A lot happened in the final 30 of the Chicago Fire’s tighter-than-a-preacher’s-butt win over DC United – as much as the game as I caught after getting home from work, picking up the kids, feeding the kids, etc. While that shortened viewing time limits my ability to speak to big concepts like Justice (upper-case? oh yeah), I can at least speak to the Justice of the last 30.On that score, it’s a wash: referee Jair Marrufo didn’t call a penalty when DC ‘keep Troy Perkins fouled Calen Carr just inside DC’s area, but he also caught a tricky one when Christian Gomez nudged the ball with his left arm with what, for all the world, looked like the DC’s series equalizer. As for the rest, Marrufo might have missed some calls against Cuauhtemoc Blanco – though that serves the bastard right for going down easy as he does often as he does – and he overreacted by sending off Rod Dyachenko at the death, but, fortunately, the ref didn’t turn this game in a meaningful way…at least not that I saw.
But the really amazing thing about this one was the 180 change in tone from the time I started watching to the end of the game. When I tuned in, DC’s body language whimpered “beaten.” The thing of beauty that Clyde Simms knocked into Chicago’s net more than changed the mood, it reminded DC of who they were: the best team in Major League Soccer. From that goal forward, DC piled on 20 minutes of non-stop hurt and pressure – until they finally, and almost invisibly, petered out somewhere between the 88th and 92nd minute. The way I figure it, Clyde Simms’ teammates owe him a pint for every minute of that short life.
Fluky as DC’s in-game equalizer proved to be, the moment I thought they’d clawed back came with a gorgeous one-two that played Christian Gomez in on Chicago’s left; with him behind the defense and a tie on the aggregate seemingly seconds away, it looked like overtime at least. Instead, things wound up as it seemed they would when Chicago was up three goals on aggregate.
Getting back to the notion of what turned this game, I did see something in the highlights from before I tuned in: what looked an awful lot like the wrenching defensive lapses that have killed DC United time and again. As well as Chad Barrett and Chris Rolfe took their goals, the shitty thing for DC fans is that both players barreled into the area facing goal and with no one on their backs. It’s like the definition of insanity, those lapses, and I can’t believe that DC won’t focus on correcting the defensive problem between now and the 2008 season instead of, again, bringing in still more offensive ringers. The latter look prettier, but the defensive problem is like a cancer.
Over the course of the season, I’ve seen the notion that there are no moral victories pop up a couple times on DC fan sites. I suspect we’ll see some of that tonight and tomorrow. Even if I wasn’t pulling for DC (no, not remotely), their team turned in something special tonight, the kind of passion on the field that keeps all of us watching the game. I don’t so much expect DC fans to find solace in that, as I would hope they’d appreciate the pride their team showed in fighting back from what looked a lot like a state of beat-down death.
As for Chicago, who I managed to almost completely ignore in this narrative (so what? they’ll be back), I’m guessing they’re looking at each other in the locker room right around now and, with a quick exchange of glances, acknowledging they just walked out of a war zone. They don’t get closer than tonight very often. Matt Perkins, among others, won’t sleep soundly tonight.
Filed under: analysis, Chad Barrett, Chicago Fire, Christian Gomez, DC United, Major League Soccer, match commentary, MLS, MLS playoffs | Tagged: Ben Olsen, Chris Rolfe, Clyde Simms, Matt Perkins, Troy Perkins |