By Amanda Beemer
Since June 11 a wave of depression crashes over me every afternoon when the last World Cup match ends, and panic sets in as I begin to wonder what I’ll do until the next morning’s match. Every conversation I have had as of late is football-related, and the fact that I get to the bar every morning around the same time most people get to the office has become a matter of quiet concern among my roommates. I have restructured all of my personal and professional responsibilities to revolve around the World Cup schedule; watching two to four matches a day has proved a delightful respite from the banality of daily life. As such, I have been dreading this mid-week World Cup break (and the consequent daydrinking hiatus), and decided to fit as much football into yesterday as possible in order to tide me over until Friday.
As has become ritual, I woke up early and walked two blocks to the corner bar for Paraguay v. Japan in the morning, and returned for Spain v. Portugal in the afternoon. In the evening I went down to Toyota Park for the Fire’s Lamar Hunt U.S. Open Cup (U.S. Soccer’s National Championship) match against the Charleston Battery. Although my love of football has raged out of control over the last 2 ½ weeks, after witnessing only one goal in over 330 minutes of play, I can now thoroughly understand why so many people find our beautiful game to be mind-numbingly boring, and not just because they don’t know what they’re looking at.
Barring the Spain/Portugal match, the football I watched yesterday was dull and uninspiring – no good challenges, no amazing saves, no heart-wrenching near misses; Japan and Paraguay and the Fire and the Battery each went scoreless in 120 minutes of play, and so the respective knockout rounds both came down to Penalty Kicks. In either situation fans would have lost nothing if the game play had never even occurred – I for one would have been perfectly happy seeing just the shootout between Chicago and Charleston, but wasn’t so lucky. In the end, Open Cup juggernauts the Chicago Fire went the way of France and Italy by getting knocked out of the tournament by a second-tier club that should have been a breeze to beat, especially since coming off Sunday’s 1-0 victory of the New England Revolution.
Despite the recent morale booster, the Fire’s performance was sluggish, apathetic, and downright disappointing – not unlike the supporter turnout (1,500 fans in a stadium that seats 20,000 means one side of the stadium is completely empty and the other looks like a ghost town). But, what does one expect for a Tuesday night match against a semi-pro club no one’s heard of in the middle of the World Cup for a tournament no one’s heard about because it was only announced two weeks prior? Although the Fire scrambled to drum up interest for the contest, it’s clear that fans won’t make the trek down to Bridgeview unless it counts (see SCIC – Who Gives a Flip?), and that the side will play accordingly.
If nothing else, the Open Cup match was an opportunity for Carlos De los Cobos to implement some of the changes he had alluded to during his last press conference. The starting 11 was largely second string, featuring Sean Johnson in goal, Kinney, Umanzor and Watson-Siriboe in back, Corben Bone in the middle, and Stefan Dmitrov as the sole forward. With so many changes in a match that didn’t mean much to the players or the fans, the game suffered and the play was just plain sloppy. Had the usual suspects been on the pitch one might even go so far as to say it was offensive.
Now that the Fire’s opportunity to win the Cup this year has come and gone, they can realign themselves in an effort to prepare for this weekend’s away match against inter-Conference rivals the Columbus Crew. While they work on figuring out a lineup that works, I will continue counting down the hours to Netherlands v. Brazil – a chance to watch some beautiful football and hopefully reassure myself that I am not in love with a sport that doesn’t love me back.
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