Notes, observations from Chicago vs. Columbus
BRIDGEVIEW, Ill. — After their 2-0 loss to the Chicago Fire on Friday night, the theme in Columbus’ camp remains how much of an impact the travel and compressed schedule has had on the team’s recent stretch of games.
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The Crew have won just one match in their last seven in all competitions.
“We lost [Friday], we lost on Tuesday [in the US Open Cup final],” said the Crew’s Guillermo Barros Schelotto. “We’ve been playing Sunday and Tuesday for a month now. We don’t have enough players for three or four tournaments.”
Columbus’ next match is on October 16 at Toronto.
“We need to rest [this week] and take advantage of the days to rest and get ready for the playoffs,” added Schelotto.
NO EXCUSES FOR COLUMBUS
Veteran Crew midfielder Brian Carroll did not want to hear travel, congested schedules or lack of practice time as excuses for his team’s performance.
“The fact is that we’re not playing well enough as a group,” Carroll said. “I don’t want to use any of that as an excuse.
“You pass it one way and the player is not going there. It’s not flowing and we’re not playing like we’re capable of,” Carroll continued. “We’re not clicking and not getting it done. We need to go back to basics and get on the same page as a group.”
FRIDAY NIGHT WAS GONNA BE A GOOD NIGHT
Chicago Fire midfielder Logan Pause had some sympathy for Columbus, but was not about to let the Crew’s hectic schedule ruin his night.
“We just felt like [Friday night] was our night,” Pause said. “We caught [the Crew] on a tired night, but we don’t’ want to take anything away from the result and how we feel we played.”
SOME FIGHT CLUB IN THE VIP CLUB
Movie celebrity Edward Norton was in attendance at Toyota Park on Friday night, a guest of Chicago Fire owner Andrew Hauptman.
Fire manager Carlos de los Cobos did not appear for the post-game press conference for the third time this season. His assistant, Mike Matkovich, entertained the media questions.
The Fire were hoping to give left back Krysztof Krol the opportunity to play in front of the Poland national team coach, who was in attendance at Friday’s match ahead of the international against the US on Saturday at Soldier Field.
However, Krol did not pass the pregame warm-up test and was replaced by Bratislav Ristic, with winger Patrick Nyarko coming into the lineup at right midfield.
Matkovich singled out Ristic, who was playing his third different position for the Fire, after a fine overall performance that was highlighted by a 90th-minute goal line clearance to preserve the shutout.
In the first half, the Fire felt like there should have been a penalty kick awarded to them in the 16th minute after Frankie Hejduk tackled the ball away from Freddie Ljungberg’s legs in the six-yard box.
They also wanted a second card on Adam Moffatt in the 43rd minute.
“That’s because we’re on them and we want to play,” Ljungberg said. “Even if we didn’t’ get those calls, it showed that we were on it [on Friday] and got a good day’s work.”
TAKING ONE FOR THE TEAM
Nyarko, who is battling bone spurs in his right ankle and will likely need offseason surgery, received an injection at halftime in order to continue playing in the second half. He had the primary assist on both Fire goals.
“He stuck it out and dug in deep,” Matkovich said. “We need more guys like that.”
Fire central defender Dasan Robinson came out of the match in the 15th minute with a quad problem related to a hamstring issue he’s struggled with for the entire season. Matkovich admitted this is a long-term problem that traces back to genetics.
“He’s got a history of [hamstring issues] over the years,” Matkovich said about Robinson. “Genetically, he has family that also had problems with the hamstring as a player.”
Crew midfielder Emmanuel Ekpo believes that his team’s poor first half, in which they did not register a single shot on goal, was not related to fatigue. Rather, there was something else at play, he says.
“It’s like we’re stressed out. The team is totally stressed out,” Ekpo said. “I think we’re going to put our house in order and get back better soon.”
FIRE WEREN’T BETTER
Columbus forward Andrés “El Condor” Mendoza is not ready to concede that Chicago were the better team: “The game was complicated because we complicated it, not because the opponent was better than us.”
NO NERY CASTILLO
Matkovich was very straightforward about the reason that Designated Player Nery Castillo did not see the field despite being available on the substitutes’ bench: If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.
“We like the team the last four games,” he said. “We thought we’d stick with the team. We didn’t need to make changes.”
NO WORD ON SEAN JOHNSON
Still no indication on when Sean Johnson – the Fire’s star rookie goalkeeper who took Andrew Dykstra’s starting spot in goal – will be ready to return.
Matkovich indicated that another update would be provided on Sunday as to whether Johnson will be cleared.
The competition will be intense as Dykstra maintained the shutout and had key saves in the 66th and 72nd minutes, two critical junctures of the match.
I TOLD YOU SO
Ljungberg did not miss the opportunity to remind MLSsoccer.com of his comments in the lead-up to the match about how the Fire were playing more like a team.
“Did you understand what I told you yesterday?” he asked. “Moving off the ball and playing for the team; so many players were running everywhere to help each other. Soccer is so simple to play. The ball is much faster than the player. Just let it roll.”
Friday was the 13th anniversary of the Chicago Fire’s founding. So, before leaving the locker to take the field on Friday night, C.J. Brown said he would make it a point to remind his squad of the words painted on the walls of the Fire locker: tradition, honor, passion.
“It was a special day for the club today,” Ljungberg said. “That’s what this club is about. [The anniversary] was brought up a couple of times. It’s an honor to have a Chicago Fire shirt on you and we should behave like that.”