Chivas USA 1 – 1 Chicago Fire: 12th Man’s Game

Ah, the sound of crunching tackles…it’s like hearing the rumble of the post-season echoing from the next valley over. Both Chivas and Chicago brought playoff intensity to the late Saturday game, turning in a hard-fought thriller in which either side could have taken the points. In the end, though, splitting them seemed fair enough – even if that’s most definitely less than Chicago, especially, needed.

Unfortunately, referee Tim Weyland’s competence didn’t match the two teams’ passion. By midway through the first half, both teams had lost confidence in Weyland’s management of the game: Chivas after he bit on the “foul” on Blanco that led to Chicago’s goal, and Chicago after Blanco actually was rather unceremoniously hacked down; all that should teach Cuauhtemoc to cry foul, but I’m not holding my breath. In Weyland’s defense, though, he got the PK call correct that allowed Chivas to equalize…the jury in my head, however, wound up hung on Chicago’s late penalty.

On Chivas’ side of the ball, there has to be concern about the collective fatigue hitting the side of late. Strongly as they started – and they looked smoother than warm satin sheets smeared in butter over the first ten minutes – the Fire worked them out by midway through the second half. It did take the crossbar to stop Chivas on two separate occasions, which meant their offense still fired well enough, but every downfield foray looked from the 25th minute forward looked uncomfortable as a run through a raspberry patch. Overall, though, this makes two games featuring an apparent slip from sharpness – that timing is about as bad as it gets, especially with DC making like a razor.

As for Chicago, one can only pity them. This squad plays like the “big brothers” of the puling squad of pre-teens that started the season in Fire jerseys; consecutive 3-0 losses are surely a thing of the past. Unfortunately, these have been replaced with an endless series of draws. Their only solace comes from seeing Columbus choke…again. But winning the race feels like a whole lot less of an accomplishment when all the other runners keep tripping.

In the end, Weyland was too involved. At the same time, equal opportunity incompetence can make for a better game every so often. I wouldn’t go quite that far this time around, but Weyland certainly didn’t ruin this late-season dog-fight.

Other notes:

– How cool is Alex Zotinca? The way he riled Blanco with a subtle shove to the back, drawing the Mexican a card while totally escaping punishment himself? Priceless. Yes, yes, we’re supposed to deplore gamesmanship, but there’s nothing like seeing a hound pull one over on the fox.

– That Preki kid is wound tight. I thought he was going to attack the sideline reporter during “coach’s corner.”

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