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Thursday, February 29

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Fire Mon Sep 22 2008

September is the New June and July

It's hard to remember the Chicago Fire playing worse than they did during this Sunday's 4-1 pounding at the hands of FC Dallas. The Fire have certainly played some stinkers in the past, notably during the last two season's horrible winless streaks during the summer. But those games featured injury ravaged squad that had to rely on the likes of Calen Carr, Chad Barrett, and Jerson Monteiro. This week the Fire missed Bakary Soumare through suspension and Logan...Pause due to an injury, but the squad was otherwise intact. The other dispiriting thing about the performance is that it came in September. With the playoffs right around the corner, there's very little time to turn it around.

What went wrong? It's tough to even know where to start, but after the break is as good at place as any.

Logan...Pause has no backup. A lot of Pause's detractors say he makes so little of an impression that they hardly know he's on the field. But his proponents say he does all the little things that you really notice when they don't get done. Certainly on Sunday there was a noticeable gap between attack and defense that the aging Diego Gutierrez didn't have the mobility to fill. In the second half John Thorrington moved into that position, but he's clearly more suited for a role on the right wing. So, the question is, for a team that has so much depth, how can they be this late in the season and not able to cover one of the most important positions on the field if one guy goes down?

Lider Marmol looked like he was about to cry out there. The other notable absence for the Fire was Bakary Soumare, sitting out due to yellow card accumulation. This gave Fire fans the chance to see finally see another giant defender, Lider Marmol. Earlier in the season the Paraguayan was the subject of a heated struggle between the New York Red Bulls and the Chicago Fire. Now that he's finally played a full MLS game, it's tough to see what all the fuss was about. Marmol frequently hit aimless long balls and had a number of mis-communications with Jon Busch - including the play that led to the fourth goal. By the end of the match was wandering around the field looking more dejected than Chad Barrett after missing his fifth open net. I also think I saw Busch asking the Fire staff for a step-ladder so he could climb up high enough to get in Marmol's face about a few things.

Set Play defending. This is not to say that if ...Pause and Soumare had been on the field things would have turned out much different. The Fire were down after just two minutes thanks to some abominable defending on a free kick, and put themselves further in the hole later on in the first half off another. It underlined the problems the Fire have had all season defending free kicks and corners. It doesn't help that they have the shortest goalkeeper in the league, but with the likes of Conde, Soumare (or Marmol), and McBride on the field they should have enough big guys to take care of it.

We Might Be a Bit Too Old. With Blanco, McBride and Gutierrez on the field, the Fire aren't exactly a bunch of spring chickens. The Fire as a squad have a good balance of youth and experience, but Sunday's lineup weighed a bit too heavily on the experienced part of it.

The Rolfe "Slump." I've read a few places that if the Fire want to get anywhere this season, Chris Rolfe is going to have to start scoring goals. I agree with that, but I think the idea that he's been in any kind of slump has been way overplayed. He's spent the season switching between right midfield, attacking midfield and striker, so of course he hasn't gotten going in the goal scoring department. Give him three games up front with McBride and you'll see them develop some chemistry. Instead, it seems that he's getting the shaft for not scoring as many goals from midfield as he did at striker.

Andy Herron? I Don't Get It. Does Anyone But Hamlet? The really annoying thing about the Chris Rolfe situation is that while Rolfe toils in unnatural positions, or starts on the bench as he did on Sunday, Andy Herron continues to get playing time as a striker when the best thing he's done all season is fall on his head. He's very quickly replaced Chad Barrett as the whipping boy for all of Fire fan's frustrations. In this case I think it's more justified since he doesn't have a tenth of the passion that Barrett showed. Every time I see him trot back out on the field for another game, I wonder exactly what coach Denis Hamlet thinks he's going to do that he hasn't in the first 20 odd games of the season.

Oh, and while I'm stating the obvious, we really need Blanco to get back to the way he was playing at the beginning of the season.

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