Fire 3 Crew 2 Recap

Chicago welcomed Columbus Crew to Toyota Park on a clear October night, knowing that their 2011 playoff chances were over, but hoping to spoil any chance Columbus had of securing first place in the East. As Chicago took the field sporting commemorative Breast Cancer Awareness jerseys being auctioned post-game for charity, it was clear they wanted to finish the season strong, playing for the pride of the badge. They would not disappoint.

The Fire controlled play early, passing well and connecting far better than previously against FC Dallas, or even their win against DC United. Their tenacity and composure over the ball paid immediate dividends, as Pavel Pardo would connect with Jalil Anibaba, who headed home the first goal of the evening for his 2nd goal in 2011 across all competitions. The Fire would continue to press, in spite of good chances by Columbus in the 20th and 34th minutes. Anibaba would complete his brace in the 30th minute, however, with another header, this time courtesy of a Cory Gibbs cross, putting Chicago up 2-0 in the first half. Columbus, sensing a need for more offense, made a first half substitution, bringing on Robbie Rogers in place of Kevin Burns.

Chicago continued to control possession and scoring chances in the 2nd half, but Columbus struck back in the 73rd minute with a strike from Emilio Renteria off a Eddie Gavin cross, then answered again in the 79th minute when a Jalil Anibaba clearance was muffed to the feet of Dilly Duka, who struck it home with authority. No sooner did Columbus draw even though, than an attack up the right side by Dominic Oduro fell away from Hesmer, and Diego Chaves, who's made a habit of crashing the goal to clean up shots, tipped home the game winner in the 81st minute. Chicago would hold off a few last Crew attacks to close out the evening with a win, and the season with a .500 record, in spite of a tough first few months.

The Fire finished out their season on a positive note, something that was important to the team, as well as interim head coach Frank Klopas. "We made it exciting again, but it was great to finish on a positive note, for sure. There's not much to say. It's very exciting at the moment." Logan Pause added to Klopas' sentiment, while also expressing the obvious disappointment of missing the playoffs for a second year in a row. "That was one thing in the way that we looked at it, and we had to look at it, was our playoffs started two months ago, knowing that we had to win games and a lot of games. It somewhat came down to the last couple weeks, which is exciting, but yeah, it's disappointing not to be playing next week.

In spite of missing the playoffs, the Fire feel like the group assembled for the second half of the season is a core they can build on and improve on next season. Chicago now begins their 2012 season prep with questions regarding a permanent head coach and the missing pieces necessary to propel them through next year's campaign and deep into the playoffs.

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  • I doubt there was a bookie in the world taking bets on Anibaba netting TWO goal, but that would have been a heck of a bet to make.

    This was another game that would have been a tie earlier in the season, and yet the Fire pulled it out. I almost didn't watch the game (well, ok, I thought I wasn't going to watch for about a minute), but I'm glad I did. I do wish we'd gotten to see Barouch start, though.

    Something tells me that the win is going to help in terms of season ticket sales for next year. To get that audience for a meaningless end of season game is pretty good, and then to pull off the win in dramatic fashion - that's a sales pitch for next year if you ask me.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Definitely the way they needed to finish 2011. It wasn't a perfect game, but it was a strong finish. Definitely showed that not all the teams in the post-season are necessarily "playoff" worthy teams.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    There's not much doubt in my mind the Fire are a better team that the Crew, Philadelphia, and Houston right now.

  • Yeah, it was a nice way to end the season. It's a "what could have been" kinda thing if they had snuck in to the playoffs. The formula for MLS used to allow a crappy mid season as long as you got hot at the end... well we almost worked it that way.
    I like to think of it in an EPL table sort of way; we had a tough year but finished mid-table (and we made it to Wembley for the FA Cup final! ha)

    Next year will be here in no time.

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    In reply to RedLine55:

    The more I think about the format of competition we are subject to torture with, the more I find it harder to root for the Fire. Not that I don't love them any less. I just can't stand the way MLS crowns it's Champion. Because of this, EPL and UEFA Champ's League will always hold the bulk of interest for me.

  • In reply to waam:

    Yeah, of course the way MLS does it now isn't ideal for most people, but in the American sports landscape it is practical. Here, there needs to be something for owners to market late in the season if their team is, say, the 8th, 9th, or 10th playoff team. In that way, I can't argue much with it. Personally, I've found the relegation battle of the EPL just about as entertaining as the title race lately. MLS won't be having pro/rel (probably ever), so we get the playoffs.

