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Fire Wed Jul 23 2014

Chicago Fire: In The Wake of the World Cup

Chicago Fire soccerThe 2014 World Cup is dead.

It has been nearly a fortnight since Germany's triumph over Argentina in Brazil, where they claimed their fourth title, their first as a unified nation, and became the first European team to win a Cup in South America. For those who followed the tournament closely this past month and a half consumed most, if not all, waking life, often stealing into the land of dreams along the way. Time seemingly slipped out of gear, running in slow motion for the length of the tournament, causing 30 days to feel easily 2-3 times as long. This can be chalked up to the volume of games played, which at one point was as high as four matches in a single day, but is also attributable to a phenomenon known as stress-induced slow motion perception. This persistent action and observation has had an effect not unlike that of being in a near-miss accident, or partaking in any other such adrenaline-surging activity.

The aforementioned phenomenon is one that we've heard countless times, where individuals recount that, during a time when their fight-or-flight instincts kick in, they experience the sensation that time has slowed down, whereby affording them the clarity that they would otherwise lack in an everyday situation. It has been debunked, alas, by Baylor neuroscientist David Eagleman through some very interesting science involving devices known as perceptual chronometers and participants being dropped in free-fall from 150 ft. The basic idea behind the feeling of slow-motion lies in the amygdala, which ends up gathering much more information about the situation than usual. When the event is over the recollection of how time passed turns out to be skewed. Just as increasing the film speed on a camera causes the images to play back in slow motion, so too does the storing of these extra memories, rendering the recollection to last longer, each detail more pronounced.

The World Cup then, being a tournament predicated on near-paralyzing levels of adrenaline and anticipation, has carved out such a space in the memories of its viewers that its absence is enormous and that the time since it ended has simply flown by as well. This is precisely because of these phenomena.

In shaking the impressive cognitive effects of this year's inarguably largest sporting event you may have missed that Major League Soccer has resumed play, and that things are beginning to settle back into their usual mid-summer rhythm. That is to say that teams have played slightly more than half of their season at this point, and that the formation of the squad as a single unit will have largely taken place as well. Though, with the summer transfer window currently open until the 8th of August, teams may end up signing a new international player with the potential to push them into the post-season and perhaps MLS Cup.

The Fire wasted no time at the opening of the window, signing Romanian central-midfielder Răzvan Cociș less than a week into the transfer period. Cociș, a veteran presence at 31, was picked up with an eye toward his slotting in alongside team captain Jeff Larentowicz to help create a more fluid midfield, one from which more chances to move the ball confidently and creatively will hopefully emanate. Cociș has experience playing for several leagues in Europe and the Middle East, and helped Lokomotiv Moscow to a league title in 2007. His acquisition is something of a hedge move on the part of the Fire technical staff, in no way is he a marquee star like recent signings of David Villa and Kaká by next-season debutantes NYCFC and Orlando City, respectively. His role at this time is to be a more consistent presence in a team that has its problems connecting balls out of the midfield for a drastically lower price. For a team that has had a tenuous relationship with its Designated Players, including the recent loaning of Juan Luis Anangonó to Ecuadoran side LD Quito, this signing isn't easy to judge on the face of it. Cociș is an unknown player stateside and the transition into the MLS system is not always the easiest for foreign players, but his resume speaks ot having moved into many different leagues where he has had an impact.

While the World Cup was still in the Group Stage back in the states the 101st Lamar Hunt US Open Cup was in full swing. On the 18th of June the Fire played their first match of the competition, easily besting the Pittsburgh Riverhounds of USL PRO. As luck would have it, the Fire's opponent for the next round was local rivals the Columbus Crew, and the game that they put on in every way proved that the rivalry for these teams runs deep. The game was tied 2-2 at the end of regulation play, thanks to a late goal by Anangonó, before the Fire were able to put away the Crew, scoring two more goals in extra time. The Fire then went down to Georgia to take on the Atlanta Silverbacks of the NASL in the quarterfinals of the tournament. What proceeded was less like a game of soccer and more akin to a Real Housewives reunion show, with a double red card for Mike Magee and Jesus Gonzalez in the first half, leaving both teams with 10 man sides. The Fire were awarded a penalty in the 81st minute, and then Alex scored the coffin nail third goal in the 85th minute.

The Fire move on to the semifinals of the Open Cup where they will face the Seattle Sounders in Washington on August 13th. The Sounders are a team who have taken up the momentum that was once that of the Fire where the Open Cup is concerned. Chicago have long been known as the self-styled "Kings of the Cup," after their fourth win back in 2006. The Sounders already have won three Open Cups in their short MLS history and are vying for their fourth trophy, which would make them one of only 7 teams, the Fire included, to have won 4 Open Cups. The Sounders currently lead the Western Conference, thanks to the strike partnership of Clint Dempsey and Obafemi Martins, and could present the Fire with their biggest challenge yet in the tournament. Previously this season when the sides met the Fire fell to the Sounders 3-2.

This week is a busy one for the team, with the Fire in San Jose to take on the downward-spiraling Earthquakes tonight at 9:30pm on NBC Sports. The midweek clash comes close on the heels of Chicago's last gasp draw on Saturday against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park, thanks to a penalty awarded to Philadelphia in stoppage time. And the Fire will want to take it easy tonight on account of their quick return home to host Barclay's Premier League side Tottenham Hotspur at Toyota Park on Saturday, July 26th. Tickets for this international spectacle are available here.

So there you have it. Time kept moving, even if it all felt very slow in the moment, and there was much to catch up on. Which reminds me of the sentiment shared in the following amazing video, Mike Magee's Day Off, spoofing the 80's classic with Magee and several other US Soccer luminaries (Michael Bradley, Hope Solo, Omar Gonzalez, Jimmy Conrad, Bruce Arena) rounding out the cast. It is a genuine treat.

 

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