John Bounces Back

Dutchman talks win, new players

The sight of Collins John streaking in alone on Donovan Ricketts goal Sunday was a welcome one, coming just a minute after the Fire’s dream start in LA, the Dutchman put his effort between the towering Jamaican goalkeeper and his left post, putting the Fire up 2-0 just five minutes into the match.

It had been almost four months to the day from the former Fulham striker’s last goal – a header off a corner kick April 3 at Colorado – which also happened to be his first in a Fire uniform.

Despite getting his name back on the score sheet, the striker was more focused on the team’s performance and getting the side back on the playoff track.

“As a striker it’s always nice to score goals so I’m pleased, but getting the three points was more important,” said John Wednesday. “I think we felt we had a great week of practice and I think everyone was very relaxed and comfortable before the game. Going in I think everyone was confident that we could beat LA, we showed some great quality.”

Having not scored more than two goals since 2009, it was hard to believe the Fire were up 3-0 in just 19 minutes of play. The start was the third quickest three-goal tally in Chicago Fire history, with the other two coming during the 2000 season:  13 minutes in a 4-1 win vs. San Jose on May 13 and 17 minutes in a 6-0 playoff win vs. New England.

The rest of the match wasn’t as exhilarating for the Fire faithful as the team elected to sit back and absorb the Galaxy pressure in tactics (and a full time score) that were similar to the U.S. upset of Portugal at the 2002 World Cup… Tell me you didn’t feel the Ghost of Jeff Agoos present when Donovan buried his second penalty in the 81st minute.

For John, the results are more important than the way you play to get them.

“At this moment you shouldn’t talk about good football because time is ticking to make the playoffs. With 15 games left, we have to make sure we’re gaining points in the standings every week. We started the second half of our season off well in LA and hopefully this Sunday with New York coming to town we can get the result we need.”

While the arrival of Nery Castillo and Freddie Ljungberg to Chicago has been exciting for many a Fire fan, it’s important to note neither were on the field when the club ran out to its 3-0 lead on Sunday. Still, their offensive prowess and overall presence should help raise the level of a club that struggled offensively during the first half of 2010, though John is cautiously optimistic regarding his new teammates.

“We have to wait and see with both guys. Nery is a good, technical player. Hopefully he can get up to match fitness and help us. Freddie is a class player and has proven his worth in this league already. With any player though you just always have to wait and see how they fit in the group. As a team, I don’t think we should put a lot of pressure on those two guys because it’s not fair. We just have to wait and see – I’m sure if the team is playing better, they’ll fit in much easier. They’re two quality players and hopefully they can help and push us to the playoffs.”

Sunday’s match with the Red Bulls could set a new precedent for number of Designated Players (five) on one field at the same time as Castillo and Ljungberg could combine with Red Bull’s Thierry Henry and Rafael Marquez who have recently joining Juan Pablo Angel in New York.

“I played against Henry [in England] a lot of times and I know him personally. For me, he is soccer. At his time, he was one of the best players in the world. Maybe he isn’t tops now, but you can’t put him away because what he has done in the past is just history – its forever. Guys like Castillo, Henry, Freddie, Marquez -- they provide excitement, they’re why people come to the stadium. Hopefully it can give a little more respect to the soccer in this country. I still think there’s a long way to go before we put this sport ahead of other sports – I always have arguments with my Chicago friends – I tell them that I don’t care what they say about baseball and football – soccer is the biggest thing in the universe. Hopefully more big players come over -- it’s all good for the game here, that’s what we need.”

Jeff Crandall is the Team Writer for the Chicago Fire, catch more of his thoughts by following him on Twitter @JefeCrandall