It was a crazy week in Chicago Fire land. First came the news that John Guppy
was forced out resigned as president and general manager, then came the club’s second straight victory of the early season to move it into first place in the East.
Chicago isn’t dominating opponents (well, aside from a short-handed Revs team) but the Fire is using disciplined defense and timely finishing to get off to a strong start to the campaign despite a handful of key injuries.
SBI Correspondent Stephen Wattles took in the action and filed his own take on the Fire’s memorable weekend (Share your thoughts and opinions on Stephen’s piece in the comments section below.)
Unbeaten, but Fire is still sorting things out
By Stephen Wattles
The day started with a stunner. The news jumping off the front page of the Chicago Tribune sports page (a miracle in itself) that John Guppy was no longer employed as President of the Chicago Fire. It was a promising start.
The news as I flipped on the TV was far less positive. Chris Rolfe, Brandon Prideaux, and Diego Gutierrez, had joined CJ Brown on the shelf for the game. The afternoon had become a test of the depth that Fire fans were beginning to think their team possessed.
Most notable from this development was Wilman Conde’s 2008 debut. I was happy to see this come on the road, giving him the chance to reprove himself before appearing in front of the Toyota Park faithful. I’ll admit I spent most of the game looking for signs that his dedication was anything less than one hundred percent, but couldn’t find any. Call me too forgiving if you wish, but he passed my test and I’ll greet his introduction in Bridgeview with a cheer.
When play started it didn’t take long to determine that the dominating performance I’d hoped for was not in the offing, and that the Guppy news might be the only positive bit to hang our hats on this day.
Yet, the one moment when San Jose would give Blanco a little space on the afternoon would allow for the perfect through ball to Frankowski. His shot could only be parried into the path of Chicago’s own Rodney Dangerfield, Chad Barrett, to clean up for what would ultimately be the game-winning goal. A win not entirely deserved.
Most credit for the win belongs to those in the back line (Bakary Soumare chief among them) and John Busch, who easily took Man of the Match despite the late candidacy of his woodwork, and Quakes rookie midfielder Shea Salinas.
The glaring issue on the afternoon was the unchallenged space and possession San Jose enjoyed between the midfield stripe and the Fire’s penalty box, and the opportunities it afforded them, a repeat of the Week 1 visit to RSL. The Earthquakes enjoyed 19-9 and 7-0 advantages in shots and corners on the afternoon.
It was clear from his actions on the sideline that Dennis Hamlett had no difficulty diagnosing the issue but no amount of urging on his part seemed to solve it. Ultimately it may require offering Logan Pause assistance in defensive midfield, at least on the road since MLS coaches seem far more aggressive in their own stadiums this season, as evidenced by home teams’ 13-3-4 (through Saturday) start to 2008.
If it comes to this, Justin Mapp has to be the one to make way. His performance again provided only dizzying runs never leading to shots, crosses, or decisive passes. For a player that offers nothing defensively this isn’t enough. He continues to go down too easily and, perhaps most damningly, has shown little compatibility to play with Blanco. His role with USMNT is little more than a ‘change of pace’ and I think that might be all he can provide the Fire as well.
Nonetheless, the Fire notched a road win and sit top of the league after three weeks. But it begs the question whether this team is Jekyll and Hyde, or a squad with the ability to get results when not at its best, and with an injury list that would cripple the majority of team’s in MLS. If it’s the latter, look out, as that is a quality in sport that turns good seasons to great.