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"Who doesn't have a Yellow?" I asked, minutes before the end of the first half. That about sums up the semi-entertaining match I attended between the Chicago Fire and the expansion San Jose Earthquakes on Saturday night. The match ended in a nil-nil draw, and featured seven yellow cards, four to the Fire and three for the Quakes.
For the Fire, the match was another squandered opportunity to pick up three points in pursuit of the Supporters Shield. The offense, so potent in victories against the New York Red Bulls, New England Revolution, and D.C. United earlier this season, has disappeared once more. The Fire have now gone 333 minutes of league play without a goal, and have scored only once in the last four matches.
Coach Dennis Hamlett clearly attempted to address the recent struggles by starting Tomasz Frankowski and Andy Herron up top versus the Quakes. However, about ten minutes into the match, Andy Herron attempted a bicycle kick in the box and landed awkwardly, apparently losing consciousness. Stretchers were brought onto the field, but Herron walked off the pitch under his own power and even returned to the match for a few minutes before being substituted for Chad Barrett in the sixteenth minute.
Barrett played better than he did in his disastrous match against FC Dallas last week, but failed to find the back of the net, or get off any quality shots.
Chris Rolfe was substituted in for the ineffective Tomasz Frankowski in the 65th minute, but only manufactured one quality opportunity, which unfortunately did not make it onto the scoreboard.
Even though the offense was as disappointing as the last few matches, the defense was much improved. Gonzalo Segares returned from Costa Rican national team duty, and Wilman Conde is healthy again. Segares and Conde were joined on the backline by Bakary Soumare and Diego Gutierrez, who were both solid as usual. Combined, the back four effectively shut down the Quakes and thus Jon Busch was not required to make any show-stopping, jaw-dropping saves that are quickly becoming his trademark.
The midfield of Just Mapp, John Thorrington, Brandon Prideaux, and Cuauhtemoc Blanco were solid but not spectacular. Blanco seems to be showing some wear and often needs one more step than he has time for in order to deliver magnificently placed balls, and Justin Mapp contines to slow the momentum of the attack by dribbling too much.
With the tie, the Fire now have 20 points on the season and have fallen into a tie for fourth place in the Eastern conference table.
I've uploaded a bunch of photos from the game to the photo gallery. Click here for Fire vs. Earthquakes photos.
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