OTF Roundtable: Chicago Fire Week Seven
Your weekly gut check on the state of the Fire from OTF’s writers and contributors…
Chicago Fire earned its first win this season with three goals against a lackluster RBNY side last Sunday.
Beginning this Sunday however, they must face three of the top four Eastern Conference teams (Houston, Columbus, Montreal) in a thirteen day span. Discuss.
Fire Nation is still buzzing after this weekend’s big result and now the Men in Red are aiming to capitalize on a well-timed momentum shift. With a likely Arne Friedrich return, Chicago has even more reason to head into these next few weeks feeling better about their chances against some of the best sides the Eastern Conference has to offer.
But let’s not get carried away; the top four aren’t necessarily running rampant on the lower table clubs. Although the Dynamo have established a mighty fortress at BBVA Compass Stadium, the Fire have a prime opportunity to beat Houston while Dom Kinnear is still working out his attacking problems. Problems that the Fire are re-learning how to exploit.
The upcoming opponents won’t beat Chicago on merit, but they’ll surely punish its mistakes. The Men in Red need to take the same route they did Sunday and continue building off of what they know how to do. If they win balls, attack on the break, and keep opponents playing at their tempo, then they’ll have a good chance of walking away with some points and a more desirable place in the standings.
I came into Sunday with mixed feelings. Patrick Nyarko’s absence is scary no matter the situation, but the Fire finally had Logan Pause back in the starting XI. Then I watched a shining performance from almost every player, including Hunter Jumper, who proved he could step up when needed.
I’ll be the first to admit I was wrong about Maicon Santos and his lack of effect – especially if his play continues the way it did on Sunday. Daniel Paladini proved the Fire are far better with him on the field than without.
The down side, unfortunately, is that Chris Rolfe and Sherjill MacDonald still miss anything resembling a spark, which worries me.
This weekend, the Fire take on a Houston team with an unbeaten-at-home streak to lose. Then they host Columbus, where you never know what will happen. After that, an arduous road match in Montreal.
I think the Fire are finally starting to take good form, but I am cautious about the changes that Frank Klopas might make in the coming weeks. If Nyarko and Dilly Duka return, does that put Paladini back on the bench? There’s still a lot of uncertainty.
Since Chicago’s defense (including the goalpost) was able to mostly hold off Thierry Henry and company, I’m staying optimistic they’ll take at least one point home from Houston and another three at home against Columbus. If we see Santos and Paladini in the starting XI and they play like they did this last weekend, we should expect nothing less.
Yes, Chicago recorded a win for the first time this year. But let’s be honest, they’d scored one goal coming in to Sunday’s match. The Fire played a RBNY side that had found the most creative ways to lose that a footballing side possibly could this year. And the Men in Red were playing at home in front of the best crowd they’ve had all season.
My Man of the Match (and quite frankly for the season as a whole) played the game of his career. If it weren’t for Daniel Paladini bossing play, Chicago wouldn’t have taken three points on the day. His goal was pure fucking effort/hustle/grit – whatever subjective sporticism you want to stick on it.
I’d given up on the play when MacDonald ran himself into his 96th cul-de-sac on the young campaign. Somehow, the ball found its way to Hunter Jumper, who delivered an inch-perfect cross – perhaps his only positive contribution of the match, despite some pundits calling his debut a piece to behold. Danny beat a keeper who was trying to catch a ball flat-footed to the point of attack, and Chicago doubled its goal tally on the campaign.
It was no accident that Paladini was instrumental in the Fire’s next two goals, both of which were finished by a Maicon Santos who was playing for the first time as if he realized that the number nine shirt on this team was up for grabs. Beyond the two he finished, Maicon was in good positions repeatedly after his introduction – much unlike the Fire’s DP Sherjill MacDonald, the man ordained as the focal point of its attack throughout the early stages of this season, even though he couldn’t look less interested if he tried.
Paladini has been a bright spot, perhaps the only bright spot in the opening stages of this season. He is easily the first name on the team sheet for me. Some of the “veteran” leaders are letting the side down all over the pitch, but if they get midfield performances like Sunday’s from Paladini even half the time, they’ve got a hell of a chance of winning.
