By ANTHONY ZILIS
During the first half of Sunday’s 1-0 loss to AC Milan, the ball bounced toward Patrick Nyarko. With midfielder Ronaldinho running at him, Nyarko touched the ball over the Brazilian star’s head and ran on to the ball.
“It was great, I was laughing it off with my teammates,” Nyarko said. “It was one of the best moments of my career as of now. I told him he was probably going to do me later, but I don’t care. It was really fun I’m glad I pulled it off.”
It was moments like this that seemed to be the subject of post-game banter for Fire players, who weren’t able to replicate D.C. United’s 3-2 victory over the Italian giants. Still, the Fire were able to put on a respectable showing in front of a sold-out Toyota Park crowd of 20,356.
“Once in a lifetime,” Justin Mapp said. “You might not step on the field with those guys again. We didn’t get the win, but good night with the crowd and everything. “
Long-lasting memories aside, there was still a game played. Although the Fire hung with the Italian Serie A club, they showed some of the same mistakes and deficiencies they showed in previous games.
For the third time in the last three games, a defensive giveaway led to a goal when C.J. Brown wasn’t able to control a ball on the right side of the penalty box in the 47th minute. The ball bounced behind Brown, and Clarence Seedorf ran onto it, taking a touch around goalkeeper Andrew Dykstra, and placing the ball into an open net from a side angle.
Still, the Fire were able to create chances. Brian McBride flicked a ball over AC Milan goalkeeper Dida in the third minute, but the ball also went over the bar.
Nyarko once again showed his speed and excellent ball control, as he played in right midfield in the first half and up top in the second half, and Justin Mapp was also able to weave his way through defenders.
But once again, though, Chicago wasn’t able to finish.
“This is the part of the collective game where we are not good. We are not good because all the time we have some opportunities very clear chances to score and we miss,” head coach Carlos de Los Cobos said.
It didn’t help that forward Collins John was sick and unable to play, leaving Nyarko as the only forward in the second half with Brian McBride coming out at the break for midfielder Julio Martinez.
The Fire, though, have only one goal in their last four matches, and all of de Los Cobos’s constant lineup tinkering has seemed futile.
“Good finishers, they are very difficult to find in the world. For me it’s no excuse, I am the coach, I need to work and give confidence to the players and try to understand that only with work, we can improve,” de Los Cobos said.
News and Notes
For most of Saturday’s game, right back Dasan Robinson had the job of defending Ronaldinho, who received by far the biggest cheers from the crowd.
Robinson and Ronaldinho had a conversation before the game, as Robinson spent January touring Brazil on a cultural exchange program, and was able to meet his family in his hometown of Porto Alegre.
He was able to make a few effective tackles on Ronaldinho, leading to a pat on the back from the Brazilian.
“Just try not to dive in,” Robinson said, when asking about his strategy against the former FIFA World Player of the Year. “I think that’s always been, kind of, one of my things where I try not to dive in, always try not to let the guy make his move and go with him, so that’s what I tried to do tonight. I think it worked out.”
Clarence Seedorf was asked after the game whether he ever planned on coming to MLS.
“To do what?” he asked playfully.
“I will, hopefully, very soon be involved in MLS in one way or another because I think it’s a market that deserves to grow because of enthusiasm and because of what football can bring to society. It’s always a consideration,” he finally added when prompted that the question focused on him playing soccer.
The Dutch midfielder was complimentary of the state of MLS.
“My feeling is that the MLS is improving,” he said. “Every time we come back there is improvemement. Every time we come back there is some improvement, and that’s important. It is a process, as we know. But the thing I like is that the crowd is understanding the game, great mentality, I would say the American mentality in sports, in general, great sporting culture and that will help football grow fast.”