Metro's miserable Midwest streak continues, 1:0
August 10, 2014
The rollercoaster ride that has been the 2014 season continued unabated on Sunday night as Metro fell to the Fire in Bridgeview, 1:0. For what seemed like the hundredth time this year (in reality, it was the ninth), Metro found themselves on the wrong side of a penalty decision. This time, the team could not recover from the deficit, and Metro will head into 2015 winless in Chicago since 2005.
Jamison Olave's two-game suspension combined with Matt Miazga's red card last week meant Mike Petke had to shake up the already-shaky Metro defense. Chris Duvall kept his usual spot on the right, but Ibrahim Sekagya's partner in central defense was Roy Miller. Ambroise Oyongo moved back from the midfield to take Miller's usual spot on the left; the Cameroonian's return to defense allowed the much-maligned Eric Alexander to return to the midfield.
From the off, it was obvious this game had the potential to end scoreless. Neither side looked sharp in the final third, not Chicago with their surging counterattack nor Metro with their attempts at patient build-up. The Fire, however, appeared to have watched film of their opponents and showed their hand early on as Alex turned a slight tug from Miller into a dramatic dive in the box.
Referee Ted Unkel didn't fall for Chicago's antics on that occasion, but Metro would not be so lucky later in the half. In the 37th minute, Metro reject Quincy Amarikwa found space behind the defense and Oyongo was forced into making a desperate attempt to keep the Fire forward from scoring. Even though it would be hard to argue Oyongo didn't come into contact with the attacking player, it's hard to feel sympathy for a player that goes into the challenge ass-first as Amarikwa did. Nevertheless, Unkel pointed to the spot (after a moment's hesitation, it should be noted) and while Luis Robles expertly parried Mike Magee's penalty attempt, the Metro keeper could not direct the rebound away from the ex-Metro's path.
Metro was able to muster a reply; sandwiching the penalty kick were a couple of spirited attempts from leading scorer Bradley Wright-Phillips and Titi Henry narrowly missed on a gorgeous dipping shot from outside the box. Whether it was general fatigue or the All-Star hangover many expected, the Metro attackers stalled out as the game wore on, and a pair of very late subs did little to revive the visitors' limp attempt to equalize.
In the end, it was probably too much to expect of this flawed team to exorcise two demons against longtime rivals in one season. It's more worrying though that Metro was unable to even claw back a point against the team that is on pace to shatter their own record for draws in a season. With their playoff rivals gaining on them in the standings this weekend, Metro's return to the postseason seems less assured as the year goes on.
Lineup: Robles, Oyongo, Miller, Sekagya, Duvall, McCarty, Alexander, Cahill, Sam, Wright-Phillips, Henry. Subs: Convey, Luyindula.