Chicago Fire vs. Real Salt Lake
May 9, Toyota Park (7:30 p.m.)
When Real Salt Lake comes to Toyota Park on Wednesday they will hear cheers. Not for them but for longtime Fire defender and now RSL coach, C.J. Brown. Brown will be inducted into the club’s Ring of Fire which honors the best Fire players. Brown’s retirement saw the last of the old guard leave the pitch for the Chicago Fire and since then the team has been patiently rebuilding, nurturing a new crop of stars.
Certainly this weekend the brightest star for Chicago was Marco Pappa. The Guatemalan netted the game winning goal in stoppage time in Los Angeles against Chivas USA. After last season’s record amount of draws, coming out of an away match with a win heartened club and supporters. Pappa has been in form the last two matches. His amazing corner kick goal in the harsh lose to
Seattle was a bright spot in that loss and this last weekend’s play have once again endeared him to supporters—who seem all too ready to write Pappa off when he isn’t on form. Such is the complex relationship supporters have with their club. This Wednesday will certainly be difficult. Real Salt Lake is one of the best clubs in MLS and their style of play is one that will be difficult
for Chicago to menace.
And menace is what Chicago needs to do to Real Salt Lake. There is love amongst MLS supporters for US National Team members. Every USMNT regular gets treated to cheers and praise via all social media. US supporters seem desperate to love their national team; it is irksome. I mention this because I loathe Kyle Beckerman—I hate his style of play, I hate his attitude, and I especially hate his neo-hippie haircut. Everything about Beckerman reeks of unearned privilege and that rubs me the wrong way. I’m a prole; I have no time for him. And I would love nothing more than for the Chicago midfield to finally assert itself as I know it can and boss Beckerman all over the pitch.
Having gotten that out of my system, let me return to a legit point, i.e. menace. My Beckerman disdain aside, Real Salt Lake is a midfield club. If Beckerman and Morales are bottled-up, frustrated, then the hardly wide play of Will Johnson, Ned Brabavoy, or Luis Gil becomes moot (just imagine how impatient Johnson, especially, would become). Forwards Fabian Espindola and Alvaro Saborio are brilliant but choked of real service having to create whole cloth they can certainly be handled by the Fire’s defense. I would suspect Daniel Paladini working in the center midfield would provide the necessary muscle.
It’s been a boon that Pappa has turned on the attack. This means that teams can’t just focus all their attention on Dominic Oduro. But the simple fact is speed will not win this game for Chicago, even though the Fire stand a better chance of scoring against RSL with goalkeeper Nick Rimando now out with injury. Grazzini and Pappa need to develop chemistry together in order to split the attention of defenses and harry midfielders. Pappa, Grazzini, and Nyarko need to stretch Real Salt Lake while Chicago’s generals (Pardo, Pause) play the long ball. Crowding the midfield or playing narrow is a recipe for loss. Chicago has a real chance to come out of Wednesday’s contest with a win. Doing so would continue to Chicago’s overall dominance over RLS but it would send a message to the league that the Fire are hot and ready to play.
Written by Daniel Casey. Follow Daniel on Twitter @winslowbobbins.