15 April 2012
Posted in Chicago Fire
Now back safely in the confines of my own home, I can write a full length post about tonight's match at Toyota Park. The first thing I have to say, is it's a damn shame that this game had to be called due to weather. There were a lot different factors that played into the decision and I'll touch on that later, but it's a shame - I truly believe the Fire would have pulled off the win had this game gone the full 90. That being said, it didn't and they didn't, and they'll have to settle for another disappointing draw and one point.
First off, congratulations to Patrick Nyarko on his 100th game as a member of the Fire first team tonight. Unfortunately he celebrated the occasion with a yellow card, but congrats to him, and let's hope for 100 more.
Let's get to the numbers. The game took 3 hours and 18 minutes, by my math that means that we had somewhere around 120 minutes, or two hours worth of delays. That's a lot of time sitting and staring at an empty pitch, wondering when we'd get underway again, and later on, if we were going to get underway again. It was a weird two hours, but it was full of lighthearted tweeting and fun in the press box with a great group of people.
The Men in Red looked the better side throughout most of this match. They outshot Houston 4-1 in the shots on target column, with Houston's only goal coming on their lone shot on target, against the run of play. Unfortunately, that's the way these things happen and at the 24' mark the Fire found themselves down a goal, at home and only 20 or so minutes away from an official game with the weather threatening to close in again.
Fire supporters didn't have to wait long, however, as Pavel Pardo stepped over a freekick in the 27' and booted a shot on frame that bounced off Logan Pause's back, off the ground, off the underside of the crossbar, and into the back of the net to pull the teams level once again. Those would prove to be the only two goals in this 63 minute match, and both teams would leave the pitch with one point.
Now, away from the facts and on to the thoughts...
First of all, Marco Pappa is making way too many mistakes in the passing game. Blame it on rain, blame it on wind, I blame it on money. Pappa wants the big European payday, and I believe he is trying too hard, sometimes putting himself before the club and it's really starting to hurt this team. When he's on, he's lethal with his ability to pass or score. When he's off, he looks like a fool - taking shots that never have a chance or making passes that look like they are right to opposing players.
Secondly, it was good to see Sebastian Grazzini rebound from his poor performance in Colorado. He looked motivated and was doing everything possible to help this team try to pull out three points. If not for a great save by Tally Hall, Grazzini may have won the game for the Fire.
Next, Arne Friederich's first MLS match was good. It wasn't awful, it wasn't great. He obviously needs more time to get comfortable with the guys in the back, but he made some good plays, and looked confident. Listening to him talk in the locker room after match, I got the feeling that he was not happy with the outcome (of course) and is completely happy to be here, and ready to help this team win - right now. He's going to prove to be a great addition for this club.
Welcome back, Sean Johnson. Don't get me wrong, the emergence of Paolo Tornaghi was cool to see, and I'm thrilled we finally have a serviceable backup, but Sean's our guy and it was great to see him back in net for the Fire. He only faced one shot on target and conceded a goal on that shot, but I'm glad to see him back. I caught up with him after the match and asked him to talk a little about what the travel (between club and country) does to a player, and how he maintains focus throughout. He said, "You try to play for different teams, and you travel a lot, but obviously now I'm back in Chicago and I'm focused on being with Chicago for the rest of the year". That's awesome. As much as I love seeing SJ play for our country, I want him between the pipes for the Fire.
The pairing up front is beginning to be of some concern to me. Last year the Oduro/Nyarko pairing was the spark the club needed to get moving in the right direction, but that was due in large part to Oduro's speed combined with Nyarko's ability to distribute. There's a couple of problems with that plan. First off, teams are keying in on Oduro now, shutting him down and not letting him get behind them. Pair that with the fact that Nyarko should be distributing from the midfield, and not trying to take the amount of shots a striker should be taking, and you have a situation where talent is being mismanaged. (I believe)
Don't get me wrong, Frank Klopas is a fantastic manager, and I love what he does, but I don't think Nyarko should be up front with Dom - we need another true goalscorer up there and let Patrick distribute from the midfield.
Congratulations to Logan Pause, who scored his 3rd goal in 10 years - it was great to see our captain get on the score sheet.
Geoff Gamble is a name you may not be familiar with. He was the referee for tonight's match, and he called a very one sided match. I'm not going to spend a lot of space or time complaining about the cards against the Fire, and the no calls they got on the other end, but it definitely made a difference in the flow of the match.
Now, let's get back to the weather. We were told by the club that between the MLS rules on lightning strikes (you need to wait 30 minutes from the last lightning strike to get back on the field) and the ordinances in Bridgeview, there was no way to get this game in in it's entirety tonight. It's a crying shame. Every player I spoke with, every writer I talked to, everybody I overheard in Toyota Park all believed that had this game gone 90, the Fire would have found another goal to get the three points. And that's not just wishful thinking. I think they controlled most of the match, and created many more opportunities to score than Houston did. Mother nature may have robbed the club of three points tonight. BUT - that being said, the players, coaches, everybody knew this game might not get to fulltime. After halftime it was an official game. The Fire needed to come out in the first ten minutes and get the winner early, just in case the weather returned. They didn't, and it did.
At the end of the day, the Fire came away with 1 point when they needed 3. You can't start dropping points at home, it's not a good trend to set this early in the campaign. They need to dry off, regroup, and get ready for Toronto in 6 days. If they don't come back from Canada with the full three, I'm going to begin hitting the panic button.
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