Let us never speak of tonight’s game again.
New York City went to Chicago — OK, Bridgeview, technically, where Toyota Park is located — wrestling with a five-game winless streak. They leave the Second City with their fourth loss in five games. That’s not the worst of it.
The worst part is how New York City lost.
In this young season, the Chicago Fire have seen six goals scored in the first half of their games. They made certain early on that if a goal was going to be scored, they were the ones who would score it, bossing the run of play. The Gotham Blues tried desperately to keep up.
Then the wheels came off.
With rock steady goalkeeper Josh Saunders suspended, New York City’s fragile backline was missing its most vital player. Ryan Meara — who hadn’t started an MLS game since June of 2012, thanks to an awful hip injury — got the start in goal ahead of nominal backup Akira Fitzgerald. Meara provided lots of nervy moments early on, but in the 20th minute, disaster struck.
There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with Meara doing that. But if you are, then you need to control the ball — or give up the corner. Meara did neither, leaving David Accam with what’s probably the easiest goal he’ll ever score.
Wait, it gets worse.
Three minutes later, Andrew Jacobson got a red card for a foul on Accam, hacking him down from behind. That left the Blues with ten men. It was a simple last-man foul (otherwise known as a denial of obvious goal-scoring opportunity, or DOGSO); had Jacobson not done that, Accam would've been through on goal, but the upshot was that New York City would be left with ten men for nearly 70 minutes.
Things weren’t done unraveling for Gotham, though. Nemec went down with an injury in the 34th minute; that forced Jason Kreis to substitute him with Patrick Mullins. As if that wasn’t enough, Javier Calle injured himself four minutes later, forcing Kreis to use a second, precious sub and bring on former Chivas USA defensive midfielder Matthew Dunn for his first action of the MLS season.
Despite all that, New York City didn’t bunker up; in the 41st minute, Mix Diskerud tried a shot from 25 yards out, which Chicago goalkeeper Sean Johnson pushed away. Two minutes later, Mehdi Ballouchy came out of hibernation, and attempted a side volley, which Johnson caught. But with a man missing, those would be the best Gotham attempts of the night.
In the second half, Meara more than made up for his howler. He was imperious in goal, single-handedly keeping New York City in the game, never more so than in the 83rd minute, when he saved a flurry of Fire shots with an array of kick saves and hand parries.
Mercifully, the whistle blew after just two minutes of stoppage time, as the rain fell on Chicago and New York City. The Blues trudged off the field.
In spite of the team’s shambolic performance in the first half, Kreis still saw positive things in tonight’s loss.
"I’m continually impressed by this team. They keep fighting and not giving up," said the coach. "I’m pleased with that. I’m pleased with the resolve and the togetherness. I wish that we had figured out a way to get a little more attack going in the second half. After the ejection in the first half actually, we had some decent chances at goal. But credit to Chicago, I think they did a much better job in the second half of pinning us in, and not allowing us any time or space on the ball."
That’s worth noting. But with the Gotham Blues playing first Seattle at home, then the unbeaten New York Red Bulls at Red Bull Arena, it’s unclear where and when New York City will win its second game. And as the losses mount, how long will fans remain patient?