(Photo courtesy Chicago Fire)
The Chicago Fire jumped out to a 2:0 lead on the Columbus Crew on Tuesday in their US Open Cup encounter, and it was enough to propel the Fire to the tournament’s quarterfinal stage. David Accam paced the Fire with a pair of goals and the Fire bunkered for the last half hour to hang on to a 2:1 victory. They will face the winner of Orlando City v Ft Lauderdale Strikers on July 20.
Tactically, the Fire played two completely different games against Columbus. They started out with what, on paper, was an empty-bucket 4-4-2. In reality, the midfield quartet of Razvan Cocis, Michael Stephens, Nick LaBrocca and John Goosens aligned themselves to plug the middle of the field, while Brandon Vincent and Rodrigo Ramos provided the width from their fullback positions. Goosens was the most active as an attacker among the midfielders. Cocis played deep to provide cover, while Stephens and LaBrocca were the harriers doing the running up and down the field.
(Photo courtesy csnphilly.com)
Following their 4:3 defeat to New York City FC in the 2016 home opener, the Fire looked completely clueless on defense. Add in a dose of bad luck, and you had a recipe for a horror show. Coach Veljko Paunovic promised improvements and they came almost immediately, with the Fire conceding just 12 goals in their next 12 matches. On Wednesday, all of that solid defensive work became undone, as the Philadelphia Union turned an early 1:0 deficit into a commanding 4:1 lead in the second half. The Fire showed some fight to pull to within 4:3, but the defensive errors were simply too numerous to overcome. The Fire extended their league record for consecutive road games without a win to 32 and have accumulated just 11 points from 14 matches.
It was a game for pulling your hair out as the mistakes piled up. The Fire spent much of the first half backed up in their own penalty area and allowed the Union free reign in the final third of the field. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson must have been asking himself whether this was shooting practice or the actual game. As the Fire huddled themselves like frightened goldfish, the Union cranked out shots from all over the place.
(Photo courtesy David Zalubowski – AP)
After the Chicago’s Fire’s woeful performance versus the Colorado Rapids at Dick’s Sporting Good Park on Saturday, it was quite clear that July 9 cannot arrive fast enough. That is the first match for which new signing Michael de Leeuw will be eligible, and his goalscoring prowess is sorely needed to spark what has been primarily a moribund attack for the last-place Fire. The Rapids squeezed past Chicago 2:1 in a match that was not in any way memorable by what either side contributed to it.
Once again, the MLS schedule makers continue to baffle us. The Fire came back after the Copa America break to play a US Open Cup match last Wednesday, traveled to Denver for a match on Saturday, and will go to Philadelphia on Wednesday. And where will the Fire be this coming weekend? In the comfort of their homes, presumably, as MLS have given the Fire yet another bye week.