Sunday’s match against the Los Angeles Galaxy presented flashes of the ability that all Chicago Fire fans knew existed, but the latter part of the match provided the overwhelming frustration that has permeated much of the 2010 campaign. Fortunately, the Men in Red managed to hang on and hand the Galaxy their first home loss of the MLS season, but the fact that it came that close was certainly disappointing.
That’s not to say I wasn’t absolutely ecstatic about the three points. I was. Hell, in a season like this, the wins have been pretty rare, I have to enjoy them.
I particularly enjoyed the performance of Sean Johnson in goal, as I’m sure every Fire fan did Sunday night. I was never in the group of people dumping on Andrew Dykstra, as I think it’s pretty clear that he has the ability be a very good keeper. He’s had a number of solid matches this season, his first as a starter, but the consistency has been his main weakness since taking over for Jon Busch at the start of the season. I think the majority of his criticism has come from the fact that he’s not Busch. That’s simply not fair to him, and it’s completely unrealistic. Busch was an established successful veteran in net, I’m sure his first time had a fair amount of ups and downs as well.
That said, I don’t think Dykstra showed enough to not at least give a chance to Johnson in net. Especially considering Johnson’s performances in non-MLS matches. The second round draft pick deserved a look, and I’m certain he earned another start with the highlight saves throughout the night. I mean, his only two goals were off Landon Donovan penalty kicks, and he’s only one of the best in the world with the ball on the penalty spot.
The game also brought on another very welcome surprise as Patrick Nyarko and Baggio Husidic made their triumphant return to the Chicago midfield. Husidic, a second-year pro from Illinois-Chicago, and Nyarko, in his third year from Virginia Tech, have been revelations in leading the offense this year. Prior to getting hurt Nyarko was among the league leaders in assists, and Husidic showed a nose for goal, scoring three times in the first half of the season.
After looking like a real liability prior to the start of the year, the Chicago midfield is shaping up as one of the strongest units in the league, especially with the addition of Freddie Ljungberg last week. I’m a little bit uneasy about his real impact on the team going forward (and last night’s largely ineffective substitution didn’t help), but if he’s anywhere near his form in Seattle, one has to be at least a little optimistic.
One of the biggest questions we have remaining on offense is at forward, and that, is where I personally gained a lot of hope Sunday night. Collins John, now back to full health, scored his first goal since the match at Colorado at the start of the season. Brian McBride is in a bit of a slump, but I’m hoping a bit of rest now that forward depth is restored will help matters. Team blogger Jeff Crandall indicated that Nery Castillo will be seeing some time at forward this season as well, giving potentially three very solid contributors up top to work with an emerging midfield.
Now that doesn’t answer some of the serious problems in the defensive back line (I’m looking at you, C.J. Brown), but the idea that goals might not be as hard to come by these days is certainly a new idea on the southside of Chicago.