Chicago Fire vs. Columbus Crew
Saturday May 26, Crew Stadium
6:00 p.m. CT
Written by Daniel Casey. Follow Daniel on Twitter at @winslowbobbins.
The Fire will face more than just the bumblebees on Saturday; they’ll be looking to continue their winning streak which was broke by some sloppy play in Portland. Granted Wednesday’s win over FC Dallas righted the ship, but it wasn’t a proper win, a confident victory. Rather it was a win gifted by poor refereeing.
I don’t like those kinds of wins. I know that many soccer fans will say, “Hey, it’s not cheating if you don’t get caught” or “It is what it is” (similar to Marco Pappa’s attitude after the match of ‘Hey well that’s just how soccer goes sometimes’). But the thing is, it is cheating and it isn’t what it is.
It’s a sour taste, a hollow victory, a stain. During the EPL season, last month or so, every pundit and Manchester United hater decided that Ashley Young was a diver. Every one of those complainers ignored the elephant in the room—had Young been on their team, they wouldn’t have minded. And that’s the problem, they should mind.
Did Young embellish? Yes, absolutely. Does a defender need to play inside their box with more finesse and with a different mindset than what they use in open field? Yes, absolutely. Was Young a cheat? Absolutely not. And neither was Suarez or Carroll or Torres or Drogba or Van Persie when they went down in the box from contact. You have to play differently in the box than you do in the field. In the field, the mantra for all refs and players should be “Get up & get on with it”; in the box, it should be “Watch yourself.” Here in the States we conflate diving in field of play and diving in the box. Diving in the box rarely happens, whereas diving in the field happens every ten minutes (every two if you’re watching Spanish or Italian football).
But Pappa doesn’t have this excuse, he simply bum rushed the PK. He was at least four feet into the box when Grazzini made contact with the ball; it was illegal and should have been called back. But it wasn’t. And Dallas didn’t have the character comeback—they almost did, they almost won back a goal for the draw but they just couldn’t pull the string. That’s part of football. It’s why we love/hate it.
As you can tell from this little intro rant, Wednesday’s game is still weighing on my mind. Point is, FC Dallas is a rival. They’re not New England level distaste or even Seattle level angst, but they are a rival. When they flop on the pitch (which they do every game), when they blatantly foul and then get pissy about it, when they win…I don’t like it. That’s how you know you’re facing a rival, they make you angry, and you have no time for anything they do. Take note, Kansas City, because all Fire supporters still think you’re cute.
This weekend will be the first of three matches this season against Chicago’s first class rival, Columbus. Round one will be in Columbus and presents Chicago with a bit of a heavy run of matches. Having faced Portland on Sunday and then Dallas three days later, the Fire will come into Columbus oddly energized, on the cusp of fatigue. Fatigue may be a factor come Tuesday when the Fire enter the US Open Cup on the road against the Michigan Bucks and it could certainly come into play when on just three days rest the Fire travel to face New England. It’s going to be one of those weeks that either saps all your energy or galvanizes you.
It can fall either way right now. Saturday night might see forward Dominic Oduro on the bench. The last two matches Oduro hasn’t been that much of a presence due to a lingering sore hamstring. The hamstring tweak has forced him out of the last couple matches around the 60th minute. Resting Oduro would be wise. But a regular never wants to miss a game, especially a derby match. We’ll probably see him start against the Crew and in all likelihood not be in the starting line-up in Michigan. On the other side of things, forward Chris Rolfe has been increasing his training and may be ready to come into the match against Columbus as a sub. I’m hoping to see him against Michigan. Working through ankle pain is serious and you have to be patient.
With Oduro taking a few knocks and Rolfe yet to reach fitness to play, it has meant that Chicago has had to look the midfield for attacking prowess. Fortunately, it has it with Sebastian Grazzini well in form and developing a good relationship with a hot Marco Pappa. But we have to keep an eye on the fact that one more yellow card for Seba will mean suspension. Going into Fire House East (#FHEast), I’ve got grave concerns over the match.
If the Fire wins this game, they will pull well away from Columbus in the standings and be breathing down the neck of Sporting Kansas City for third place in the East. Power-rankings routinely undervalue Chicago and regularly over-value teams like Colorado, Vancouver, and Houston. The fact is, based on points, games played, and GF/GA, the Chicago Fire are the seventh best team in Major League Soccer. But they have to win against Columbus and win against New England in a decisive, non-bias manner before the league will take them seriously as a top third team.