By Amanda Beemer
Ever hear the old adage ”football is a gentleman’s game played by hooligans”? Although it originates from a British newspaper article published almost 60 years ago, it applies all the same to MLS today. Take for example the positively surly match between the Chicago Fire and the Houston Dynamo last weekend. The contest saw nine cautions, two ejections, one head-butt, and the beginning of a fight. Despite all the roughhousing, the Fire pulled a relatively easy 2-nil win over the former Western Conference leaders, making it Dykstra’s second straight clean sheet and our first (and much appreciated) win at home.
Head Coach Carlos De los Cobos stuck with the 4-5-1 formation, but switched it up by starting McBride as the single striker, and then substituting John in the 62′. The two goals were scored by midfielders Baggio Husidic and Peter Lowry, respectively. Husidic’s goal, the first in his MLS career, came unassisted at the tail end of stoppage time in the first half, and Lowry scored off an assist from Nyarko in the 67′.
The second half continued to be fairly gentlemanly, until things started to get ugly in the 81′ when Fire defender Tim Ward fouled a Dynamo player off a header, which quickly led to a shoving match. Several Dynamo players and virtually every Fire player immediately trotted over to see what the commotion was about; in keeping with tradition the Fire regressed into street fight manner by assembling into a loose semicircle and looking ready to throw down whilst the referees sorted out the debacle.
Although a full-scale brawl was averted, the Fire’s Collins John received a yellow card for his involvement as did the Dynamo’s Danny Cruz. This was Cruz’s second of the match, and he was subsequently ejected after being on the pitch for only about twelve minutes. Just a few minutes later, Fire defender Krzysztof Krol was ejected for head-butting a Dynamo forward who fouled him. Krol’s aggression may have ruined the Fire’s brief advantage, but because of it I have finally stopped lamenting the fact that rumors of a potential acquisition of Zidane were unfounded a few years back.
In contrast to all the rumpus, Dykstra had a pretty easy day, and appeared comfortable and more than competent accordingly. This is his second shutout, a feat which will undoubtedly boost his confidence going into this weekend’s upcoming match against Chivas. Should he keep up the good work, some of us will feel obligated to stop being so salty at him.
One might argue that Saturday’s win was especially invigorating as a result of all the hooliganery. Although violence is of course inappropriate in any venue, the confrontations on the pitch may well serve as a reminder to Fire fans of the players’ commitment to one another and to always stand their ground, whatever form the opposition may take. One also hopes their resolve is bolstered by the fact that they have a goal-line wide support section that unfailingly has their back.
Amanda is a long-time Chicago resident and an 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 firstname.lastname@example.org