    To your point, I think most of the more ardent fans still put more stock in the Supporter's Shield than the MLS Cup. If you judge on pure quality of the game... well, that's a different story haha.

  • In reply to RedLine55:

    I don't mind the playoffs. If the BPL had playoffs I'm sure the best teams would end up winning them anyway. The MLS playoffs are seemingly random because all teams are relatively close in talent due to cap, roster limits, etc.

    LA has undoubtedly been the best team all year but the way the league is set up doesn't make them unbeatable in a playoff situation. It's really not much different than other sports in the US.......are the Cardinals and Rangers really the two best teams in MLB? nope.

    The Supporter's Shield winner should be lauded but I don't have a problem with them having to prove their mettle in a playoff situation. If you're the best....just win the playoffs. Simple. ;)

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    ha yes, very simple!

    Yeah, i don't mind the playoffs either, but I think we agree that putting the title of "Champions" on the MLS Cup winner is a bit farcical (especially in MLS with a cap, like you mention). I think for most American sports (esp. hockey, basketball, and probably football), the playoffs more or less do prove the very best team. Like you mentioned, I'd say that MLS and baseball (as you alluded to) are most flawed when calling the Cup winner the "Champions," implying they are the best team.

    That being said, if the Fire were to win it again soon I'd probably change my mind on all this! ha

    On another note: I know it's early, but you have any F.O. info regarding Klopas and his role next year? I know the season's technically over for us, but their most important work is just starting.

  • In reply to RedLine55:

    I'll have some thoughts on that soon. I think Klopas is definitely back next year....the question is will it be on the bench?

  • In reply to RedLine55:

    March can't here soon enough.

  • i think in general, the fire were more entertaining to watch this season compared to the previous year. i still want to see more attackers get into the box when oduro or nyarko make their runs down the flanks - i know they are fast but someone should be at least able to get to the top of the box for a cross back to them, which often leads to a fairly clear shot at goal

    now the next big question for the fire is who do they protect from the expansion draft?

  • Definitely some questions to be addressed sooner rather than later. I think they're protected list is less of a mystery compared to who they trade or release. Looking at Frank's starting XI the last few months, I don't think there's much doubt as to whom is protected.

  • MLS playoff schedule............

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/news/article/2011/10/24/houston-victory-mls-cup-playoffs-matchups-set

  • GR, what's the MLS rumor mill saying about the Fire coaching situation? Did the end of the year run make the Fire's choice tough to keep Frank as TD only and get a new coach? What does the Super draft look like as far as college players? Will it be all Akron all the time again? What do you make of Akron's coach being named the U-23 coach? Is that common to have a college coach be a National Team coach at the same time? Will Pardo come back for sure? He is the oldest guy on the roster. Too many questions. I'll stop.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Working on a piece about questions at the moment....there are a lot of them.

    Whether or not Klopas returns as coach will apparently be a joint decision between Hauptman, Leon, Klopas, and Jeffries. I believe Klopas wants to stay on the bench so if I were to venture an guess right now it would be that Frank stays on as coach. Word is that nothing has been decided for sure yet though.

    USSF hiring coaches with other full time gigs for the youth teams isn't an uncommon occurrence.

    Pardo definitely wants to be back and I'm sure the FO wants him back. He took less cash to come here and proved he has some gas left in the tank.....he has to be back IMO.

    I haven't even looked at the draft yet but we'll be doing some stuff on that as it gets closer.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Klopas is responsible for the product on the pitch for last few years. When is someone going to make him live up to the fact that either on the field or in the back office this team has not reached playoffs during his tenure. OK lets give him another chance selling popcorn. He is a great salesman. Only morons expect a different result from the same inputs.
    Put Klopas in the expansion draft!!

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    As far as the draft goes, it is more of a midfield heavy type class. Generation Adidas players like Kelyn Rowe (UCLA and USMNT U-20), Enzo Martinez (UNC) and Carlos Alvarez (Connecticut) are playmaking midfielders that are projected to go in the first round. The forward class has Darren Mattocks (Akron), Colin Rolfe (Louisville) and Casey Townsend (Maryland) also projected to go in the first round. Darren Mattocks reminds me of a Dominic Oduro/Partick Nyarko/Atiba Harris type of player. Colin Rolfe (no relation to Chris) fits in the Will Bruin category. Casey Townsend is projected to sign with Generation Adidas and if he is selected in the 1st round, the last Maryland forward to get drafted in the first round was Taylor Twellman with the Revolution back in 2002.

  • I was just wondering, If Seattle ends up winning MLS Cup, what happens to their Open Cup Champion's league berth, would it go to the Fire as the runners up?

