OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week Ten

This is the better. (photo: chicagotribune.com)

This is the better. (photo: chicagotribune.com)

This week, the Roundtable ponders a profound statement by a fellow OTFer…

In his match review of Chicago Fire’s ninth game and first win of the 2014 season, OTF writer Daniel Casey gave us all food for thought. Toward the end of his piece, Daniel eloquently wrote:

“This is the madness of Chicago: It is both better and worse than it’s ever been.”

What excellent fodder for discussion…

Brian Battle

The extreme polarity with which the Fire perform — great scoring acumen counterbalanced by a porous, unnerving defense — is the stuff of good television.

It’s actually reminiscent of what happened to the Chicago Bears last season where a new coach flipped an anemic offense and a ferocious defense into a team that could score as well as be scored on in spectacular fashion.

I bring up football, because, to Casey’s point:

“Nine goals in one match. This was madness. Ugly, ugly madness. It was the kind of game designed for neutrals, for naysayers, for painfully casual fans.”

In other words, it was a perfect game for American audiences. It was high scoring and high drama. It was a match in which a 5-2 lead (or 35-14 if you’re a Football fan) felt unstable, and where viewers perched on the edge of their couches for 90+ minutes. The game’s dual hat tricks and insane golazos are more common in FIFA14 online gaming than in a typical professional soccer match.

I bring this up because as the World Cup approaches, and with MLS just signing an impressive TV deal, I’ve been thinking a lot more about what “American Soccer” is about.

Will this thoroughly entertaining but hardly nuanced game become ‘The American Style?’ Does it even matter though, if it produces wins and it’s entertaining? Does that make traditional fans ‘Euro Snobs?’ Either way, US Soccer is definitely at a cultural crossroads, and it’s a good time to be alive and watching some footie.

Nick Fox

Daniel Casey’s statement points to the schizophrenic nature of the 2014 Chicago Fire campaign, and also to the confusion Fire fans feel after seeing their team do great things in a very ugly way.

Chicago’s attack continued to prove its potency, scoring a season-high five goals to raise their total to 17 (second in the Eastern Conference). However, one could argue that all of those goals were ugly and/or fluky, and you could easily say that New York lost the game more than Chicago won it.

Chicago’s defense continued to be porous, giving up a season-high four goals to raise their total for the season to 18 (also second in the Eastern Conference). However, the defense finally did something it has failed to do over and over this season: hold a lead. Yes, it was a three-goal lead, but they still managed to prevent the best offense in the Eastern Conference from completing its comeback in front of a ravenous home crowd.

In short, it’s hard to have any firm takeaways from this game. New York played poorly, but it was Chicago’s work rate that forced them into mistakes. Chicago got lucky a few times, but taking advantage of favorable breaks is what good teams do. And while Chicago’s defense bent (over and again) it managed to hold the lead and get the win, which is all Fire fans have been asking from it this season.

Ten weeks in, the Fire remain the ultimate Jekyll and Hyde team in MLS. They do everything right, they do everything wrong, and it’s anyone’s guess which version shows up on the field — not just week-to-week, but minute-to-minute.

Delicious. (photo: mlssoccer.com)

Calm down Dax. There’s more where that came from.  (photo: mlssoccer.com)

Lucas Hammer

I think Daniel hit it on the head with his statement. I have never felt so many alternating feelings of both extreme hope and extreme hopelessness while following Chicago Fire. The last two games have had me both yelling in joy and screaming in anger as the Fire change from a team that can take a three-goal lead from the defending Supporters’ Shield champions, to a team that almost gives up a three-goal lead in the final 20 minutes of a game. The bipolar manner in which the Fire have played has left me speechless when trying to answer the question, “Are they any good this year?”

The Chicago team that left the locker room after halftime in Harrison, NJ, was the most impressive team I’ve watched at any point this year. The 20 minutes that followed the beginning of the second half showed the brilliance of a team that belongs in a higher spot in the Eastern Conference table.

After those 20 minutes, however, they became a different team, suddenly afraid that everything would go wrong and content to sit back and pray for the best. Again, like last year, the best wasn’t in store. Poor defending and sloppy challenges threatened to bring the Fire to a draw that would’ve destroyed what was left of many fans’ morale. Luckily, the collapse wasn’t complete, and the Fire managed their first win of the season.

Chris O’Connor

Obviously, Daniel Casey is a good writer (I know this because I am not), and I really enjoyed his line “This is the madness of Chicago: It is both better and worse than it’s ever been.” Now, full disclosure, I did not see this game. I was in Milwaukee enjoying baseball, beer, and some of Miller Park’s famed (perhaps only by me) cheese curd canoes, but the scoreboard alone tells the story of something being the best and the worst at the same time.

This was a wonderful result: exciting, high scoring and satisfying (kind of like the Ggooglyboogly “OTF Loves America” Tshirt! Get yours today!). However, it was only worth three points. There are still a lot of holes in this team , and while this particular game has #cf97 fans feeling on top of the world, the table (which never lies) says we’re still one of the worst. Moreover, without much confidence in ownership, I don’t see this team doing anything particularly meaningful this season or in the seasons to come.

It’s tough to overlook what Harry Shipp has done during his short time in Chicago though (this is another “better” part). He’s arrived, forced himself into the starting XI, and now is showing he’s one of the most promising players in the league. I love everything about his game and hope he keeps working hard and improving. It’s scary to think how high his ceiling might be. 

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Follow OTF Soccer on Twitter @OTFSoccer

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Follow OTF Roundtablers @owengoal, @OlympicMule@lucas_hammer & @ggooglyboogly on your Twitter machine.

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