Breakdown: Fire vs. Galaxy

Big Red says "Chalk up ANOTHER 1 pointer!" (photo: Abel Arciniega | Chicago Fire)

Big Red says, “Chalk up ANOTHER 1 pointer!” (photo: Abel Arciniega | Chicago Fire)

T.J. Zaremba dissects an encouraging performance, but disappointing result last Sunday…

Should the Fire be happy to grab a point from an essentially full power LA Galaxy on Sunday, or should they be disappointed to drop two more points at home? In this case, the answer is both. 

When you look at the lineups on paper, this game was a mismatch. However, a few lineup changes and a formation switch from a modified 4-4-2 to a 4-2-3-1 helped this Fire side stand up to the challenge that is LA.

Fire change to a 4-2-3-1 lineup

Fire change to a 4-2-3-1 lineup

The double DM set-up helped Yallop’s boys secure the middle and push the game. While they were out possessed (which they have been in every game except two — vs. Philadelphia and at Montreal, two of the league’s worst sides), the Fire actually carried the game instead of looking for counterattacks.

The numbers back what I witnessed from my seat in Toyota Park: The Men in Red completed 385 passes, which is their second-highest total all season (420 in Montreal), at an 80% success rate (tied for season high).

This breakdown of their work rate in the attacking half shows just how much better and productive they were than the Galaxy:

Strong attacking production from the Fire

Strong attacking production from the Fire, sans goals

Particularly, Chicago’s success was the result of a combination a few factors.

Defensive midfield staple Jeff Larentowicz and Northwestern product Chris Ritter, making his first start, effectively anchored the center of the park

Larentowicz and Ritter holding the center of the park

Larentowicz and Ritter holding it down in the middle


  • Circle = Shot; Soccer Ball = Goal (Green = On Target; Red = Off Target; Yellow  = Blocked)
  • Squares = Distribution (Green = Successful; Red = Unsuccessful; Yellow = Key Passes;  Blue = Assist)
  • Inverted Triangle = Dribbling (Green = Successful; Red = Unsuccessful)
  • Upright Triangle = Defense (Blue = Interception; Gold = Recovery; Purple = Clearance; Green = Tackles; Yellow = Blocks)

Harry Shipp finally got his run as the attacking midfielder. Of course, the rookie had a strong presence in the middle, with the left side covered by Dilly Duka.

Harry Shipp showing a strong presence in the Fire attack

Harry Shipp at CAM

Duka covers the left side midfield

Duka slotted in his usual spot on the left flank

The Fire also saw the return of the madness that is Bakary Soumare. I say madness because of his inconsistency and salary versus production at center back. In this game it was apparent the Galaxy tried to pressure and expose Soumare and Lovel Palmer to free up Robbie Keane. However, this strategy had minimal success due to Palmer’s and Soumare’s strong games on the right side of the defense.

Galaxy attack the right side of the Fire's defense

LA went to the Fire’s right more than its left

Soumare has a strong game

Soumare earned his money

Palmer was even stronger

Palmer looked his best

The Fire had plenty of chances, but their lone goal was from the penalty won by Quincy Amarikwa after a bad turnover from the Galaxy. From my seat, it looked like the foul did occur in the penalty area, I think the replay confirms it. The contact was with Juninho’s thigh, not his foot, which was in the penalty area. Also, as Juninho should know, there is very little good that comes from sliding from behind, especially near the penalty area.

On the negative side, one of the most overlooked weaknesses for Chicago continues to be the poor field play and distribution by Sean Johnson. 13 of his 16 passes were long distributions, and only five of them were successful (all three short passes were clean).

Sean Johnson goes for the home run pass too often

Sean Johnson goes for the home run pass too often


  • Squares = Distribution (Green = Successful;  Red = Unsuccessful; Yellow = Key Passes; Blue = Assist)
  • Upright Triangle = Defense (Blue = Interception; Gold = Recovery; Purple = Clearance; Tackles = Green; Yellow = Blocks)
  • Diamond = Goalkeeping (Green = Save; Yellow = Catches; Blue = Punches)

Compare Johnson’s performance to LA netminder Jaime Pineda’s involvement in LA Galaxy’s attack.

Pineda's presence is much more than shot stopping

Pineda: more than a shot stopper

Overall, there are a lot of positives to take away from Sunday’s match. In the end though, the better side left yet another two points on the table, at home. As recent history reminds us, results like these may haunt the Fire come late October.


Follow OTF Soccer on Twitter @OTFSoccer


T.J. Zaremba was BarnBurner #110 and 1998 second-half season ticket holder in Section 8 of pre-mothership Soldier Field. After over a decade on walkabout, with a handful of guest appearances, he returned in 2011 and has been a regular (when his commitment to Uncle Sam allows it) at Toyota Park with his wife and the Hamster. Follow T.J. @TJZaremba

*infographics courtesy of and

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