By Amanda Beemer
Rather than conclude that this is a “rebuilding year” and hobble toward the end of the season with a nauseating blend of dejection and indifference, the Chicago Fire have decided to be aggressive. Following last week’s acquisition of Mexican International Nery Castillo (who will officially become a part of the Fire family at tomorrow’s press conference) is yesterday’s announcement that veteran midfielder Justin Mapp was traded to MLS Expansion Team the Philadelphia Union in exchange for allocation money. That’s right, after eight seasons with the Fire there will be no more Mapp in Chicago.
Although many cutthroat Fire fans are more than happy to say ‘Good Riddance’, it becomes a little more difficult to say goodbye when Mapp’s departure is considered in light of the loss of four key players over the off-season. In this sense, Mapp was a relic from seasons past when our team had personality and cohesion. With him gone, the side is all but unrecognizable.
This wistfulness of course has no bearing whatsoever on how well he performed on the pitch. Like many other Fire fans, I have spent many matches lamenting Mapp’s slow pace, his inaccurate passing, and his terrible haircut, all of which seem to have worsened over the course of the season. And rightfully so – Mapp has been struggling with a leg injury, and has only had one assist and no goals so far this year. His recent performance pales in comparison to prior years, throughout which he scored 14 goals and had 35 assists.
The allocation money received in return for Mapp means the Fire is in a position to make another acquisition prior to the end of the season. Although the shedding of some apparently dead weight is promising, it is important to remember that Mapp is not the sole reason we’re doing so poorly, just like Castillo isn’t going to be the sole person who makes us do well. Should we pick up another player, it will hopefully be someone solid who can show genuine interest and inspire his mates to work together as a unit – perhaps all the Fire needs is a true good pro.
On a final note, a big thank you is owed to Mapp for being the support section’s punching bag. We could always count on you to let us down, which often resulted in shouting your name with a string of expletives attached to it, followed by some remark about not being surprised that a country boy with a comb-over couldn’t get the job done. Now that you’ve gone, I don’t know who we’ll blame – probably Banner. Please rediscover your passion for footie in Philly, and maximize that potential you seem to have abandoned. Best of Luck – I sincerely hope you make us eat our words.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org