Friday, November 02, 2007

Chicago Fire stump DC, 'Curse of the Supporters' Shield' continues

Chicago Fire 2-2 DC United
Chicago wins series 3-2 on aggregate

What was DC doing during the first 60-minutes last night? I have not seen them look that pitiful since 2002. Nobody was playing a good game. The midfield couldn't pass a ball, people were not getting forward, Troy Perkins was running off his line every chance he got and Bobby Boswell, well the less said about him the better.

The Fire took full advantage of these flubs and using some fantastic passing to silence the crowd. Blanco, who last week gave away the ball over 40 times, was having a much better night. His back heal passes were not getting picked off and his long range ones were landing near target. But their best pass of the night came from Carlen Carr on the first goal. Perfect curve behind the defense, right to Chad Barrett's feet, who, after beating Boswell, hammered it home.

Chicago's second goal was not as pretty, but it too was the result of bad placement by Boswell, giving Chris Rolfe an easy shot for what turned out to be the series winner.

Up till the hour mark, it looked like Chicago was going to run away with this one. I could help but wonder what was going on with DC. Did Chicago get into their head, were late season injuries to blame or was it just a bad night?

But just as I was thinking up ways to write about a total bomb, United, thanks to their subs, staged a fantastic rally by making overlapping runs and flooding the attacking third, forcing the Fire out of their positions and opening up space.

When Clyde Simms hit that low screamer into the corner of the net, it was obvious that it would not be DC's only goal on the night. When Gomez just snuck one past Matt Pickens a few minutes later, it looked like the great comeback was upon us, but thanks to some smart subbing of their own, the Fire were able to re-cage United.

DC still had their chances, but they were no longer everywhere. Chicago were marking their players and holding on just enough to keep the net free. With the exception of the stoppage time non-goal by Gomez (which was the correct call), Chicago was not really hard pressed during the final 15-minutes.

So all congratulations go to Chicago. I didn't think they had one goal in them, much less two. If Barrett and Carr stay hot and if Rolfe and Blanco can continue their ways, the Eastern Conference might go to the fourth seed in the end.

As for DC United, they join a growing list of teams that won the Supporters' Shield but failed to reach the MLS Cup. Since Columbus won the shield in 2004, no winner has reached the final and in three of those four years the Shield winner has been knocked out in the first round. To put this in perspective, in the first eight years of MLS, the Shield winner reached the final five times and won the Cup four times. The three times the Shield winner did not reach the final, they still made it out of the first round only to loose in the semifinals.

So the question has got to be, what curse did the Crew place on the Shield in '04? I think a phone call to Greg Andrulis is in order.

Chicago now advances to the Eastern Conference final, which I'm going to guess will not be on ESPN2 as the host will be New England or New York, ie, there will be American Football lines all over the pitch.

Talking about ESPN, I have to hand it to them for their call of the last two matches. For a majority of the night, the call was focused on the game happening right in front of them. There were no long discussions about player’s hair or baseball or anything else. Now they did wonder more last night then they did last week, but it was still much better then what we got during the regular season (I think having 2 main commentators is much better then their usual 3). Heck, they even interrupted Allen Hopkins because an important play was happening. All around, very nice.

Also, having 30 extra minutes for a 15-minute post and pre game show really adds a lot to the presentation. It gives the game additional build up and allows the match commentators to focus more on the game instead of explaining other things happening around the league. Hopefully ESPN will give keep this going for the rest of the playoffs and into next season.

Finally, the camera work was also fun to watch. With the exception of the odd yellow filter that kept popping up, the angles were helpful for the viewer and replays were presented in an interesting way and at an appropriate time.
Attendance: 19,438
Goals: CF: Chad Barrett (1) 31', Chris Rolfe (2) 33'
DC: Clyde Simms (1) 69', Christian Gomez (1) 74'

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