  • In reply to colton:

    Nope.....if the same teams occupies more than 1 spot by winning the USOC and MLS Cup (or Supporter's Shield) the team with the next best regular season record gets in.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Innnnteresting. That is different from many other similar guidelines around the world when this issue arises. However, we'd be hypocrites (from the discussion earlier in this thread) if we pretend this isn't the fair way to do it -- rewarding a better all around team for full season of success.

  • After the game I was down on the field cause we won one of the jerseys to get signed. Long story short I asked Orr Barrouch when his loan deal was up trying to bait him into giving me some kind of information. This is how the conversation went

    Me: Hey Orr great season, but when is your loan deal up, this year or next?

    Orr: Its accually up at the end of this season.

    Me: Oh, I was hoping to see you in red the next couple years.

    Orr: (little laugh) Yea? Well I already found out Ill be back.

    So there you hear it. Straight from his mouth. Now lets just hope that he is either protected or Montreal passes up on him.

  • In reply to KChance:

    Nice!

    If this is the case, the Fire have exercised the option to buy his contract.

  • In reply to KChance:

    i hope thats true, because i also would love to see Barrouch come back and continue playing for the Fire. i think he can be a big contributor next season

  • Has Israel qualified for the Olympics? If so, Orr would be on that team right?

  • Not sure, but he is reporting to the U21 team this week or next.

  • First coaching casualty of the "offseason" is New England's Steve Nicol.

    Can anyone see him coaching the Fire in 2012?

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    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I remember him from the days of our heated rivalries. We have fallen on hard times since, but I always thought he was a worthy coach as a rival. Stevie Nicol is a good tactition and I always thought he had one leg up on Dave and Dennis when they were here. If Frank can still keep wheeling and dealing, and I can see us doing well with Nicol on the sidelines. Ideally though, I wouldn't mind Frank on the sidelines, and hope he does well, and stays there for many years.

  • In reply to waam:

    this was my first though, as well (after hoping Osorio came back, of course! ha). He always made me angry earlier this decade when they had our number in the playoffs... angry because he always seemed to out-coach us. Am i wrong or is he pretty defensive-minded in his tactics? I know he's had some great attackers throughout his time, but they always seemed to play reactionary ball, but i'm open to the possibility that i'm completely wrong here.

  • In reply to RedLine55:

    oh, and I would take great pleasure in knowing how angry the 100 or so NE fans would be if Nicol came this way and succeeded!

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    I would hope if the Fire bring in a coach from "outside", it's not the one that led his team to the Wooden Spoon of the 2011 MLS season.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I would take Nicol today, and have Klopas back upstairs. Nicol is a proven Coach, the last few seasons notwithstanding. he is no more defensive in approach than Bradley-remember Armas and Marsch- or Schmidt, both fine coaches who were fired by MLS clubs. Foreign coaches have not done well and if an MLS coach or assistant was the choice, who is less of a gamble than Nicol?

  • In reply to Celt:

    With this group, I think Klopas is less of a gamble than Nicol. They've got some cohesiveness now, and Klopas was able to get the squad to respond, a few games notwithstanding.

    Realizing he doesn't have the depth of head coaching experience Nicol has, I still think what Klopas did with this group in a short period of time was positive, and that the potential for the team and coaching staff as a whole moving forward can only get better. Word is starting to circulate that Klopas isn't staying in the head coaching role, but that's speculation at this point.

  • MLS attendance hits an all-time high.........

    http://www.socceramerica.com/article/44339/season-16-sets-attendance-record.html

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    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Its too bad we haven't fared better.

  • In reply to waam:

    I think with season-long play replicating the last few months, we would've had more games like Columbus, and fewer games like FC Dallas.

  • This day in 1998............

    http://www.chicago-fire.com/news/2011/10/top-50-mls-cup-moments-27

  • Klopas deserves every respect in the world and the admiration of Fire fans for what he did with this team. He turned them from the league'e laughing stock to a playoff contender, and i'd bet that any of the league's playoff teams would be worried of the prospect of playing against the Fire now. He has earned the opportunity to coach the team next year. That being said though...Steve Nicol wouldn't be a bad option.

  • i think it should be noted that the team klopas coached and the team that dlc coached was quite different what with the signings of pardo and grazzini, both huge successes on the pitch. he also coached while s johnson was playing well. not to disregard his accomplishments, but i think it's still up in the air as to whether he'd be a the right coach to move forward with.

  • In reply to Drew:

    Very valid points.

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