Dispatch: Chicago Fire (1) vs. Toronto FC (0)

High drama is on the way... (image: chicago-fire.com)

High drama is on the way… (image: chicago-fire.com)

OTF contributor Daniel Casey confronts winning and its consequences…

For now, it appears as though the Chicago Fire on their way to making the playoffs. The idea is shocking given how mediocre the team has been. Or has it? Certainly, the beginning of the season was a disaster, but then changes were made. Prior to June 1, Chicago had eight points (2-2-7) and looked to be diving out of significance early. Then moves were made – the most significant being the trade for soon-to-be MLS MVP Mike Magee.

Magee’s arrival in Chicago turned the team around. Granted, it was still a hard and frustrating summer for the Fire. The addition of Baky Soumare solidified the backline, the dumping of team cancer Sherjill MacDonald and the signing of Juan Luis Anangono breathed new hope into the strike force, and when Arevalo Rios was brought into the midfield to perform the much needed field general role, Chicago found its feet. Since June 1, Chicago is the best team in MLS. Let that sink in – the best team, 41 points (12-5-5). Magee and his fourteen goals (a league leading twenty overall) have made the Fire a contender.

After a shaky September where results swung back and forth, supporters and the team were anxious and desirous of consistency. October is turning into the team’s best month, three straight wins. If there is a time to get hot, it is now. It’s been maddening for supporters. But now we all need to get into a mental place where we can see our team not just making it to the playoffs but progressing. The Chicago Fire have the player who should be league MVP, they are getting hot at the right time, and their rise into the playoffs would make for a superb post-season story.

Several Chicago players are hitting their stride, none more important than Juan Luis Anangono. For the second week, Anangono was a terror to the opposition’s backline. Unfortunately, the strong, quick Ecuadorian didn’t find the back of the net even though he had several chances. And honestly, the win over Toronto FC was ugly.

Although Chicago was the better team throughout (better passing accuracy (74% to 70%), dominating possession) there were clear deficiencies. In the final third, the Fire had a difficult time with poor finishing and with crosses left begging. Also, the Fire had eight total corner kick opportunities but each was poorly executed. If Chicago hopes to make it into the playoffs, it will have to improve its set-piece conversion.


Mike Magee is cheered on by all his teammates after converting the game winning penalty kick. (Photo: Chicago Fire Facebook page)

The goal that gave Chicago the full three points was on a Mike Magee penalty kick. The penalty was awarded when a free kick struck Toronto man Jonathan Osorio’s arm in the box. What makes this a shady call is that Osorio was part of the wall confronting the free kick, and when the ball struck him his arms were tight to his body in a standard position while he was turning away. Though perhaps a letter-of-the-law call, you know it was soft at best and most likely erroneous because no supporter on any team would accept that call. I don’t accept that call. In all honesty, Chicago and Toronto should have drawn and the win is an insult to an already much maligned team.

Frankly, Chicago won for the wrong reasons. I cannot lie and say I don’t want the points, but it leaves a bitter taste in the mouth and taints the team should they make it into the playoffs. But just how can the Fire make the playoffs?

The simplest answer: Win at New York next week. What will make it difficult is the New York Red Bulls are on their own amazing run of form, 17 points over their last seven matches. New York, Chicago, and New England are the hottest teams in the league right now and all three are duking it out for spots in the Eastern Conference playoffs.

A draw or a loss at New York means the Fire have to rely on other results – Houston drawing/losing at DC or New England drawing/losing at Columbus. A draw next week, a Houston win/draw, and a New England win/draw then means Fire Nation would be reliant upon Toronto beating Montreal. I’m uncomfortable with all of these scenarios. Chicago must win. If the Fire wins, they’re in.

Chicago Fire Manager Frank Klopas seems to have found the key to the Playoffs. Photo from Chicago Fire Facebook page

Chicago Fire Manager Frank Klopas seems to have found the key to the Playoffs. (Photo: Chicago Fire Facebook page)

Should Chicago close the regular season out with a win or a draw, it looks as though they’ll either play the Knockout Game on October 30th or 31st, or play in the Conference Semifinal the first week of November.

OTF Contributor Daniel Casey writes about soccer hoping someday someone will pay him to do so. He writes regularly for Soccer NewsdaySoccer Without LimitsFootball.com, and On The Fire. Follow him on Twitter @misanthropester

4 thoughts on “Dispatch: Chicago Fire (1) vs. Toronto FC (0)

  1. I’ve thought the same thing about that penalty call. Totally wrong. No way that was penalty deserving of a PK. That defender had his arms tucked into his body, and he was struck by the ball. No call. HOWEVER, this is sports, and the Fire have had more than one or two PKs called against them, and at least one red card given, that were also completely erroneous. Evens out JUST a bit here for the Fire. Tho it definitely sucks for the other side. So it goes.

    • I’ve come to decide that a call is wrong/error when I think just how furious I’d be if called against the side I back. If it had been reversed, all of #cf97 would be crying for blood

  2. Another very good article by Mr Casey in which he makes an interesting case. Very enjoyable as usual. However, I would like to add my two cents.

    It’s an old adage but it still rings true: You must be able to win games even when you play bad enough to lose.

    Good teams have that knack. Until recently that was not the case with the Fire. This game could/should have been a draw – but we won it instead. That’s the first sign I’ve seen in a long time that this team has enough heart to put together a special run.

    I, however, will not sweat over the details of one call in this game. I’ve played for decades, coached through the high school level and beyond, and refereed as well. And just as I never liked making excuses in defeat – I equally dislike apologizing in victory.

    We won the game fair & square. Was it a bad call? Maybe but so what? It is the nature of the game and always will be as long as human beings make the calls. The PK was one call – how about the dozens of non-calls that could/should have been whistled? Some of those were PKs denied. Any of those could have turned the game one way or the other – so what? I refuse to play that game because in the end it is a game for losers. Winners get over it and go on to the next game.

    Spectators can accept the call or not – it does not matter and is inconsequential. It IS the right call because the ref said so and that’s it. As in life, it might not seem fair – but that’s life.

    “Bitter taste”? No way Jose … and not for moi – because victory is always sweet.

    “Tainted for the playoffs”? Tainted by whom …. the losers that are sitting out the playoffs? Phtttt … who cares what they think? The key phrase here is “in the playoffs” everything else is a non issue.

    We have all been on the “right” and “wrong” side of these kind of calls. Emotions sometimes will run high as a result and is part of the “fun” of football. However, I am quite sure no one on the Fire felt “insulted” by the “bad” call or the victory.

    Experience tells me that these things will “even out” over the course of a season. I am relieved that we finally got the “bad” call in our favor. But according to my elephant memory we are stilled “owed” a quite a few more bad calls in the box. Hopefully fate will “even out” the score card again with a couple more equally “bad” PK calls against the Red Bulls – even if infuriates their fans. In fact so much the better!

    A possible play off berth awaits those who desire it more ….. onward lads!!

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