Work in Sports
MLS Cup Locker room
No goals, no champagne for Chicago
By Michael Lewis, CNNSI.com
Washington, D.C. -- No champagne was to be found in the Chicago Fire's locker room Sunday afternoon, only empty bottles of water.
The Fire players had just played their hearts out against the Kansas City Wizards in MLS Cup, but could only show a 1-0 loss for their efforts at RFK Stadium.
If there were any empty tear ducts, it was difficult to tell as the Fire players showed little or no emotion by the time the media was allowed in the locker room.
Forward Josh Wolff, back less than two weeks after an outstanding Olympic performance, could not have been more disappointed.
"You watch games like this and you think it will never happen to you," he said while peeling the label off a water bottle. "We continued to dominate and continued to miss good opportunities.
"It's frustrating, it's disappointing. We never got the first goal. That was the key ... It was one of those days. It wasn't our day."
Former Bulgarian international and forward Hristo Stoitchkov might have been the player most in demand by the media, holding court as print reporters and TV cameras surrounded him in a mini-forest.
Even though he complained to referee Paul Tamberino about several calls, including a penalty kick that he felt should have been whistled, a diplomatic Stotichkov refused to blame the game officials.
"Let's not blame the referees," he said. "It's a team loss -- from the goalkeeper to me on top.
"We have more options on goal. We have a better attack, but they had more defense today. That's soccer."
On the other side of the locker room, U.S. assistant national coach Dave Sarachan started visiting every Fire player to congratulate each one on his season.
He finally got to defensive midfielder Chris Armas.
"It was one of those days," Armas said.
"You had a great game," Sarachan replied.
It didn't come close to consoling Armas.
"If we would have been some of those shots a little more accurately, we would have been celebrating," said Armas, who was putting on his street clothes. "We had our chances. The key is to finish them.
"It's going to eat at us for a while."
It can't eat the Fire players for very long because they have some unfinished business in the Lamar Hunt/U.S. Open Cup against the Miami Fusion at Soldier Field this Saturday.
"We can either sit around and mop about this one or we can put the same effort on the field," Armas said. "If we bring that same effort, it will be hard to beat us."
Wolff agreed. "This will only fuel that," he said. "This will leave a little sting and let us know what we've got to do on Saturday. "
Speaking of sting, Lee Stern, who was the owner of another Chicago professional soccer team that has tasted victory and defeat in championship games -- the old Chicago Sting of the North American Soccer League.
Stern, wearing a Fire cap, was inside the locker room, talking to some of the players.
"They were pretty down right after the game," he said. "That's the way it is in professional sports. It's a let down for the team and the fans."
Michael Lewis covers soccer for the New York Daily News. His third book, Soccer For Dummies, was published earlier this year.