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Fire Mon Aug 11 2008

Mistakes Were Made

It's not that rare that an American soccer commentator gets something wrong. It's even less rare to find some jackass on the internet complaining about American soccer commentators getting something wrong. I've been that jackass on a few occasions. What you don't see that often though, is an American soccer commentator coming to the biggest soccer forum in the country and apologizing for a mistake. Chicago Fire commentator Chris Doran did just that after erroneously questioning why New England Revolution midfielder Shalrie Joseph received a straight red card for petulantly knocking the ball out of Cuahtemoc Blanco's hands on a throw in, normally a yellow card offense. As noted in Doran's apology on Big Soccer, it was actually a yellow card offense - Joseph's second of the game, which meant a red card. As Peter Nowak would say, props to Chris Doran for owning up to the mistake.

Doran wasn't the only person that made a mistake on the night, and his was hardly the worst.

Check out the highlight videos on the right-hand side of ESPN's Notice how the teaser for the Fire-Revs game that reads Revolution Blank Fire, 1-0? Whoever wrote that must have left the game early to beat traffic, because the Fire actually came back and won the game 2-1, extending their unbeaten streak to seven games. If you don't believe me, you could actually watch that very highlight video, which shows both Fire goals.

And while you're watching that video, take note of New England goalkeeper Matt Reis's howler of a mistake on Gonzalo Segares' equalizing goal. The rebound he gave up on the Fire's winning goal wasn't too clever either. Um, this is the guy that played in the All-Star Game instead of Fire goalie Jon Busch?

A more serious issue became apparent when Denis Hamlet released his starting lineup, however. Hamlet elected to play a 4-5-1 formation with Andy Herron playing as the lone striker. Sideline reporter Sarah Kustok mentioned that Hamlet intended for it to look more like a lineup of five attacking players, with Jon Thorrington, Marco Pappa and Justin Mapp all breaking forward and Blanco getting the freedom to move wherever he wanted. This looked like a lineup intended for Brian McBride, who bases his game on holding the ball up and brining other players from deeper in the field into the attack. One problem though - Andy Herron is not Brian McBride. He plays just off the shoulder of the last defender trying to run onto balls played behind the backs and score off breakaways. As such, he's only marginally more suited for the lone striker role than Chris Rolfe - the player who was dropped to accommodate the new system. While the Fire still played pretty well in this system, it can't be a coincidence that their goals came from two unlikely sources - defenders Gonzalo Segares and Wilman Conde, players that had a season total of one goal between them until Saturday night.

By the way, McBride has been playing pretty well in China, captaining the Olympic team in a 1-0 victory over Japan and a game in which they were unlikely to only draw a much fancied Holland team 2-2. No doubt he'd do much better with the Fire in a lone striker role than Herron, but I think the whole 4-5-1 formation is a way to keep Denis Hamlet from having to make the hard choice of who to bench between John Thorrington, Marco Pappa and Justin Mapp. Justin Mapp's long been one of my favorite Fire players ever but he has been kind of making it an easy choice with his lack of involvement this season. Instead though, Hamlet might be prepared to sacrifice the ready made little man - large man partnership of Chris Rolfe and Brian McBride, which of course would be a huge mistake.

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