By Amanda Beemer
Last Thursday’s tie with FC Dallas may have been far from ideal, but at the very least let’s say it felt like more of a win than our prior tie against the Kansas City Wizards. And now that all the international friendly nonsense is over (at least for now), let’s refocus our efforts on the league that actually matters.
The Fire’s return to the MLS was rife with disappointments: Mike Banner made an egregious over-calculation in the 36th minute when he sailed a ball over the cross bar from three yards out, Carlos de los Cobos did us a disservice by continuing to switch up the starting 11, and Section 8’s numbers dwindled as a direct result of lack of faith in the club – all this is thoroughly understood and duly noted. However, the mediocre result is a positive one for the following reason:
FC Dallas’s record at Toyota Park is embarrassing; prior to Thursday they had beaten the Fire every time they visited – at least we got one point whereas stats and the Fire’s continual sub-par performance would predict otherwise.
In addition, Fire veteran Brian McBride’s goal via a header in the 40th minute ignited Section 8 and undoubtedly reminded us all of our club’s potential as well as our empathy for it. As soon as the ball hit the net (off-sides or not, that’s not for us to judge…) Section 8
Photo from fOTOGLIF
erupted in a celebration that in retrospect was a bit exaggerated. This is most likely because the equalizer helped to alleviate the feeling of disenchantment that reverberated throughout the section when Banner squandered his golden opportunity just a few minutes prior. It also reminded us of an oft-neglected verity about the Fire: when it comes to scoring, let the vets do the work.
Besides McBride’s confidence-bolstering goal, the Fire’s playing was middling at best. It all seemed like more of the same, which still isn’t good enough. The Fire took shots but once again lacked the finishing skills to turn them into goals, Mapp more or less looked like his boots were made of concrete (it’s been said a million times but bears repeating: perhaps a haircut would make him more aerodynamic?), Dykstra repeatedly strayed from the goal line, and de los Cobos continued to experiment with the lineup throughout the match to no avail – he started McBride and Nyarko as usual, but left out John and Pappa until they subbed in in the 58th and 68th minutes respectively.
It’s clear that fans aren’t the only ones frustrated with the Fire’s continued impotence. As a club that has stated numerous times its primary objective is to win championships, their mediocre record is weighing heavily on the players as well. There are obvious breakdowns in communication and gross miscalculations; some, but not all of which is indeed attributable to the Frankenstein-esque combination of vets and rookies that bears almost no resemblance to the rosters of recent years past.
Taking into account these “growing pains”, I have a humble suggestion for a consistent lineup: start McBride and John (no one can argue they don’t have a rapport since they are old mates from Fulham), keep Husidic, Pappa, Pause, and Nyarko in the middle but don’t let Pappa or Nyarko take shots on goal (I love Nyarko’s sheepish grin every time he misses the goal, but I see it way too often) and put Ward, Brown, Conde and Krol in the back with Johnson as net-minder (he looked pretty confident against PSG and Dykstra’s make-or-break period is just about ending ). As far as I’m concerned, this is the best chance we have of playing as a cohesive unit, rather than 11 souls on a pitch who can’t find one another and all seem to speak a completely different language.
On a final note: all is not lost, Fire fans. Our club needs us now most of all, in spite of our collective heavy heart. Show up to the Philadelphia Union and Colorado Rapids matches and support our boys – show them that our shared frustration only emboldens us to push them to their limits. Demand better, because that is what the club and the fans deserve. In case some of us forgot, home matches are a chance to actively support the club that plays the game we love for the city we love, not an excuse to drink underage in public or an excursion into a little-known but passionate niche in Chicago sports. Let our players know you came for them, rather than Miller Lite and bragging rights. Trite as it may be, if we band together we can turn this ship around. Or at least that’s how it’s supposed to be.
Amanda is a long-time Chicago resident and avid Chicago Fire fan, and has been following MLS for the better part of a decade. Although she makes an awesome spectator, she is a god-awful player. She can be reached at email@example.com