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What to make of the Chicago Fire’s horrible start?

Mar 25, 2013, 1:10 PM EDT

Charleston Battery v Chicago Fire - Carolina Challenge Cup Getty Images

What might have been written off as early season “slows” in Chicago has devolved into a full-on crisis … and it’s one that must surely be jeopardizing coach Frank Klopas’ job.

You know things are bad when players use words like “embarrassment” to describe a result. But how else to characterize a 4-1 loss at home to Chivas USA? The Goats certainly look better in 2013 than most of us thought, but they are hardly a fast track to MLS Cup 2013.

Here’s what proud Fire veteran Gonzalo Segares said found himself saying humbly, quietly after Sunday’s dreadful setback, which left his team with one measly point from a possible 12 to open the season:

It’s embarrassing what happened today. I’ve got no words to explain how things were so bad. We had a pretty strong first half. When you don’t put away goals and when you give away easy ones, it’s a bad recipe.”  

It’s not just the 0-3-1 record, either. A closer look reveals something uglier still. Essentially the Fire has performed admirably just once this year. Attached to that was  one bad performance and two outright fiascos.

Fiasco No. 1 was the season-opening loss at the Los Angeles Galaxy. A 4-0 score could have been even worse.

That result looked even worse when paired with a 1-0 loss a week later to open the Fire’s home season. Getting shut out at home (by New England, a team that missed last year’s playoffs) served up a painful reminder of the Fire’s miserable record at Toyota Park in recent years, 19-13-17 over the last four seasons. That is a number that approaches “shocking.”

A scoreless draw at Sporting Kansas City is the Fire’s high water mark this year. Klopas’ team wanted to build off that on Sunday (on national TV). Instead, Chivas USA happened, and Klopas is suddenly the early favorite to be the first MLS coach let go.

Klopas sees the reality of the situation. “You have to look at everything,” he said after Sunday’s downer. “Right now it just seems like we’re not getting things done, so we have to evaluate it and make some decisions and do what’s best for the team.”

Here’s one thing that simply must happen around Toyota Park: they need to come to grips with the reality that Sherjill MacDonald was a DP mistake. The Dutch forward is on the Fire salary roll for about $500,000 this year. For that sum, a lot of green in MLS, the Fire has seen four goals in 18 matches. Not. Nearly. Enough.

Heck, two of those came in one match, late last year against the Red Bulls. That means MacDonald has failed to score in 15 of 18 matches.

Good teams acknowledge their mistakes and move on. The alternative is to stubbornly allow MacDonald to bring down the team – and quite possibly the coach, too.

  1. wesbadia - Mar 25, 2013 at 4:27 PM

    I agree fully that MacDonald is a DP bust, but it’s obviously more than just Chicago’s lack of scoring prowess that is doing them in. Remember that they’ve had Oduro (arguably the fastest and lowest-producing striker in the league) on their roster for almost three years, yet were still able to post decent results when he played.

    I said elsewhere that Chicago is having trouble functioning as a team, and that’s seen most when they fail to defend as a unit and instead opt for some piecemeal stand against an attack. They also lack cohesion, as they’ve failed to start very many quality attacks, nor even possess the ball well.

    IMO, it comes down to one thing: there’s no leadership. It’s seen on the backline when Friedrich isn’t there; it’s seen in the midfield after the likes of Pardo and Pappa left; and it’s seen in the strike force for a very, VERY long time. No one is taking command on the field, and that’s something Klopas can’t do.

    Either Larentowicz or Lindpere or Rolfe needs to step up and aid their team’s organizational solidarity, or they’re doomed to the dungeons of the Eastern Conference for the season.

  2. danconover - Mar 26, 2013 at 12:27 PM

    Here’s the funny thing about Chicago. I watched them play three preseason matches in Charleston back in February (the Carolina Challenge Cup, which Chicago won with two victories and a draw) against Vancouver, Houston and the USL Champion Charleston Battery, and the team looked calm, organized and effective. Zero flash, missing some key players (Frederich), but I figured that adding Lindpere and Larentowicz in the central midfield would give them a solid core, developing young defenders Berry and Anibaba would pay off in the back, and Rolfe would put up the goals. Looked like a bunch of 1-0, 1-1, 2-1 matches for 2013, with a moderate playoff seed in the East.

    But they’re dead flat now. Awful. Which just shows that I don’t know anything.

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