Crew 0-1 Fire: The Anger of Eddie Gaven

I think…wait…did I?  Yeah.  I did.  I think I enjoyed the Columbus Crew’s unfortunate loss to the Chicago Fire.  It wasn’t a graceful thing, but it did interesting things to the standings (hello, five Eastern Conference teams) and gave a fair representation of how the two sides stack up. It also revealed why I resist making predictions: I’m no Tiresias.

Bottom line, both teams defend well and Columbus was just better bottom-to-middle, but Chicago enjoys the telling, if slender, edge of players on the roster capable of concocting a break-through.  That barely looked on the cards for Columbus after Guillermo Barros Schelotto went down early.  Having failed to take notes I have to go by memory, but feel like that’s a fair overall rundown.

It is the rare fit of passion from Eddie Gaven that still sticks with me from this game.  The frustration at being corralled into harmless positions time after time by Chicago’s defense – and on the occasion in question, using a fistful of his shirt as a handle – showed through Gaven’s typically “aw shucks” demeanor, even if it didn’t entirely overwhelm it.  With the notion that Columbus essentially controlled the tempo in the back of my brain, I would assume the same hovered squarely before Gaven’s eyes as the minutes ticked away following Paulo Wanchope’s goal for Chicago.

The Crew lost, but strove valiantly through it all, something that, probably and sadly, captures their season in microcosm.  No more than two minutes before Wanchope scored the game’s lone goal, only the post came between the Crew and the opening goal.  That came, like most of their chances, through a scrapping scramble in front of Chicago’s goal; clear openings and precise shooting just wasn’t and, worse, isn’t there for Columbus.  They can get the ball downfield, but, absent Schelotto’s improvisational nous, they’re stuck repeatedly hoisting the ball “into the mixer.”

The weird thing for me is seeing a player like Ned Grabavoy riding pine, when guys having plainly uneven games – think Ricardo Virtuoso – stayed on for the duration.  Still, that substitution made some sense: I’d normally rate Virtuoso’s shot at breaking open a game higher than Grabavoy’s, but, based on Saturday’s performance, that applies to the former in some kind of former life.  On the day Virtuoso hesitated fatally on crosses, failed to threaten off the dribble, etc. – he turned in a stinker all-around.  But Grabavoy’s game boils down to pacing and passing, which makes me question whether he could conjure any kind of breakthrough…and Jason Garey isn’t going to do it.

Of the players on the field, Stefani Miglioranzi struck me as Columbus’s biggest threat.  He ran forward to good effect and, even from his left back position, propelled the offense better than the rest.  But it’s hard to do much consistently from as deep as Miglioranzi played.  Maybe that’s an opportunity squandered, maybe it’s something for the future…or maybe I’m talking out my ass.  Whatever or whomever the culprit, Columbus boasts all the offensive potency of Toronto FC these days and that’s going to keep them out of the playoffs.

Turning to Chicago, they seem to be working the “All-D-Mid” formula to decent effect.  Playing on the road, Chicago had no need to press the game; this gave them the luxury of looking for another way forward when Columbus directed stifling attention toward Cuauhtemoc Blanco.  Even so, Chicago’s make-‘em-beat-you approach to the game works because of players like Wanchope, who only needed his one chance Saturday.  Going forward, it seems they’re good for a draw in any game provided their defense plays well and likely to win most games in which they score first.   Well, at least when it’s Columbus they’re playing.  It’s not pretty, but it’s likely to be enough.  Yep, I’m guessing Chicago will make it to the post-season Promised Land – even if it’s just a toe they get in there.

Tragically, I expect both Gaven and Columbus will suffer more frustration this year – not least when they’re watching over half the league take part in the playoffs on TV come late October.  And it’s kind of a bitch because they CAN play the game tolerably well.  But between the holes returning to their defense – Ezra Hendrickson isn’t even an answer – and that little lack of punch up top, they’re going to come out second-best to teams like Chicago and even New England.  The Crew looks to be one healthy, reliable player away from the post-season.

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3 Responses

  1. The four-man-defensive-midfield-fortress is something that Fire fans have been dying to see end since the Sarachan Era. However, with Justin Mapp and Ivan Guererro injured, it’s a necessary evil we have to endure for a little while longer. I did the math and it came out to eight defenders and three attackers. No wonder the score was 1-0.

    How ’bout that goal? Conde to Wanchope… thank you, Coach Osorio. You sure know how to pick ’em.

    As a Fire fan, why am I still nervous we’re not going to make the playoffs? Is it the remaining schedule (NY, 2 vs. DC, NE, @ FCD, @ Chivas)? Is it because teams are figuring out Blanco? Is it because I’m paranoid? I think I’m going to be sick.

    Love your blog. Keep it up.

  2. Ah, the benefits of self-interest: I never looked over the Fire’s schedule as you clearly have. That is one plug-ugly stack of games…didn’t realize that when mentally squeezed Chicago into the playoff picture.

    At the same time, though, I think the “Chicago/New England formula” holds some promise for the former, especially in games against Red Bull and FC Dallas; I suspect those teams are ripe, slow-footed prey for that tactic. As for the rest….I can’t blame you for feeling nauseous.

  3. […] – Fire_Juve10 acted as my muse for today.  After reading (and saying nice things about…yay!) my post on last weekend’s Chicago v. Columbus, he listed Chicago’s upcoming games.  Prior to seeing […]

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