Monday, September 18, 2006

Right Back On Track

After having its nine-game unbeaten streak briefly halted in Colorado, the Fire got right back on track with a 1-0 win over DC United in a match that was marred by both rain and questionable (dirty?) play from DC. Andy Herron's goal in the 61st minute - which was set up beautifully by a Brian Plotkin pass - was all the Fire needed. That and the petulance of DC, which resulted in them finishing the game with only nine men. That always helps.

Yup, by the time this one finished, DC was missing two dudes, courtesy of two yellow cards for Bryan Namoff and a horrible tackle on Thiago by Joshua Gros, which appropriately earned Gros a straight red card. It was also Thiago who was taken down by D.C.'s Facundo Erpen in the U.S. Open Cup semifinals only 11 days ago - an ugly, dirty tackle that led to both Erpen and a retaliating Chris Armas being ejected. What does DC have against Thiago? And is this the type of play Peter Nowak encourages? I realize Nowak is a Fire legend and probably my all-time favorite Fire player, but I gotta say, I'm not real impressed with the way his players handle themselves, especially late in a game when they're behind. I'll stop short of calling DC a dirty team, but some of their tackles are borderline heinous. And when a team plays that way while trailing, well, it doesn't look good. It looks sort of petty.

Bottom line? This rivalry could eventually explode. This is the second time in a week and a half that a match between the two sides has ended with dudes being taken out by tackles of ill intent and red cards fying. And with the two teams pulling away atop the Eastern Conference standings, they could very well meet again in the playoffs. That should be interesting, eh?

It was also a day that saw the 1981 Chicago Sting honored for winning the NASL championship, which at the time, was a big deal in Chicago. You see, it was the first title by a Chicago team since the 1963 Bears. So soccer enthusiasts or not, desperate Chicago sports fans were willing to embrace that team. And that team has yet to be forgotten.

Yes, I realize this is a pic of the 1982 team, but the Internet isn't always as deep as you'd like. And the funny haircuts are still there.

I've always secretly wished that the Sting were somehow incorporated into MLS. You know, as an expansion team or something. It's a pipe dream, I know. Admittedly, the 1981 team was a bit before my time and I don't recall witnessing their title, but I do have hazy recollections of going to Sting games in the old Comiskey Park before NASL folded in 1984. I also watched the Sting play numerous times in the indoor league (MISL) at All State Arena. I have fond memories of those yellow and black jerseys.

When the Unknown Column becomes disgustingly rich, he fully plans on buying an MLS expansion team and bringing back the Sting.

As an aside, I was a tad disappointed that MLS delayed yesterday's game for 25 minutes. Yes, I realize lightning is dangerous and the safety of both the fans and players is first and foremost, but you just don't see soccer games halted elsewhere around the world for weather. Or at least I've never seen it. Never. I've just never seen professional soccer players scamper off a field in the middle of a game because of the conditions. Sure, safety should be considered at all times, and maybe I'm just too old fashioned, but it struck me as being...soft. (Pun intended. "Struck." Get it?)

I was watching the game with two friends, one of whom is not a soccer fan and likes to razz me about being a huge fan of the sport. He's always giving me a hard time, saying soccer is for foreigners and for wusses and that it's boring. It's all in jest, a running joke, and it's been going on for years. But he refuses to budge from his less than complimentary opinion of soccer. Normally, I simply ignore him as he entertains himself with his jokes.

However, yesterday during the delay I actually had to concede that, on this occasion, I agreed with him. I told him I had never seen a pro soccer game delayed because of weather. I wanted him to know that it had nothing to do with the players or the sport of soccer. Hell, if the game was being played in any other part of the world, it would have continued. It was the doing of MLS, not to mention America, which gets softer and fatter by the day. I assured him that we wouldn'r see this anywhere else. My friend just kept laughing and saying that he was right all along - that soccer really was soft. I had to cringe. On this day, he was sort of right.

Ah, hell, maybe I just need to change with the times. If stopping games for lightning is the way things are nowadays, who am I to complain? I guess it's for the best. I just found it odd, especially when you consider that the match was being televised alongside Sunday afternoon NFL games. Suppose there were NFL viewers who were changing channels during commercial breaks and saw a soccer game delayed for rain. What must they have been thinking? Would a (non-preseason) NFL game be delayed for weather? How about an EPL game? Bundesliga? Serie A?

Or let me ask you this: Would the old Chicago Sting delay a game for bad weather? Hell no they would not! And they played in Comiskey Park and Wrigley Field - right there on the swamped-with-rain dirt infields! Of course they would play on! And they liked it! They were real men back then! Where have you gone Karl-Heinz Granitza?

All of that said, I had to chuckle at the crazy fans in Section 8 who continued to proudly wave their gigantic flags during the delay. I wonder if any of those flag poles were made of metal.


Blogger Bill-DC said...

Game, set and match for DCU. They peaked too early this year. First round elimination for sure.

Why? Moreno and Eskandarian are nowhere to be seen. The defense is being held together by band aids. Freddy Adu is hot and cold, mostly cold. You knock Gomez on his ass and he's out of the game. Plus these guys have been coasting and they've lost whatever edge they built up in May and June. No one fears them anymore. I can't stand the garbage play of late, Gros will now miss two of the past three games due to red cards. Pure crap IMO.

I really like the Fire's chances to come out of the East and play Houston for MLS Cup.

5:09 PM  
Blogger UnknownColumn said...

Well, I wouldn't give up on DC just yet. I see them getting out of the first round and playing the Fire. They need to get healthy and having such a large lead probably hurt their edge.

Anyone could come out of the West. It's a tossup, but yeah, Houston looks like as good a bet as anyone.

10:12 PM  

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