole left by the season’s talisman John Thorrington’s suspension. Which inevitably leads us to Chad Barrett, whose struggles continued.
It has been speculated that it is confidence that is holding Chad back and I concur. It is clear in his reaction to misses, calls against him, and even his interactions with teammates. But it is not only his confidence that is holding him back. It appears that by and large, his teammates have lost confidence in him. So that on the occasion that Barrett does get himself it the proper position his teammates aren’t looking for him.
Dennis Hamlett saw this, but unfortunately circumstance has conspired from him correcting it, with first Andy Herron and then Calen Carr going down the second that they took Barrett’s spot. If Herron is unable to return. it must fall to Thomas Frankowski or the unproven rookie Patrick Nyarko to take a shot, as something needs to be done to turn this offense around.
The hope is that the ultimate answer to this issue will arrive after a few warm-up games in Beijing but it won’t hurt to work on Plan D in the meantime. Since the D can only carry this team so far.
Not sharp, but road point will due for RSL
By SCOTT McALLISTER
For better or worse, there are few things in my life that are a higher priority than soccer. Family is one of those things that will trump it every time, and is the reason I missed most of the first half. I tuned in just in time to see Dema Kovalenko drop a nice through ball back for Chris Rolfe to sidestep Nick Rimando and fire into the side netting. Even though the score was tied at 0-0 my first image of the game didn’t give me warm fuzzies.
My next memory was another defensive miscue, this time from Nat Borchers just before the break. The part that you’ll see in highlight reels is Chad Barrett driving his shot off the post while Jamison Olave was pushing him toward the sideline. The play was made possible by a wild sliding tackle attempt from Borchers on Rolfe. Borchers completely missed everything by going to ground and provided Rolfe with the time and space to pick out Barrett.
Bringing Robbie Findley and Kenny Deuchar on in the second half is still a good move, I guess. I understand it worked in the last game, so why change something that isn’t broken. I just wish those guys could do the same stuff for the full 90. Tino Nunez and Yura Movsysian are not bad strikers, but they’re not the best on the team.
The way the second half progressed only added to the stress of the start of my watching experience. My source of a relief was the incredible play of Rimando. The back line in front of him consistently absorbed the immense pressure from the Fire, which still broke through from time to time. Rimando was on his game and I would agree with the television commentators that he would be deserving of the game ball.
As a whole RSL didn’t have the sharpest of games. There were giveaways in the midfield that were uncharacteristic, and opportunities for Rimando to come up big. You never want those moments, but appreciate a ‘keeper who can step up on those occasions’ when they arise. At least Salt Lake remain at the top of the table for another week. And, as the old soccer cliche goes, as long as you tie on the road and win at home you’ll be in good shape. Right now, the season is still pointing towards success for RSL.