Friday, October 24, 2008

Match Report: Diego Gutierrez Farewell Match

Last night the Jersey "Drug Cheat" Metrobulls came to Chicago needing a win to take control of their destiny and secure a playoff spot. The Fire didn't seem to have much to play for; a win guaranteed home field for the first round of the playoffs, an advantage that according to many pundits is questionable at best. However there were a few intangibles in play as well: it was former Fire coach John Charlie Osorio's second visit to Bridgeview since his dubious departure last winter as well as the final regular season homegame for Fire hero Diego Gutierrez, a founding team member and major contributor to our sole league win as well as many of our Open Cup championships. The rain started about 30 minutes before the game and continued intermittently throughout, though it wasn't so cold (of our four pouring rain home games this year I'd rank this one second warmest). The crowd was fired up to cheer Diego, boo Osorio and root hard for an end to his inaugural season in New Jersey. Fortunately Chris Rolfe brought his shooting boots, opening the book in the 11th minute and completing his hat trick before the half was done, leading the way in a 5-2 ass whipping. There are better summary articles of the events as they transpired on the field, (I'm especially fond of this one), so I'll offer a few general observations:

- Coach Hamlett has ended the experiment of playing Blanco as a withdrawn striker and has him playing in the middle of an attacking midfield trio with Rolfe and Mapp, all playing behind McBride. This formation didn't work so well with Chad "Diesel" Barrett up top, but McBride clears out a lot of space for the other three to move in to, and it's pretty successful. Blanco makes better balls with more space in front of him, and now that he's ventured into Valderrama territory (no running, just trap and pass) he helps the other attacking players a ton. The drawback is that we're pretty soft up the middle. Chris Rolfe seems to be the greatest beneficiary, and is getting to the top of his game at the best time. Last night he scored a goal with each foot and with his head, as well as assisting on the last goal.

- The Metrobulls are a disaster. The hallmark of Osorio teams is that they win and keep the ball well but don't move forward very effectively. This team was a disaster at the back, continually botching back passes and standing the keeper. On the first, third, fourth and fifth goals three defenders left a single attacking player to pick up an available ball and score. Organization is terrible, there seems to be little talent in midfield and at the back, and nobody but Van Den Bergh can do anything with the ball. JP Angel was all alone in attack, and he took his only chance pretty well but otherwise saw little of the ball in useful spots.

- The Fire really get up to play Osorio. Our results against him this year: 9 points, goal differential of +8.

- There was a nice recognition ceremony for Diego at halftime, and fortunately the video wasn't all exclusively about his extensive charity work; there were plenty of clips of him making some seriously brutal tackles. Diego's final visit to Section 8 was touching as well; he wiped away tears on his way over to them and climbed into the stands to hug the supporters. He's truly a classy guy and we'll miss the hell out of him. He's lost a step this year, but he was always willing to do whatever the coach has asked and mostly has filled in very well. He also managed to get on the board with an assist on the fourth goal, just to cap things off properly.

So the Fire have clinched home field for the first round against New England, to whom we owe some serious payback. New Jersey now needs a huge favor from Columbus, who have nothing to play for. I hope they're done for the year.

1 comment:

The Editor said...

Thanks for the report, Bobbie. I'm wiping tears from my eyes myself as I write this, thinking of the halcyon days of the late 90s when Diego was the bone-crunching muscle of the side, making sure Nowak could run the offense unimpeded.

May his retirement be fruitful.