By Alex Simon
It was an ugly performance by both teams’ backlines Saturday night. However, a late inexcusable mistake by a Fire substitute let the visiting TFC (Toronto FC) side off the hook. Thus, the Fire played to a 2-2 tie against Toronto.
While Chicago’s playmaker Cuauhtémoc Blanco was sidelined with a strained hamstring, TFC’s star player, DeRo (Dwayne De Rosario), made his presence felt from the get-go. In the 6th minute, DeRo scored off a defensive blunder by C.J. Brown and Wilman Conde.
“We’re gift wrapping goals. It’s like Christmas time. If they beat us with a good goal, fair enough, but quit giving away easy goals and putting ourselves behind the eight-ball. That’s the bottom line,” said Fire goalkeeper Jon Busch after the match.
DeRo was able to pick apart the shaky Fire defense once again, this time coming in the first minute of the second half. The Fire D failed to get back on a TFC counterattack as DeRo sent a beautiful cross in the box, scored by unmarked ex-Fire forward Chad Barrett.
Fortunately for the Fire, as bad as their defense was, Toronto’s Nick Garcia was worse. The Fire’s first goal came on a TFC own goal in the 14th minute, when Garcia chested the ball into his own net. Then in the 78th minute, Garcia was caught ball watching and left Brian McBride wide open for the easy header from a Justin Mapp cross, equalizing the game at 2-2. (Garcia’s lackadaisicalness on McBride’s goal was frighteningly similar to an Eddy Curry box out).
The Fire had several scoring opportunities late in the game. None would be as good as the one the Fire had in the last play of the game. With the game level 2-2 in the 93rd, Fire forward Patrick Nyarko beat his defender and passed to a running teammate. Unfortunately, that teammate was late sub, Calen Carr. With the goalie nowhere to be found, Carr just needed a simple tap in from a foot away from goal to be the hero. Carr hit the ball wide of the goal, leaving 16,890 Fire faithful dejected with how the game ended.
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly against TFC
He was tremendous. This was the best I have seen Mapp play since the Soldier Field days. IF Mapp can play at a similar level in the remaining games of the regular season, he can expect major minutes in the playoffs.
Back in August, team doctors thought McBride would be out for the season after having shoulder surgery. “Superman” is back and most importantly, healthy. I asked McBride how the shoulder felt after last week’s game against Columbus, saying the shoulder was a non-issue. He proved that against Toronto, giving TFC fits all night.
With only three games remaining in the season, now is not the time to be dealing with injuries with the playoffs coming up. Rolfe was a late scratch but the Fire said it was just precautionary. Ward and Woolard are still out, but players I think we can do without. Although Banner played well at left back, a healthy Segares is a major step up. The same goes for Thorrington. Not only is Thorrington a good player, but also provides toughness and grit that this team is lacking without him. With Soumare gone, Thorrington would be a huge help to Conde and C.J. With that said, if Blanco is not ready to go come playoff time, it does not matter how the other Fire injuries play out. Blanco is without question our best and most valuable player, and without him, there will be NO deep playoff run.
The Calen Carr rant and why the f#$% Hamlet put him in the game to begin with is ridiculous, but I think and pray that the Calen Carr era is over. (Carr’s miss was equivalent to a kicker missing an extra point to win the game) Carr won’t matter in the playoffs, but the defense will, and they really need to figure their s— out.