With the memories of Cuauhtemoc Blanco’s last-minute equalizer still in the minds of Fire fans, the Chicago Fire took the field against arch-rival New England last Thursday eager to score some taste of revenge for being knocked out of the MLS playoffs yet again.
Chicago exacted that revenge in the form of a 4-0 drubbing of the Revolution. The victory has fans in Chicago bullish about the prospects of for a successful season under first-year coach Denis Hamlett.
SBI correspondent Stephen Wattles was at Toyota Park last Thursday and shares his take on the victorious and chilly night in Bridgeview, Illinois (Feel free to provide your reaction to Stephen’s piece in the comments section below):.
Some payback at Toyota Park
By Stephen Wattles
What’s to complain about when your team wins 4-0 against the team that knocks you out of the playoffs every year, and looked like a world-beater in week one? Absolutely nothing.
Thursday night’s 2008 home debut for the Fire was an absolute success. Not an unqualified success, as Mr. Toledo ensured with that 7th minute red card that an asterisk would hang on this one, but it was far more than this fan could have hoped for making the drive to the stadium, watching the skies darken and the temperature drop.
To be honest, I would have taken any type of win and probably would have gladly accepted a draw after watching New England tear Houston apart in their opener. Especially considering our own less than convincing performance in Salt Lake City. But I’ll gladly take the four-goal drubbing, couldn’t happen to a nicer team.
If you draw up a plan for a win, an early goal is always a necessity and it doesn’t get much earlier then the 3rd minute (unless Will Hesmer has money on your team and is in the opposing net). And if you’re given a man advantage early on, you want your team to take advantage, and the Fire quickly put the hammer down and put the game out of reach well before halftime. So the players deserve praise for taking care of business, and assuring a joyful evening for the 15,000 of us trying to keep warm and dry at Toyota Park.
As for the ejection, it may have been harsh but there was certainly ill intent in that challenge. And after watching fellow MLS goons Harmse and Parke receive their marching orders later in the weekend, it may be that Mr. Garber and company decided its time to discourage the negative tactics that too often are employed in the league. I certainly hope that’s the case, as the loss of Blanco to injury (or suspension due to retaliation) is the one thing that this team definitely would not be able to recover from.
Inside the park the crowd was a good one considering the conditions. However, the club and the league need to do something to encourage the folks who own the expensive seats (the ones that show up on TV) to fill those seats for at least the nationally televised games. The newly expanded (now two sections wide) Section 8 was awesome, well done guys and girls. Based on that turn out, it’s definitely fair to expect a full or nearly full house all season.
This week’s trip to San Jose will be an interesting one. Does the Fire go out there and take the game to them and get a straightforward win over a team they should have no trouble with? Or do they play it close to the vest and let points drop? The Earthquakes should be firing on all cylinders in their return to the Bay Area, but to be honest, anything less than three convincing points will be a disappointment.
Its far too early to jump to any conclusions but there are some early reasons for optimism: Pause filling in admirably for Armas in the defensive midfield, four of six points despite quite a few injuries /absences (Brown, Robinson, Conde, Nyarko), and Busch’s play between the pipes. As well as areas for concern: the Wilman factor, how Hamlett mixes these players around and keeps everyone happy, and can these forwards score against a team with 11 men?