Chicago Fire Supporters @Section8Chicago
For the Chicago Fire, this year has been a tough one. Chicago’s road full of peaks and valleys, ups and downs, highs and lows, came to a sudden stop yesterday in Red Bull arena after a 5-2 thrashing at the hands of the New York Red Bulls. The loss, paired with a New England Revolution and Houston Dynamo win, insured that Chicago would not make the playoffs in 2013 after their first round exit in 2012.
Still, for a team that started off the year mired at the bottom of the Eastern Conference, their struggle to the top was a fascinating, although ultimately unsuccessful one. Aided by some key acquisitions including strikers Mike Magee and Juan Luis Anongono as well as the scrappy center-mid Arevalo Rios, Chicago’s train wreck of a season was salvaged and playoff hopes looked promising. Fate, however, had different plans.
After a five game unbeaten streak (four of those being wins), Chicago was the hottest team in MLS going into Sunday. A win or draw got them into the playoffs, and with Mike Magee hunting down the scoring title, an early goal wasn’t out of the question. Six minutes in, Magee put back a Dilly Duka shot that deflected off of RBNY keeper Luis Robles and tallied his 21st goal of the year.
Win? Check. Scoring title? check. Except not. As cf97 grew complacent, the Red Bulls grew hungry for their first Supporters Shield title in team history. a draw or loss would not do. And never count Thierry Henry out. Henry scored right before halftime on a goal that was eerily similar to Alexis Sanchez of Barcelona‘s goal vs. Real Madrid just a day earlier to tie. A flurry in the box off a Henry free kick led to another ball rolling across the line to give RBNY the lead.
And that’s when the floodgates opened. In the blink of an eye, Red Bulls tallied three more goals giving them a 5-1 lead. Quincy Amerikwa‘s extra time goal did nothing but lessen the blow. 5-2. Until next time, Chicago. To add insult to injury, Mike Magee’s 21 goal scoring title was broken later that day. And not by Marco Di Vaio, the Italian striker for Montreal Impact whose regular season ended a day earlier, but instead by Camilo Sannvezzo of Vancouver Whitecaps. Sanvezzo’s hat trick over Colorado Rapids put him one goal ahead of Magee, robbing him of his consolation prize.
It’s easy to blame the Fire’s lost season on New York. They’re simply too good. And on their own turf chasing hardware of their own. We should’ve known better than to think we had a chance against a team loaded with European superstars. That’s the easy answer. But the easy answer and the right answer are never the same, are they?
The right answer is- The Fire’s season wasn’t lost in New Jersey at the end of October. It was lost at Toyota Park the Sunday before labor day vs. Houston. And September 7th and 11th in Seattle and Toronto. Don’t forget that home game vs. Montreal at the end of September. What do all of those games have in common? The Fire were in the lead (and tied vs. Seattle) heading into the last four minutes of all of those games. And within those last four minutes in all the aforementioned matches, they conceded a goal. So through the month of September what SHOULD have read W-T-W-W-L-W instead read T-L-T-W-L-T (A win vs. New England and loss vs. Columbus are included in those games during the month of September). But due to a combination of poor play, fatigue, and complacency Chicago blew all of those games in the waning moments. That’s ten points that would have easily put the Fire in a playoff spot.
The month of September is what keeps the Fire’s “worst to first” story from ever being told by 30 Rock’s Judah Friedlander on “MLS Story Time”. If a soccer game was 86 minutes, then I’m not here writing this article. But sadly that is not the case, and those who do not go 100% of the time, ALL THE TIME, get left behind in the dust. For the Fire, they couldn’t keep the flame alive long enough. And ironically, that’s what burned them.