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Fire Sat Sep 25 2010

Chicago Fire v Seattle Sounders Liveblog from Toyota Park

The Fire, like Mustafa in Austin Powers, are not dead just yet.

5:38 p.m. Enabling is disabled on the video I wanted to introduce this liveblog with. It's the kind of get-the-eff-off-your-seats-or-die energy that the Fire are hoping for tonight. It's also really disturbing. In that way, I guess, it sums up the night's drama perfectly: it's dramatic, it's a little dirty (rainy), it's life and death, and just being in this situation - with all the talent the Fire have - is disturbing.

Kickoff's in about 90 minutes so I'll be back with starting lineups and more info in the next hour.

Remember to email me ( or tweet at me and Tailgate with your amusing musings.

6:00 p.m. I know what you're thinking. You're sitting there, all snug in your flannel pjs, settling into the winter hibernation. You're all, "But Ben, who cares? The Fire are screwed! And anyway, it's windy outside. I'm staying in and watching Threes Company reruns with my cat."

Ah yes, strange reader. You do that. Or you can get up, realize that the Fire aren't completely hopeless just yet, and pray that a good result tonight propels the Fire onto a late season surge exactly opposite of that putrid last month the White Sox threw up. Because they're not dead just yet.

If you're not familiar, here's how MLS Playoff qualification works:

Eight teams qualify for the 2010 MLS Cup Playoffs. Playoff berths will be determined by points in the standings upon the completion of the regular season. All 16 teams will have played 30 games.

* The top two teams in each conference qualify and are seeded 1 & 2 in respective four-team playoff conference brackets.
* The four MLS teams with the next most points, regardless of conference, receive "wildcard" berths.
* The four wildcard teams will be seeded according to conference first.
* If more than four teams qualify from one conference, the team finishing lower than fourth in its conference will shift over to the other conference bracket.
* A team switching conference brackets will be seeded below all other teams in its new conference playoff bracket.

The top teams in each conference right now are Columbus (East - 44 pts) and LA (West - 50 pts). After that, it breaks down with Salt Lake, New York, Dallas, San Jose, Colorado, and Seattle. The Fire are a measly 12th right now. 10 points behind Seattle, the 8th place team, the Fire's only hope rests in the fact that at 23 games they've played less than anyone else in the league. Still, anything less than a win and three points and the Fire are as good as eliminated. If Seattle win, they're essentially in.

So those are the stakes. Lose, and the Fire join the Cubs and the White Sox as summertime Chicago teams that missed the playoffs without so much as a good fight. Win, and it's just the beginning of what has to be a string of wins (like, 5 or 6, at least) taking them into the playoffs.

Starting lineups to come. Here's the video of that excruciating loss at Seattle from August.

6:32 p.m. Starting lineups are out, and no, Fredy Montero did not come down with some kind of (un?)lucky food poisoning. Oy.

The surprising news for the Fire is that Nery Castillo is out of the team with a late injury. So, for the Fire: Johnson (GK), Ristic - Brown (C) - Watson-Siriboe - Segares (D), Nyarko - Thorrington - Pause - Pappa (M), Carr - Ljungberg (F). Bench: Dykstra, Robinson, Umanzor, Bone, Husidic, John, McBride.

A Watson-Siriboe sighting! In the interest of not getting carpal tunnel, the former UConn standout will from here on out be referred to as KWS. He's getting a start with Wilman Conde out for suspension and de los Cobos evidently looking for a different option than Dasan Robinson, who, to be fair, has been playing well. Also, dreamy + speedy Californian striker Carr is getting his first start of the season. With Ljungberg sitting right behind him, I expect Carr to get a good share of balls to run on to. Lastly, Bratislav Ristic is getting another start after his good showing in Salt Lake last week. He's a natural midfielder, so expect him to get forward from his spot at left back.

For Seattle: Keller (GK) (C), Riley - Ianni - Parke - Gonzalez (D), Nyassi - Alonso - Sturgis - Zakuani (M), Montero (eek) - Nkufo (F). Bench: Boss, Marshall, Scott, Fernandez, Seamon, Fucito, Levesque.

Seattle are missing Brad Evans, John Kennedy Hurtado, Pat Noonan, and Peter Vagenas to injury.

20 minutes until kickoff!

7:02 p.m. As the players come out of the tunnel - the Fire are in hoodies, I love that - it feels as good a time as any to point out the Fire are scoreless in 272 minutes. Let's hope it doesn't reach 362. (Hell yeah your boy's got math.)

