It's kind of hard to argue with this Ives article at this point. And man, I'm envious. Ives writes an article trashing the living crap out of someone, and the following Saturday he lives down to every single word. Me? I write something nice about someone, they're sure to be busted selling crack at the preschool within 48 hours.
The latest victim of Major League Soccer's Graveyard of Reputations is Carlos De Los Cobos. I suppose "de los cobos" is Spanish for "the doghouse." Wait, it would be plural. The doghouses. Oh, that works. Stupid Romance language, spoiling my joke.
So was it all CDLC's incompetence? Was the big talk about the job De Los Cobos did with El Salvador just airheaded blather from people like, well, me? El Salvador did finish fifth in the latest and last Hexagonal, which is, you know, not overly fantastic in the grand scheme of things.
Galarcep blames the presumably unjust firing of Denis Hamlett. Judging by the volume of the campaign to rehire Hamlett, viz., utterly inaudible, maybe coaching wasn't the problem.
The Fire were a penalty kick shootout away from a penalty kick shootout for MLS Cup – in other words, a practical tie for the championship. But…they weren't that good. Yes, they went to the Eastern finals the past couple of years, but, well, someone had to. In 2008, they were background noise for the Columbus Crew coronation. Last year, they were a pretty good team that tied at home to a really pretty good Salt Lake team.
In other words, nobody was really dominant last year, especially when that same pretty good RSL team punched out the unsuspecting Crew. It was a missed opportunity for a bunch of okay-to-good teams to win the Cup. Salt Lake succeeded where Chicago and Los Angeles failed – of course, Salt Lake made them fail, and credit to them.
By the way, Chicago isn't even the conference finalist that fell the farthest. That would be your Houston Dynamo, last seen setting in the West – and nobody's blaming the coach.
In fact, the Dynamo and Fire fell off for similar reasons – loss of key personnel. Houston couldn't keep Holden, Clark, or Luis Angel Landin (laugh track), and they didn't replace them. Same thing happened in Chicago.
But the key loss for the Fire wasn't Cootiemac Blanco, whose performances towards the end of his MLS run varied pretty much in proportion to how much you believed his hype man Christopher Sullivan. No, the real loss was Chris Rolfe. Rolfe, whose website is badly in need of an update, is another casualty of the great Scandinavian soccer juggernaut that for over a decade has been the West Berlin for the MLS upper middle class.
Historically, the Fire have been hit harder than most by player defections to Europe. I don't think any team in league history had to replace the amount of talent the Fire had to after 2003, when Bocanegra and Beasley split town after they played in MLS Cup. Well, "played in", "stunk up the Home Depot Center in," tomato, to-mah-to.
Even that wasn't the end of it. I think the record shows that leaving Illinois was the biggest mistake of poor Damani Ralph's life, but the Fire never really found an adequate replacement. Hence, the Alan Gordonesque longevity of Calen Carr.
Then, of course, the Blanco era happened to coincide with the Barros Schelotto era, and if there's one iron law of international soccer, it's that Argentina beats Mexico. (Unless we're talking about DC United signing Gallardo, Neill and that tall slow defender whose name escapes me. Those guys didn't beat anybody.) (Wow, why am I talking about the Fire's decline, with DC United in the same division?)
I think Chris Rolfe was one of the most criminally underrated players of the decade, and the Fire are paying a huge price for letting him go. They money they're spending on Ljungberg and Castillo could have been better spent on – well, it would have been better spent on putting out a CSPAN greatest hits soundtrack; Ljungberg and Castillo are making very creditable late runs at the Least Valuable Player award.
Also, and I hate the be the first douchebag to say this out loud, but for Christ's sake, McBride and Brown are old, old, old. Hamlett wouldn't have gotten production out of them either. Nor Blanco, had he stuck around. The Fire were an accident waiting to happen. Ljungberg and Castillo were basically a couple of extra coats of lead paint on a recalled toy.
If we're going to scapegoat De Los Cobos – and why shouldn't we? It looks like fun – it would only be fair if the Fire tried to get some of the same talent for him that Hamlett had. Fair's got nothing to do with it, of course, and I expect a new face will be running the team next year.
…say, you think Julian Posada can do the US a favor and offer Bob Bradley a lot of money to come back? That would be a win-win. Which is what the Fire don't look like they'll be doing anytime soon.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Jeff Cunningham, whose non-existent Hall of Fame chances will be boost negligently by setting the all-time MLS scoring record. I'd waste a vote on him, though. I don't think Cunningham has even been to an MLS Cup yet – this year is probably his best chance, come to think of it. I'm seriously looking forward to that Salt Lake-Dallas playoff, whichever round it comes in.