And just like that, the pressure shifts off Chicago Fire manager Frank Klopas – and tumbles once again squarely onto Red Bulls rookie manager Mike Petke.
Chicago was one of the last winless clubs in MLS, and things were looking quite grim for Klopas. Had Sunday come and gone without a win, that would be three in 2013 at Toyota Park for Klopas and company without collecting all three points. In fact, the Fire had lost both home games so far this year, including an embarrassing three-goal humbler to previously unheralded Chivas USA. (Klopas’ team even blew it against second-tier Minnesota in a friendly at Toyota Park last week.)
Honestly, it’s hard to see Klopas surviving a loss Sunday on national TV.
Today, however, we won’t have to ponder that question. That’s because Maicon Santos scored twice in the final seven minutes in a 3-1 Fire win, literally rescuing a season about to slide further off the tracks. Santos (pictured) now has two goals this year, which is two more than starting striker Sherjill MacDonald, whom Klopas seems determined to ride right into the coaching graveyard. (In fairness, his general business did some good Sunday; still, strikers must score at some point.)
On the other side, a New York win last week over Philadelphia had provided temporary respite for Petke, who was winless in his first foursome of matches as a pro manager. Sunday’s loss on the road (even to previously winless Chicago) won’t be the death of his career or anything like that. But the drip effect of pressure going into the coaching offices around Red Bull Arena will get a little faster and heavier as supporters and media look five points collected over six matches for such a talented team.
Especially now with a tough trip into rival D.C. United up next for the Red Bulls, followed by a visit from Sporting Kansas City, which may have finally found its balance following a rough start.
Neither of these coaches is out of the weeds just yet; one just gets the benefit of a few easier days now.
Here are highlights from Sunday’s match at Toyota Park.