7:08 p.m. Section 8 just put up a giant banner of a NES-style Mario map. Besides Thierry Henry and Freddy Ljungberg with his shirt off, the coolest thing I've ever seen here at Toyota Park. Ever.

Tweet tweet tweeeeeeeeet! Go time.

2 minsBoth teams get balls into the box. The Fire's went into Keller's hands, the Sounders's was put up for a corner.

In their sea foam strip, Seattle look about as intimidating as a sea cucumber. I hate those kits.

4 mins Pappa got in on the outside, missed his one-on-one with Keller, and Carr skied the follow up. Should be 1-0 Fire. Freddie has led both of the Fire's attacks, and both ended with the ball in the box. With space to himself to create, Freddie is one of the most dangerous players in this league.

8 mins Seattle - despite their terrible Xbox 360 sponsored sea horse captain kits - are bossing the game at the moment. Riley played in a good ball but KWS heads for a corner, which is put out by an alert Pause for another corner.

10 mins Alonso meets the second corner firmly, but it goes wide. A Seattle player (a "Sounder," what the heck is that?) looked to get knocked out cold. He's up on his feet now, and we can see it's Ianni. Replays up here show he collided with KWS on that corner, but KWS is fine.

13 mins Segares and Nyarko combine with a neat one-two and the Fire win a corner that Keller punches out for some reason. He was alone and should've caught it, but the punch clears sufficiently.

20 mins Some PK drama as a Nyarko-led counter attack ends with a Freddie cross that's deflected around and Carr goes down. Could've been called, to be honest.

23 mins On the other end, Nyassi punks Segares, has a shot, and Johnson pushes it out for a corner. That was poor by Segares, who had a step and shouldn't have let Nyassi around him.

24 mins Ooooh this is fun counter attack ball from the Fire. Off that corner, Pappa came charging forward with pace and played Freddie who played Pause 10 yards from goal on the right side of the box. Pause was in! Should've taken it first time, but instead he took a touch a played a sad little ball across the middle that was cleared.

28 mins Thorrington gets a yellow after Carr's terrible pass through the middle was intercepted and Seattle looked to break.

Speaking more generally for a second, both defenses are pushing up quite high and so counters and through balls are clearly the way to break each other down. It also means that losing the ball in the midfield - which is a tighter space with defenses so high up - is extra costly. I'd say it's just about even: Zakuani and Nyassi providing pace on the flanks for Seattle, with Pappa, Carr, Nyarko and Freddie doing so for the Fire. Both teams are getting crosses in, too, it's an issue of losing the ball too easily, defensive mistakes, or clinical offensive execution.

Got it?

33 mins Would also be nice to see Segares and Ristic make some overlapping runs from deep. But how many overlapping outside backs are there in the MLS?

Oh, here's why: Ristic tries to beat Zakuani at his own half line, for some reason, loses it, and Zakuani was in on Johnson, who saves well. Zakuani hit it right at him, though. For the record, I mean that the outside backs should look to get into the action farther up the field! Not in their own halves. Yeeeeeesh.

36 mins The Fire's first really prolonged time of possession ends with...Pause, stuck in possession, dribbling backwards and backwards and sending a dangerously slow ball to Johnson, who kicks it straight out of bounds. Yikes - the Fire will have to find a better way forward than that.

38 mins Riley plays another delicious ball into the box for Seattle. It's over Nkufo and fell right to Sturgis, who was expecting Njufo to head it. That's sort of an amateur expectation - he should've been ready for it - but the Fire get the ball back.

40 mins Again from Riley! Come to think of it, he's pushing up exactly as Segares and Ristic should be. This time his cross JUST clears Montero, and Johnson catches. Montero hasn't been nearly as good as he was back in Seattle. That's a good thing for Fire fans.

45 mins Montero takes a from, I don't know, 25 yards? 30? It bounces harmlessly wide. Seattle are ending this half the way they started it, which is to say, in control of the game.

Oh, and someone has told me that a Sounder is someone who lives in or near a Sound, like Pugent Sound. Wow, that's all I have to say. Just, wow.

2 minutes of extra time, btw.

45 mins+ Oh man, never mind. Two killer chances for the Fire as Pappa volleys from point blank straight into Keller's hands and, moments later, Segares drives a shot across goal that may have brushed the post. Fire have had their chances, it has to be said, and could easily be on top - even though they don't exactly look like it.

Halftime! Back in a few.

Halftime Looking at the state sheet here...umm...5-3 Seattle on shots, 6-3 Seattle on corners...whatever. I want to add that KWS is playing well, and I like the runs Carr has made, but he's not doing as much with the ball as he could.

