It was supposed to be a night to remember for Chicago Fire fan, the night a home-town hero donned his hometown team’s uniform for the first time. Brian McBride did just that at Toyota Park on Saturday, Aug. 16, but he wouldn’t taste victory in his debut.
D.C. saw to that not happening, as its beleaguered defense held firm in a 1-0 victory. Goalkeeper Louis Crayton made his debut for D.C. United a memorable one, making two saves to post a shutout.
SBI correspondents Stephen Wattles and Joel Sanderson took in the action and gave is their takes on the match.
A memorable night, a forgettable game for Fire
By STEPHEN WATTLES
It should have been an electric night at Toyota Park. Between the hometown hero returning from London (via Beijing), the Fire’s seven game unbeaten streak and climb back up the MLS standings, and a heated and hated rival as the opposition all the elements were there for this one to be a cracker. Unfortunately, it ended up being a dud, unless you happen to support DC United.
It wasn’t only the result and the Fire’s play on the feel that disappointed on the evening. Despite a near sell-out crowd and all of the above reasons, there was next to no atmosphere inside Toyota Park. Chief reason for this was a first half ‘silent protest’ by the usually omnipresent voices from Section 8 against the treatment of their Latino members by stadium security personnel. The issue is an ugly one that only got uglier post game, but its impact on the game was one of adding to the flat vibe in the stadium emanating from the Fire players.
Being a Fire fan, it is difficult to give credit for United’s approach to the match, but it is hard to argue with the result. DC’s usual negative 2008 approach against the Fire was on display on the evening, as evidenced by the 7-1-card margin. It is little wonder that this is the team against whom Cuauhtémoc Blanco suffered his meltdown. DC clearly would have been happy with a draw but the Fire were far more accommodating hosts than that.
Not only did the Fire politely welcome DC by not matching their physicality, intensity or desire, but they gift wrapped them the goal that ensured the VW bugs would take home two more points than they came for. No one on the Fire even looked at Fred until it was obvious he would easily be able to score the game’s lone goal on a first half corner. It was a rare miss-step for this team’s defensive unit on the year, and hard to pin on anything more than a lack of concentration and communication.
The starting line-up was not first choice due to a couple injuries and Brian McBride’s late arrival and intensive game schedule, but the fire power on the field should have been able to create at least a goal. Andy Herron has hopefully now seen his last minutes of the season and was once again shown to be completely ineffective, especially considering how effective McBride was in his second half debut. He connected well with his new teammates, particularly Chris Rolfe and Blanco, and nearly scored a couple including having one header cleared off the line.
It will be several more games before Denis Hamlett is forced to pick a line-up from all the options available to him, and even then he likely won’t be able to do it too many times consecutively with the CONCACAF World Cup Qualifiers impact on this squad. Yet, Patrick Nyarko with another good, albeit brief, effort and John Thorrington with his attitude and intensity clearly missed, have stronger cases for inclusion this week.
The bottom line is the Fire once again didn’t get it done when they had an opportunity to climb over everyone to the top of the MLS hill. Despite the optimism that this writer and the fan base have for this team, they continue to gravitate toward the average as opposed to the superlative. Only the next three months will show if the Fire can get over that hump because with the roster as it currently stands, those of us wearing red in the stands will consider anything less than a championship a disappointment.
Amidst slump, D.C. delivers a quality performance
By JOEL SANDERSON
Sometimes when I sit down to watch a game of soccer, I think that I’m just too tired. I want the instant gratification that comes from watching the NFL or the NBA. There’s going to be lots of action, points scored and aggressiveness right from the outset in those games. But then I watch a little and think that I might change the channel after five minutes. You know, just to see what’s on. But then it’s 10 minutes into the game. Then 20. I’m always drawn in.
That’s how this game was for me. I was exhausted. I’ve been sick, I’ve been busy and I just wanted to chill out.
I didn’t know what to expect. It was DC against one of the many teams that hate them. Just one week after the Red Bulls and less since the Revolution US Cup game.
The last few DC games have been so painful to watch because the team just looks out of sync. Passes haven’t been hooking up and there’s no creativity. Santino Quaranta has shown that while he can be a really good player, he can’t be the guy in the middle. Fred’s the same way. He can be the best player on the field, but he can’t run the game. That’s not what he does.
Without Gallardo, the offense doesn’t really have that guy. That’s made the games plodding and disconnected, almost like there hasn’t been a run of play. Even in the US Open Cup game against the Revolution where the team looked better, the team was at it’s June offensive peak. That was a quality performance though.
Against the Fire, the offense wasn’t there. If this team wants to do something in the playoffs instead of squeak in the final spot, it is going to have get the offense going again. Quaranta and Guerrero did alright. But the goal was lucky. Watching Fred run in there so wide open was reminiscent of DC’s defense. Credit goes to Moreno for placing such a perfect corner.
The real story of the match was that DC withstood the offensive push of Blanco and the Fire. Blanco has proved his ability to set up his teammates and he gets fired up for games like this one.
The DC defense did an excellent job of getting in front of shots and either redirecting them or forcing them to be more difficult. The last shutout DC had was a fluke. I think the guys earned this one.
Gonzalo Martinez held does his box nicely, but what was really impressive were the numbers. D tends to give up two on twos about three times a game and get beat to long balls. Those symptoms weren’t present. Even on the two-on-two that the Fire got, the defense was actually catching up and played the positions and the players.
It is a lot more difficult to score when there are six guys behind the ball cutting out open lanes.
As far as Louis Crayton goes, he didn’t have to show much, but he didn’t show anything that made me wish he weren’t on the field. I’m ready to watch him play some more and take away Wells spot. Crayton made was fearless play when he went up to catch the ball coming into the box. He might have been better served punching that one since normally DC’s defense doesn’t cover the goal like that, but that’s one moment. Let’s see how he does next time.
By the end of the game, I was happy and relaxed. DC’s offense didn’t do much, but it was a good game. Both teams could have won and DC squeezed it out when its best skills weren’t on display. I enjoy a good 1-0 soccer game, especially when it involves DC beating the Fire.
This was a hope-inducing game. Time to see if it can last up against the Revs on Wednesday.