Fire Deliver on Pauno’s Promise

2016-10-16-chi-v-ne

(Photo courtesy of mlssoccer.com)

Chicago Fire coach Veljko Paunovic was adamant that his team reward the home fans with a victory in the team’s final home game on Sunday, and his players did not disappoint, knocking off the New England Revolution 2:1. The Fire played simple and fluid football and were not far away from finding the back of the net on several occasions. The victory also reversed an ugly trend of dropping points when playing from a winning position. After taking an early lead, the Fire gave away a poor equalizer, but shook off that setback by delivering a winner ten minutes from the end.

With the Fire resigned long ago that they would not be playing playoff soccer, fans and media alike have wondered why Paunovic would not allocate some playing time for younger players who have not featured much this season. Paunovic stuck to his plan and chose not to hand out minutes like they were a Cracker Jack prize.

Continue reading

Two Thoughts On Fire v Crew

2016-10-13-chi-v-clb

(Photo courtesy of chicago-fire.com)

The Fire fought back from an early deficit, took the lead, but ultimately failed to hang on, and they shared the points with Columbus on Thursday at Toyota Park. Here are two quick thoughts about the match.

Pauno ain’t playing the kids
Speculation has been raised in the media on whether Veljko Paunovic would provide playing opportunities to his younger, less experienced players once the Fire were officially eliminated from the playoffs. The Fire’s lineups in recent matches have shown no indication of a youth movement. Paunovic wants to win games, regardless of the circumstances, and he’s putting his first-choice players out there. Whether his approach is the best one is ripe source for debate.

Continue reading

Basement Door About to Close on Fire

2016-10-01-clb-v-chi

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Fire ended their three-game swing away from Toyota Park on Saturday in desultory fashion, a 3:0 defeat to the Columbus Crew in a match that felt as though the deficit was much bigger. Last place in the Eastern Conference is almost assured, as the Fire trail both Columbus and Orlando by eight points with three games left on the schedule.

The Fire keep looking for improvements, but the cupboard is looking pretty barren these days. The Fire looked impotent in two of the three matches and were outpossessed 71%-29% in the first half of the Seattle match. The Fire dumped their coaching staff and most of their roster after their awful showing in 2015. What remedies can they possibly create at this point?

Continue reading

Fire No Strangers to Cellar

2013-09-28-sea-v-chi

(Photo courtesy soundersfc.com)

 

Right around the time the Chicago Fire had racked up 3:0 victories over Montreal and Philadelphia, coach Veljko Paunovic declared that his team had turned a corner, and that observers would be surprised by the Fire’s performances going forward. With just one point in their last four matches, there is nothing surprising nor promising about the Fire. Wednesday’s 1:0 loss at Seattle merely confirmed how far this team still has to go before they can be consistently competitive. Once something breaks down, very little seems to go right.

Paunovic put out what is likely his strongest 11 versus Seattle. Brandon Vincent and Jonathan Campbell returned to the starting lineup, allowing Johan Kappelhof to slide over to right back, a position from which he can make a maximum contribution. An improvement on the defensive side was essential for the Fire, who looked ragged, disheveled and disorganized against New York. Restoring a stable back four was a key element towards improvement. Seattle dominated possession and did create a handful of nervous moments for the Fire, but the back four held together reasonably well. Goalkeeper Sean Johnson was a key performer in this effort. He generally controlled his box with authority and registered several important saves.

Continue reading

NYC Leave Fire Defense In Tatters

2016-09-23-nyc-v-chi

(Photo courtesy nycfc.com)

It took only a New York minute for NYCFC to take total control over the Chicago Fire in Friday’s match at Yankee Stadium. In those brief seconds, a scoreless match became 2:0 for NYC, and the two punches to the gut left the Fire on the canvas. They spent the remainder of the match searching for answers and wound up finding few, leaving New York 4:1 losers. For anyone who watched this match with eyes open, it was evident that the final score very much flattered the Fire.

Sure, the Fire had a spell of positive soccer in the latter part of the first half, and yes, Luis Solignac’s balletic header to bring the Fire to within 2:1 might have given the most dreamy-eyed optimists a sliver of hope. But NYC had been plowing through the Fire defense right from the jump, and only some poor shooting and several important Sean Johnson interventions prevented the score from reaching epically embarrassing proportions.

Continue reading

This Song Is Too Familiar

2016-09-16-chi-v-dc

(Photo courtesy Mike Di Novo USA Today Sports)

The Chicago Fire thought that they had done enough to earn victory over DC United on Friday after having built a solid 2:1 lead in the first half. They were not successful in finding that crucial third goal to provide some cushion, and DC scratched out an equalizer in the third minute of second-half stoppage time. The Fire ended their three-game stretch of home matches with a disappointing total of four points, as they continue to languish in the depths of the Eastern Conference table.

The Fire proved once again how sensitive their fortunes are when they give away goals cheaply. DC’s first goal was just such a scenario and it forced the Fire to make an uphill climb that seems to be part of the script every week. As it often happens, the ending of the story is not a happy one.

Continue reading

3 Things About the Fire’s Loss to TFC

2016-09-10-chi-v-tfc

(Photo courtesy chicago-fire.com)

The Chicago Fire went down 2:1 to Toronto FC last Saturday in disappointing fashion. Here are three thoughts about how the game went and what could have gone differently for the Fire.
The Fire continue to battle

Yes, the Fire are still mired in the depths of the Eastern Conference standings. Yes, the people in the Fire locker room are probably the only ones who don’t think that playoff talk is silly. But this team continues to bring the fight every week.The only thing that is a realistic motivator for the players at this point is that they are auditioning for jobs on the 2017 roster. The players seem to be buying into coach Veljko Paunovic’s undying optimism concerning the team’s fortunes.

Continue reading