(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)
There are times in a soccer match when scoring a goal can destroy the motivation for an opponent to mount a comeback. The New England Revolution were that team on Saturday shortly after Luis Solignac put the visiting Fire 2:0 up in the 61st minute. It was the kind of authoritative strike that resulted in the Revs looking like they were ready to pack it in. Good thing for them that they didn’t succumb completely, because Matt Lampson’s failure to punch a ball clear led to Antonio Delamea’s response nine minutes later, and a game that was surely in the bag became competitive once again. The Fire managed to close out for a 2:1 win, but there were more than a few heart palpitations along the way.
New England created enough opportunities to get something out of this game, but the shockingly poor quality of their finishing right in front of goal was their undoing. Despite outshooting the Fire by a gaudy 24-8 margin, the shots on target were far more even (5-4 in favor of New England). They might easily have scored four, with a bit of luck. Instead, they spent the 90 minutes chasing the game, because of what the Fire did to build that two-goal lead.
(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)
The Chicago Fire had a superb opportunity to grab three very valuable away points on Sunday night, but failed to find a way to break down a closely packed Orlando City defense and had to settle for a share of the spoils after a 0:0 draw. The home side went down to ten men when Rafael Ramos was sent off in the 26th minute after a clash with Brandon Vincent. Things only got worse for Orlando in the 66th minute, when Antonio Nocerino cleated Matt Polster in the thigh, and was sent to an early shower. The Fire had no answers, however, as Orlando very effectively circled the wagons. The draw allowed the Fire to maintain their hold on second place in the East, with 25 points from 14 matches.
In addition to being a good test against a team who had amassed 19 points from their first eight matches at home, the Fire could also get a look at how their team would perform without Dax McCarty, who had been called in to the US National Team last week. McCarty and Bastian Schweinsteiger are the players who have fueled the Fire’s resurgent form this season. Coach Veljko Paunovic inserted new right back Polster back to his old position at holding midfielder to replace McCarty. The other new right back, Drew Conner, got the call to start for the first time in four games. Paunovic’s other option at holding midfield would have been Juninho, but he was away from the team for family reasons.
(Photo courtesy Associated Press)
The good feelings from the Chicago Fire’s three-game unbeaten streak faded quickly in the aftermath of their 3:1 defeat to Toronto FC on Friday at BMO Field. The home side had displayed rather indifferent form at BMO so far this season, so they definitely came out ready to play on Friday. The Fire won the possession battle 55% to 45%, but it felt as though they spent much of the contest in chase mode. The Fire now have eleven points from their seven matches and find themselves entrenched in a crowded Eastern Conference table.
The Fire were also on the wrong side of some poor refereeing from veteran arbiter Silviu Petrescu, who missed a shove by Jozy Altidore on goalkeeper Jorge Bava in the run-up to Toronto’s first goal. Then, in the second half, a Justin Morrow handball was adjudged to have occurred outside the penalty area, but the replay showed that Morrow was entirely inside the box when he handled the ball. In MLS, the margins between many teams are very thin. With points on the road so hard to come by, such fundamental errors can be game-changers.
Making predictions is hard. And it becomes even harder when the information you are working with is, well… noisy. In Nate Silver’s book, “The Signal and the Noise: Why So Many Predictions Fail – But Some Don’t,” he connects our ineptability to make accurate predictions (humans, not Fire fans) as an evolutionary problem identifying the truth from nonsense.
In a line that feels very Chicago Fire-y, Silver says, “Some stone-age strengths have become information-age weaknesses.” Let’s replace “stone-age,” with “MLS 1.0,” pause for a moment, and then move on.
It’s been a really noisy four weeks: An opening draw against a Columbus team that might be awful, a shrug-then-bunker opening day against half an RSL side, then a dizzying loss to Atlanta that gave us about eight minutes of actual soccer to work with. Bad soccer.
The Chicago Fire won’t win awards for stylish soccer after their first two matches of the 2017 campaign, but there are plenty of indications that they are on the right path. Their 2:0 win on Saturday over Real Salt Lake at Toyota Park was built on pragmatism, hard work, and taking advantage of opportunity.
On the day, RSL won just about every statistical battle, generating more shots, generating more corner kicks, and coming out on top in the possession battle. All of their possession amounted to precious little, as only one of their twelve shots was on target. Their mostly toothless attack was missing that final decisivetouch and it makes one wonder whether they jettisoned Javier Morales too soon.
Both the Chicago Fire and Columbus Crew come into 2017 looking to turn a page and forget about their respective dismal 2016 campaigns. They squared off on Saturday at MAPFRE Stadium in the season opener on a chilly afternoon and battled to a 1:1 draw. Based on the soccer on display it’s unlikely that either side learned much about whether 2017 will bring more joy than 2016 did, but both teams have a lot of work ahead if they want to be competitive. The Crew controlled play in the first half, while the Fire were the better team in the second. Given the sparse number of shots that found the target the 1:1 result can be considered a fair one.
There was a point, eons ago, when OTF covered on-field soccer events in addition to domestic soccer culture. …This is one of those posts.
Witnessed on the field last night was the kind of grit, resiliency, and determination that Fire Supporters had been hoping to see the whole season but rarely had. Even if the game had ended in a draw (which Eric Gherig made sure did not happen) the experience was pure pleasure.