45 mins Tweet tweet! Fire start out strong with a good run from Freddie, but Alonso shepherds him out.

52 mins Fire came out well - like their season depends on winning this half, and you know, it does! Nyarko wins a free kick about 25 yards out. Freddie and Pappa over it...Freddie takes a curling shot but Keller gets over to the near post and catches on his knees. Not a bad effort.

54 mins Pappa and Carr break through the middle! Pappa slides a neat ball through...but it's just behind Carr and, with the ball caught between his feet, Carr falls over like a kid learning how to rollerblade.

56 mins A through ball to Nyassi beats Segares and Johnson has to come a good 25 yards out of goal, but he can't get a strong foot on it. It falls to Nkufo, who has a wide open goal to shoot at and misses. Wow.

Fire sub: Umanzor for (the injured) Segares. Segares pulled up lame after that last play. Or maybe he just feels embarrassed for letting Nyassi past him so easily.

62 mins We're in the really interesting part of the game. both teams are settled again, and it's time for the coaches to start thinking about substitutions and realignments. Truth is, Seattle should be okay with a draw, but the Fire need a win. So dos CDLC throw in John and McBride?

Meanwhile, Fredy Montero misses an absolute sitter of a header, alone right in front of the PK spot. That's as good a chance as we've seen all day. Neither team taking their chances.

64 mins And here's our sub. McBride in for Carr.

67 mins Freddie plays in Papa, who hits a meek shot to Keller when Freddie was screaming for it back. Then, a few seconds later, Thorrington got in from another good ball from Freddie, but with McBride and Freddie tearing into the middle, Thorrington could only manage a short, weak, low cross. That's another missed chance for the fire. Thorrington was at a good angle and distance for a shot, too.

70 mins Pappa gets a yellow for what looked more like a coming together than anything malicious. Time starting to tick away on the Fire's season, now, and the fans as well as the players can feel it. There's a restless, anxious feeling in the stadium and players have picked up their intensity.

73 minsGood save from Johnson after Nyassi beat the trap and came in at him from the angle. KWS was bearing down and Nyassi shot a beat earlier than he had to, right at Johnson, but still a good save.

With Fire players pushing more and more forward, Seattle's looking awfully dangerous on their counters. Fire need a goal. Bad.

76 mins Freddie this time takes it himself. His shot from the corner of the box is hit well to the far post, but Kelley punches out for a corner. Pappa, on that corner, took it short and hit a terrible shot well wide. McBride and others - including some 17,000 fans - couldn't help but throw their arms in the air after that one.

77 mins Seattle sub: Alvaro Fernandez for Nathan Sturgis.

83 mins Seattle Sub: Levesque in for Nyassi. Fire sub: Collins John in for Pause.

This is CDLC's last card to play here, and it's an offensive one. With McBride and John up there, the Fire are back in a traditional 4-4-2, with Freddie and Thorrington in the middle behind them.

86 mins Fire are holding the ball easily now, with Seattle happy to let them stroke it around among the defenders. That's great for the possession stat, but the Fire need to get forward. Who's going to be the hero?

88 mins GOAL Seattle 1-0 Fire. Well that's just a dagger. Getting to the byline, Nkufo faked a shot that sent CJ Brown in the air for some reason. With that last man coming down from that jump, Nkufo shot towards the near post - but the ball deflected off CJ and past a helpless Johnson. Fans are heading for the exits. This is totally demoralizing.

90 mins Seattle sub: Marshall in for Zakuani.

4 minutes of extra time.

90+ mins Cue the frustration fouls. Fire players look tired - they're stretched across the entire field and every missed connection gets a agonized reaction.

FULL TIME Seattle win. Ouch.

Not sure what there is to say about all that, it was yet ANOTHER late defensive lapse from the Fire, which has been their weakness all year, and it signals their all but certain elimination from postseason contention. Seattle, on the other hand, may have just sealed a playoff spot for themselves.

I don't think I've ever seen Toyota Park empty out so quickly. It feels like the whole stadium got kneed in the stomach.

Well that's all there is to say for now. Thanks for reading and your comments and enjoy the rest of the weekend.

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nick / September 25, 2010 7:12 PM

ben - what was your major in college? it seems you are far too proud of your 2nd grade math skills...

Lewdogg / September 25, 2010 7:25 PM

Apparently Robert Greene is at the bar I'm at. He's letting every American by him.

rio / September 25, 2010 7:30 PM

funny lewdogg, i coulda swore i saw robert greene at the homeless world cup...

Ben / September 25, 2010 8:05 PM

Ha. Nice.

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