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The Greatest Game in Fire History Wasn't Really

By Ben Schuman Stoler in Arts & Entertainment on Aug 9, 2010 7:30PM

Well, that was sort of a bummer. Despite an amped crowd of 21,868 - the biggest in Toyota Park history - the Fire’s 0-0 tie against the New York Red Bulls last night failed to live up to its hype. Thanks to a combination of 90 degree heat, some rusty legs, and a lack of cohesion between new players and regulars, we didn’t get the explosion of quality we had hoped for. Still, there was a lot to learn from the game, both from a Fire and a MLS perspective.

  • First of all, the new boys. Freddie Ljungberg was outstanding, without a doubt the driving attacking influence for the Fire. In the first half, he linked up encouragingly well with Brian McBride. The two of them created the Fire’s best chance of the game in the 43rd minute when McBride’s cross evaded two defenders but Freddie misjudged a bounce and shinned it wide. He laughed about it after the game, though, saying "If I had better technique to my shin maybe I would have scored." Freddie also lauded the fans, calling the support “electric.” If only we could say the same about Nery Castillo. Despite a huge ovation for this MLS debut, he was anonymous most of the second half, never looking threatening. Still, it's unfair to criticize him just yet. Fire coach Carlos de los Cobos said Castillo’s still shaking the rust off, and, as Freddie said after the game, everyone’s still working on getting onto the same page.
  • Rookie goalie Sean Johnson is the real deal. He made is debut last week against the Galaxy and won the MLS save of the week, and last night he continued his fine form. He faced 22 shots (seven on goal) and made some incredible saves in the last 10 minutes to salvage the point for the Fire.
  • Coach de los Cobos has his work cut out for him. These results have to improve now that the front office has brought in the talent. Nil-nil draws aren't going to win us anything. Although he said he put in Castillo for McBride to inject some speed into the side, the team really suffered in possession and were tame the entire second half. When asked at the post match press conference why he didn't play Collins John - who scored last week in LA - he referred to a bad week of training from John. De los Cobos will have to find a way to motivate his players and spread the love around now that the new guys are getting all the attention. Is he up for it?
  • Patrick Nyarko has quickly become one of the cornerstones on this team. Without him last night (concussion symptoms), the Fire lacked creativity and pace going forward. Replacement Mike Banner has good speed, but Nyarko was sorely missed.
  • The Red Bulls’ designated players Juan Pablo Angel, Rafael Marquez, and Thierry Henry met a combination of animosity and respect from the fans. Unfortunately for the spectacle of the thing, Marquez went off midway through the second half and Henry went off at the end of the first half for, what he called, “Just a precaution.” After the game, Henry praised the MLS style, though, rejecting the notion that it’s a more physical, long ball style. “We pass the ball,” he said.

Were you at the game last night? What did you think?