So much for bye weeks being a good thing.
The Chicago Fire went into its bye week on a roll, but have lost two in a row since the bye and have fallen out of first place in the Eastern Conference.
FC Dallas has to be feeling much better about things this week. First, beating the Fire at home, then having the club finally hire a new head coach. Suddenly, the Hoops have gone from struggling squad to third place team in the West. That’s thanks in no small part to star forward Kenny Cooper, who has all but carried FC Dallas the past month.
SBI Correspondents Casey Corcoran and Stephen Wattles took in the match and shared their thoughts with us:
A hot day in Frisco helps Hoops win
By CASEY CORCORAN
What a finish! Unbelievable! All the while on 64 inches of beautiful high definition 1080i picture! Oops, wrong game. Someone else gets to write about Turkey v Czech Republic, I get to write about my FC Dallas playing the Chicago Fire. If anyone was wondering what the weather’s like in North Texas on a mid June, you could practically feel the humid heat from watching the game Sunday. I felt like I was getting sun burned just watching it from the couch in my living room. My concern was not the players, but the brave souls who went out to Pizza Hut Park and weathered sitting in those seats baking in the sun. Bravo to you FCD faithful.
The game could not compete with the amazing atmosphere or circumstance of the afore mentioned Euro 2008 game, but it was not the sticker FCD has been producing lately. I would even say if you were an unbiased soccer fan, this game was more appealing than the eight to nil thrashing the United States handed Barbados. It was a step in the right direction for FCD, even if it was a baby step. The game was not particularly pretty, but that can be chalked up to that star up the sky that made the game a bit toasty. The first step in putting the team back on a playoff track was winning this game. Honestly this writer did not expect a W from Chicago, so this was a pleasant surprise. Win this weekend in New York, get the team an official coach and things will be much sunnier in FCD land (no pun intended).The game was nothing spectacular like I have said, but a key component of the game ties in perfectly with that USA game played at nearly the same time- Kenny Cooper.
I try to be a realist as much as I can with Cooper. There are faults, positioning, decision making among them, but he has traits that the US Men’s National Team just does not have at forward. He brings a genuine finishing skill (not perfect, admittedly) along with a genuine creative skill set. He seems almost at home scoring on a charging keeper. Whether it is a cheeky lob, rounding the keeper, freezing the keeper, or a skillful early inward bender, Cooper has it. It blows my mind that he does not receive more attention from Bob Bradley. His National Team record is even good, scoring a goal. So, at what point does Bradley plead with FC Dallas to allow him to suit up Cooper in the American kit?
It is not the best timing for FCD at the moment, but other MLS teams have released stars like Landon Donovan and Pablo Mastroeni. I do not need to harp on the play of Eddie Johnson or Brian Ching to justify bringing Cooper in to the mix. Cooper’s age, size, and skill set are completely different than Johnson and Ching. If you have had the pleasure of watching Cooper over the years, you can clearly notice what his stay at Manchester United did to his game. He does something the USMNT forwards rarely do, he takes on defenders. There is no lack of confidence. So the real questions are, when and where will Kenny Cooper earn his chance to show for team USA? Or will a move to Europe be the only way that will ever happen.
As a fan of FCD and a diehard national, here’s hoping it happens sooner rather than later.
Fire in the midst of a June swoon
By STEPHEN WATTLES
As the old saying goes, April showers bring May flowers. Unfortunately, for the Chicago Fire as flowery as May was, it has led to something much worse than showers as the calendar has turned to June. The team’s form has begun to mirror the weather that has dominated headlines since the change of the month.
And though the form of a soccer team is in no way as important as the spate of tragic weather that has hit the upper Midwest this month in the form of floods, tornadoes, and other storms, the change in play has certainly turned from a spring full of optimism and high hopes to an early summer of concern and discouragement. The Fire are certainly on a watch, as most of us have been for a majority of June, but at least they are not under warning conditions as the fan bases in such locales as Kansas City and New York.
Sunday’s visit to Dallas, a city in which the Fire are yet to earn thee points this century, was never a fixture to give this Fire fan a sense of confidence. But the posting of the line-up was enough to really send alarm sirens ringing. Despite the return of captain CJ Brown, the list of absentees was significant: Chris Rolfe, Gonzalo Segares, Brandon Prideaux, Wilman Conde, Diego Gutierrez, and Dasan Robinson.
In the end, the conservative play that was inevitable from a team on the road handing starts and significant roles to so many rookies and squad players, would lead to a 1-0 loss that quite frankly flatters the Fire. All of you opting to watch the Czech Republic and Turkey battle for a spot in the Euro quarterfinals chose wisely. Other than Jon Busch once again turning in a Man of the Match performance in a Fire loss, you didn’t miss anything.
There’s a big difference in this sport between keeping your shape and giving up ground while leaving yourself vulnerable. The Fire were guilty of the latter continuously on the afternoon and ended up chasing the game in the oppressive Dallas heat for far too long.
Until desperation set-in over the last half-hour, they were too content to sit back and let the game come at them. Even then, I’m sure that Dario Sala was sweating, but it had nothing to do with anything the Fire did on the afternoon since they didn’t force him to make a single challenging save.
For the second week in a row, it is difficult to find a player besides Busch who stood out for the Fire. It may be coincidence that this young team has started playing scared when the talk of McBride began, meaning someone not named Cuauhtémoc Blanco is likely moving to a different country in the near future. But the early spirit and camaraderie of the team is gone. Dennis Hamlett is officially faced with the first significant challenge of his head-coaching career.
This team needs a wake-up or a shake-up and they need it quickly. Just three weeks ago they had an opportunity to pull away from their competition in the East, but losses in three out of four have put the Fire in a position where suddenly they are the ones falling behind the pace.
It probably wouldn’t hurt for ‘Temoc to remind his teammates just how much he hates to lose to the guys in the red and white stripes, whether they hail from Guadalajara or Los Angeles, before Thursday night. Perhaps that motivation can drive a result to lift the watch and return to the sunshiny days of spring.