(Photo courtesy Chicago Fire Soccer Club)
The Chicago Fire reached the one-third point of the 2016 season on Saturday and probably played their best soccer so far in a taut 1:1 draw with the Portland Timbers at Toyota Park. The goals were separated by just a couple of minutes of action in the first half, but the Fire seemed to be the more hungry of the two sides to grab all three points. They are still missing consistency in the finishing third, but they are at least creating chances to finish, a quality that was frequently missing in these first 12 matches.
The Fire played a balanced game at both ends of the field and really were a good bet to bring home a victory. Portland’s lone tally was the result of a poor defensive error, and the Fire had several good scoring situations of their own. They were either rebuffed by some glittering goalkeeping from Jake Gleeson, or were let down by strange decisions on passing and shooting in front of goal.
(Photo courtesy Sean King for Chicago Fire Confidential)
In a significant turnabout, the Chicago Fire won their second match of the season at Toyota Park on Saturday, riding an early goal by Arturo Alvarez on the way to a tidy 1:0 win. Only one Fire shot found the back of the net, but the team looked more lively and creative than they have in previous matches. They still have quite a bit of work to do to reach respectability, yet can retain some level of optimism in an Eastern Conference that lacks a dominant team at the moment.
The soccer on display on Saturday finally showed some intelligence against a moribund Houston side that barely looked interested for long stretches. The Dynamo have been running hot and cold in the early season, and Saturday was far from their best effort. Some of the misery of the visitors might have been self-inflicted; who elects to wear black uniforms on a hot afternoon?
The Fire extended their winless streak to six matches on Wednesday when they dropped a narrow 1:0 decision to the New York Red Bulls in Harrison, NJ. The Fire relied on strong defending and a counterattacking mindset. They were very good on the defensive side, but mostly toothless on the attacking side. The defeat drops the Fire to 1-4-5 on the season and raises serious questions about whether a turnaround in their fortunes can be engineered in short order. If this dismal quality of play cannot be reversed quickly, the Fire may have to forget about any hope of reaching the playoffs by the time July rolls around.
The possession style of play that was promised in the pre-season was nowhere to be found on Wednesday, as the Fire gameplan was to counter, counter, and then counter some more. The most that they got out of that tactic was the creation of some half chances and David Accam drawing some fouls. A counterattacking style can prove effective if the target players up front can consistently get shots on goal. We saw an abundance of shots on goal versus New York City FC in the opener, but have seen very few since.
The Chicago Fire suffered the effects of having to play two away matches within three days when they fell 2:0 to the New England Revolution on Saturday. The pitiful Fire attack managed zero shots on target over the 90 minutes and certainly looked the part of the last-place team in MLS’s Eastern Conference.
The logic used by the people in charge of setting up schedules at MLS headquarters is baffling. The Fire had bye weeks two of the last three weekends and are now in the middle of a stretch of four matches in 11 days, three of which are played on the road. Given that MLS teams normally take commercial flights when traveling, the toll that extended road trips exert is not insignificant. (MLS teams are allowed to schedule, at their discretion, up to four charter flights per season.) History has shown that teams perform poorly in the second game of a Wednesday-Saturday schedule when they have to cross three time zones to play the second game.
(Photo courtesy Associated Press)
When the Vancouver Whitecaps added striker Blas Perez to their roster in the offseason, coach Carl Robinson’s purpose was to improve his roster’s depth. On Wednesday, Perez came off the bench early to replace striker Masato Kudo, who suffered a concussion after a violent collision with Fire goalkeeper Matt Lampson. Perez then proceeded to bury two well-taken goals, the second coming in the 89th minute, to lead the host Whitecaps to a 2:1 victory. The defeat was the Fire’s 28th consecutive road match without a win, a league record.
The outcome was a bitter blow for the Fire, who shook off a disjointed first-half performance to turn the tables on the Whitecaps after the break. For long stretches, the Fire controlled the tempo and hinted that they might be able to snatch all three points, rather than just one. In the end, they got none, and their fate was tied directly to a shortcoming that has plagued the squad all season: lack of quality finishing. Outside of a three-goal outburst on opening day, the Fire have not scored more than one goal in any other of their seven matches since.
(Image courtesy Fox Sports)
The Chicago Fire and DC United endured the wind and rain at Toyota Park on Saturday, as the teams tried to play coherent soccer in conditions better suited for penguins. The sides shared the spoils in a 1:1 draw on goals from Jonathan Campbell and Patrick Nyarko. The draw leaves the Fire at 1-4-2, and their meager total of seven points is good for last place in the Eastern Conference. If any good news can be taken away from that, then it’s the fact that the Fire are only four points back of third-place Toronto FC.
A pelting rain and winds exceeding 20 mph will always put a soccer team in survival mode. Pretty passing combinations are set aside for the pragmatic reality that the outcome of such a match can be affected by one goal. Once the Fire took the lead on Campbell’s nifty tuck-in on 41 minutes, it was essential to keep the visitors at zero. The Fire failed on that count and the two points lost may well be valuable down the road.