Breakdown: Fire vs. Revs
OTF editor Scott Fenwick empathizes with the gaffer. A tough one indeed…
If you follow soccer, you often hear talk of this team or that team “deserving” a win, despite a result to the contrary. Frequently, such sentiment is accompanied by recitations of bad luck and misfortune. Sometimes, so-called poor officiating is the source of moaning about dropped points.
Usually, I’m not sympathetic to the idea that one team or another deserves anything but what the final score reads. Most of the time, such talk rings hollow and strikes me as a cop-out, a failure to take responsibility when things happen to not go your way. But in the case of last weekend’s record-tying tie at Toyota Park, I can’t help but think the Soccer Gods have conspired against Frank Yallop.
When asked to comment on the 1-1 result vs. New England, the Fire’s head man offered an honest, somewhat deflating lament.
“[This was a] tough one. Déjà vu from the last home game we had. [We] should have four more points than we’ve got…It feels empty because of the way we have put a lot of effort into the games we’ve had and you don’t get rewarded for it.”
The Fire’s cruel fate, for two home dates in a row, has hinged upon two meekly taken penalty kicks during stoppage time. While Mike Magee’s technique against the Union a few weeks ago left something to desire, goalkeeper Zac MacMath should be credited with fine play. Last Saturday, however, Juan Luis Anangonó’s miss against the Revs was perhaps the poorest penalty kick effort I’ve ever seen by a professional. Truly mind-boggling stuff.
Indeed, an understandably frustrated Frank Yallop offered a pithy, matter-of-fact assessment of why his team is sitting in ninth-place rather than third-place in the Eastern Conference.
“The missing piece is ice-cold finishing in the last seconds of a game.”
Hard to argue against.
That said, six consecutive weeks of draws have offered just as many positives as negatives. And despite its absence at the end of regulation, “ice-cold” finishing has certainly become a mainstay of Quincy Amarikwa’s game. Last Saturday was no exception.
The Fire’s lone goal during the run of play was the result of three men playing their roles perfectly. After an attentive, clean Jeff Larentowicz recovery in midfield, the Fire captain passed to Harry Shipp, who offered a perfectly weighted through ball to Quincy Amarikwa, whose physical play kept him up and allowed him to muscle Revs defender Andrew Farrell off the ball near the edge of the box. The Fire forward followed his show of strength by nutmegging Bobby Shuttleworth for his fourth goal of the campaign.
“The ball came back to Harry, I had space in the middle, pointed, and he put the ball right where I wanted him to. I took my first touch into the box, put a bit of my body on Farrell, saw that the keeper’s legs were open and put the ball between his legs and that was that,” said Amarikwa.
Shipp’s fine pass marked his team-leading third assist. “Harry has been outstanding. If I had to say two guys that have pulled us through the first seven games, it’s definitely been Harry and Quincy,” admitted Larentowicz, who’s had an excellent 2014 himself.
But with the good must come the bad. Unfortunately, Chicago’s true Designated Player didn’t live up to his billing. Mike Magee was a virtual ghost on the afternoon, often drifting much too far into midfield, away from his opponents’ box.
Unfortunately, too many of Magee’s successful passes were either backward or square. In fact, of the six forward passes seen below, four were set pieces — not passes executed during the run of play.
And with Matt Watson, we see a similar pattern. Watson subbed in at central midfield late in the first half for the injured Alex, but didn’t offer much at all in terms of central attacking thrust.
Again, like Magee (minus free kicks), Watson simply wasn’t able to get balls forward in the attack half.
Watson is a defensive midfielder by trade, and his presence alongside Larentowicz may have forced Magee to drop deeper into midfield. So perhaps both Magee’s and Watson’s shortcomings were the result of a tactical error.
Back to the bright side.
Bakary Soumare was an absolute beast on the afternoon. Very rarely to you see a center back achieve over 100 OPTA events in a single match (here, 107). Soumare was all over the ball on the defensive left, effectively covering a large amount of territory while left back Greg Cochrane got forward on the flank, and winger Shipp cut inside in the attack half.
Conclusion? Aside from a defensive lapse by Lovel Palmer and Patrick Nyarko on the right that allowed Kevin Alston to get behind the Fire defense and draw the foul that led to New England’s penalty kick equalizer, the Chicago defense put in a solid performance. Offensively, the Cochrane/Shipp and Palmer/Nyarko pairings found joy on both the left and right flanks, respectively.
Like the previous game in Montreal (1-1), it’s reasonable to argue the Fire were doomed by poor finishing (17 shots). Ultimately though, it’s the lack of a true playmaker in the middle of the park that’s hurting this team. One wonders when Frank Yallop will pull Harry Shipp off the wing and put him in the #10 slot, where he belongs.
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Scott Fenwick founded On The Fire in 2012 and is its Editor. Follow him @ilgeneraleUSA