There’s some stiff competition coming up on the schedule, and despite the result at the weekend I don’t expect it turn out well for the Fire. But if my man Danny can boss the show like he did the entire second half on Sunday, I’ll give them a fighting chance.
They’ve dug a hole; my only hope for this season is that Paladini can dig them out.
Well, Chicago is no longer the worst team in MLS, so that’s a step in the right direction. The Men in Red have three really tough games coming up: at Houston, vs. Columbus, and at Montreal.
So, what’d we learn on Sunday against RBNY? We learned the defense is getting sharper and Jumper is a serviceable backup to Segares.
I was really impressed with Berry and Anibaba consistently catching Henry offside late in the game. In sum, RBNY was caught offside ten times in the match, with Henry accounting for three of those in just 29 minutes of play.
We also learned that with some luck the Fire’s offense can put the ball in the back of the net. Here’s my beef though: why’d it take 70+ minutes for them to try anything different? I really feel like Sunday was, once again, Chicago winning despite Klopas.
Taylor Twellman said it best during the broadcast: the Fire simply don’t have a “Plan B.” That’s inexcusable, but so painfully obvious and true. You can’t bank on Daniel Paladini willing the team to victory every week. If Chicago expects to contend in this league, it must know what to do when “Plan A” doesn’t work.
Houston, Columbus, and Montreal aren’t teams that fall asleep late. Right now, I’d be happy with four points from the next four games, with three coming out of the Philly game in early May. The other point will most likely be a draw against Columbus.
I’d say I’m holding out hope for a summer DP signing, but that would realistically only buy the Fire three or four victories until teams lock in on a newly purchased Klopas strategy.
I’m sure we can all say we were happy to see Daniel Paladini score after faltering in the past couple matches. Now, Mr. Paladini and Co. must continue the turnaround against more formidable opponents.
New York looks like a super team on paper, but has been in the same rut as the Fire. While the win was great for team morale, beating the Red Bulls doesn’t mean squat.
The Fire finally scored more than one goal, so that’s certainly a positive. Maicon Santos is streaky, but hopefully with two goals to his name he’ll find a way to keep adding to his account. I also hope Klopas continues to train his midfielders and forwards to work interchangeably; it worked beautifully against New York.
Now though, Chicago heads to BBVA Compass Stadium, a place where no team has won before. The solution to that: play like they did at Kansas City and mix in a bit more counterattacking offensive punch like we saw on Sunday. Shut them out, get a goal or two, and head home.
Columbus will be tough, but it’s at home and anything is possible when the Men in Red square off against the Bumblebees. Montreal has shown it’s no joke. With a strong home crowd behind them, L’Impact looks to be the toughest of the Fire’s next three opponents.
It’s truly hard to tell how the Fire will fare against these top teams, but with key players returning and a change in morale, I can see Chicago grabbing six points from their next three matches.
Chicago Fire’s win on Sunday should bolster some self-confidence among the players and the coaching staff. A team that looked out of ideas, was plagued with injuries, and incurred some downright bad luck has now given Fire Nation a spark.
With an impressive win over a mediocre New York Red Bulls side, hope has returned that things will turn around for Chicago. The Fire will take a few moments to enjoy the victory, but I’m sure they recognize that the next three games are a stern challenge. They will need to play at their best to take points from Eastern Conference rivals Houston, Columbus, and Montreal.
The upcoming away match at Houston is a tall order. The Dynamo have not lost a match at home in a dog’s age. However, I’m slightly optimistic. After all, confidence seems to have returned to Bridgeview. Moreover, the return of Arne Friedrich is certainly favorable for Chicago.
Finally, I must be honest. Until Sunday, I didn’t appreciate the service and leadership that Logan Pause brings to the team. I now see how his absence contributed to the squad’s poor start. He’s won me over.
All that said, and recognizing the tough row to hoe, the Fire must mediate on the old adage,“let’s not look too far ahead and take it one game at a time.”
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