The Chicago Fire extended their unbeaten run to three matches on the heels of a dominant 3:0 victory over the New England Revolution at Toyota Park on Saturday. The Fire treated the Revs the way a dog treats a fire hydrant, and made them like it. Nemanja Nikolic scored twice to complement Bastian Schweinsteiger’s opener, as the Fire climbed to third place in the MLS Eastern Conference.
Posts by George Gorecki
Following their 1:1 draw in Columbus in the season opener, the Chicago Fire came out intent to improve on that outcome in the second match of the 2017 series at Toyota Park on Saturday. The Fire blazed out of the gate and cashed in with a well taken strike from sniper Nemanja Nikolic. That lone goal proved to be enough, as an organized Fire defense thwarted the Crew at every turn. Poor marksmanship by the visitors certainly made the job easier for the Fire. The victory gives the Fire eight points from five matches and they trail first-place Columbus by two points; the Crew, however, have played one more game.
With central midfielder Juninho suspended, coach Veljko Paunovic shook up his formation into a 3-4-3. Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira and Jonathan Campbell started in front of goalie Jorge Bava. Michael Harrington and Brandon Vincent morphed from their normal fullback roles into wingbacks, while Bastian Schweinsteiger and Dax McCarty patrolled the middle. Michael de Leeuw and David Accam flanked Nikolic up front. The switch in formation gave Campbell another opportunity to show that he belongs in the eleven, and it forced Arturo Alvarez into a seat on the bench.
(Photo courtesy Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune)
Bastian Schweinsteiger’s debut for the Chicago Fire on Saturday hardly could have gone better had it been scripted. He scored to put his team on top and was the midfield general that the Fire so desperately need him to be. Unfortunately, a Designated Player can only do so much on his own; the Fire were plagued by lackluster finishing and some unforgivable defending and had to settle for a share of the points with the Montreal Impact in a 2:2 draw.
Schweinsteiger, after just three days of training, seemed to fit comfortably into the Fire’s midfield. He could be found at either end of the field and almost everywhere in between, making himself the focal point of the Fire’s attack. He was everywhere that he needed to be and basically took the wheel and started driving the car. The message he seemed to be imparting was, “Follow me, boys, let’s go score some goals.” Although the Fire found the back of the net just twice on Saturday, one can imagine that the scoring chances will be piling up once the new guy gets in sync with the rest of his teammates.
Last week, the Chicago Fire completed the long-awaited deal to bring German international icon Bastian Schweinsteiger to MLS. Schweinsteiger signed for the 2017 season with a mutual option for 2018. His salary for this season was reported to be $4.5 million, making him the highest-paid player in club history. The midfielder represents the first high-profile player to join the Fire since Cuauhtemoc Blanco in 2007.
It didn’t take long for the naysayers to offer their criticism of Schweinsteiger’s arrival: he’s too old, he’s too injury-prone, he’s a bad fit in a crowded midfield. Typical of the negative reaction was this piece written by Nate Scott at Fox Sports. Is such a reaction valid? Can a team who has “won” the Wooden Spoon two years running really turn their back on a player like Bastian Schweinsteiger?
When Chicago Fire Equipment Manager Brian Sauer packed up the gear for the road trip to Atlanta, he likely did not put life preservers on the list of things to bring. Too bad, because the Fire looked like castaways floating at sea for much of the 4:0 hammering administered by the home team. The Fire were beaten soundly in every phase of the game. Clearly, Atlanta is not your typical MLS expansion team.
The match blew up in the Fire’s faces within the first quarter hour. Brandon Vincent’s unfortunate own goal in the fourth minute gave Atlanta a huge emotional boost and the unwarranted dismissal of Johan Kappelhof in the eleventh minute threw Veljko Paunovic’s lineup into chaos. No one can say for sure how the Fire might have played at even strength, but the ferocity and relentlessness with which Atlanta attacked the Fire was draining and debilitating. Continue reading
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.