Fire 3 Union 0 - recap and ratings

Following last weekend's debacle in DC the Fire showed some pride and put together another very good team performance reminiscent of the win in Montreal that they were looking to build on. Chicago was the better side for most of the night and have moved out of the MLS cellar surpassing Columbus and Houston for that dubious distinction. The Fire moved the ball well when they had to in generating 16 shot attempts and several good chances. Perhaps most impressively, they did so without David Accam who they relied on as almost a sole source of offense early in the season.

The Fire also continue to be a tough team to beat at home. The win moved their unbeaten string at Toyota Park to 12 games across all competitions. The third longest such streak in club history.

Player ratings

GK Sean Johnson (7) - From the outstretched stop of Pontius' shot in the 31st which kept the Fire in the lead to another impressive save on Barnetta's attempt in the 54th, Johnson came up big throughout the match. Credited with 5 saves, he was a key in the clean sheet and was very in control of the penalty area.

D Brandon Vincent (6) - The Fire defense was solid all around. A good run into the box led to chance that was eventually blocked in the 57th.

D Jonathan Campbell (6) - Didn't look tired in this match as Sapong and most of the Philadelphia attackers were held to very few clear looks.

D Joao Meira (7) - He's taken some criticism while playing in midfield but has been serviceable since assuming a starting spot at centerback. Led all players with an impressive 8 clearances.

D Johan Kappelhof (6) - Part of a good team effort on defense. May have shown some fatigue in reaching out to trip Pontius in a dangerous area in the 64th.

M Razvan Cocis (6.5) - The Fire didn't win the possession battle (42-58) but they were more dangerous from plays developed through midfield than the Union were. Cocis was involved in the all important second goal by getting a good ball forward to Solignac for his chance. Led all players with 6 tackles.

M Matt Polster (6.5) - Set up the first goal with a clever pass attempt to de Leeuw in the 22nd that was deflected into the net by Alberg. Good in combination play as he led the Fire with 30 passes completed in 40 attempts. Overall, the Fire were at a respectable 77% completion rate.

M Arturo Alvarez (7) - Possibly his best match of the season. Involved in the build-up leading to the first goal. Involved in chances in the 51st, 64th, and 83rd before and impressive run, step over, and finish sealed the victory in the 90th minute. With Accam missing the Fire needed a spark from the outside mids and he helped provide it.

M John Goossens (6) - Did well to keep the ball moving positively in the "playmaker' spot underneath. Completed 18 of his 23 attempts. Good free kick service set up a chance for Alvarez in the 51st.

M Luis Solignac (6) - His positive play has changed the dynamic of the offense. Didn't score but this shot attempt in the 71st was saved leading to a rebound goal for de Leeuw. Headed shot in the 26th also forced McCarthy into a difficult save. Played on the left in place of Accam providing a different but effective performance.

F Michael de Leeuw (7) - Seems to find himself in the right places in the right times often and that was on display again in this match. Involved in all three Fire goals. The first was cleared away from him for an own goal, he scored the second with a rebound header into an open net, and he set up Alvarez with a pass from midfield on the third. He didn't have a ton of touches (12 of 16) passing) but he has a knack for making the most of what he gets.

D Michael Harrington (6) - Replaced Kappelhof in the 66th. Cleared a dangerous Rosenberry cross away in the 67th.

M Michael Stephens (6) - Subbed in for Goossens in the 73rd. Completed all 10 of his passes.

M Joey Calistri (5) - Came on for Alvarez with one minute left in stoppage time.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire

Comments

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  • I think the naysayers can pack their bags (and Andy Hauptman's too while they've at it!). This is shaping up to be a fun finish to 2016. Enjoy it. We've stuck around long enough that we've earned it!

  • Welcome back Dr. Jekyll.

    I'm trying not to be blinded by the 3-0 scoreline. It seems other teams are able to set up camp around our penalty area for minutes at a time. We just slash in there and get back out. It seemed like every 50-50 header was won by Philly. Also, there were a few nightmare "clearances" from the defense that could have easily been turned into goals. If Matt Lampson is in there, this conversation changes dramatically. Honestly, there were some bright spots, but I think the team still has a lot to work on to be competitive, let alone dominant.

  • In reply to Doug:

    Quite right! I think we've all learned not to take the sucker-punch from one-win enthusiasm. Much work remains to be done, as NR and VP have both been saying. But I think we can argue they are now competitive to some degree. What do you mean by competitive? I think they are now clearly better than some of the other MLS sides. I think they are capable of winning most MLS games now. They'll have good nights and bad nights, but they aren't the "dumpster" Fire anymore. Last week's 6-2 loss to DC United was painful but they still played better than the score reflected. Right now, if we look at the last 5 games, the Fire are 2-1-2.

    I noticed the issues with 50-50 headers and the defensive clearances too. Work remains to be done, certainly. But I can now watch the games with something more than the hope for an entertaining disaster. I like the way there has been steady progress all season and the results have now reached a point where we can watch with some hope. Two 3-0 wins in 5 games! When's the last time we saw that?!? The results of the work done thus far are starting to show.

    Don't drink the Kool Aid just yet but you may now enjoy the show.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    I guess I mean that it seems they get outplayed for long stretches which leaves me tense the whole time. But, I'm cautiously optimistic they can pull a Philly/Colorado and be much more a part of the MLS conversation next year. Several of the new guys look to be contributing and we've seen that having some stability in the coaching carousel can yield results (if the man on the carousel is not Yallop). If the brass can do in January what they've been promising, sunshine will land on Bridgeview again. If not, Accam is gone and Polster will have to be thinking what he needs to do to get his name on the USMNT team sheet. Being on the long-time league anchor can't be part of that plan.

  • YEAH MOMMA WOMMA!!!
    Exceeding glad with the win!
    Might as well run the table now, for what it's worth...
    What...the hell...do we have to lose?!

  • In reply to Heroic Oaf:

    We have 4 road games left. We've shown we're pretty adept at losing those. Boy, a win at Century Link would really go a long way in brightening my mood.

  • I thought last night's win was an anomaly just like N-Rod said about the 6-2 loss.

    Seriously though the Fire looked decent. Maybe they won because Accam wasn't there.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    I wondered that about Accam too.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    I would disagree that this last game was an anomaly akin to the 6 - 2 loss. You could have said that about the Montreal game. But they have been playing with this confidence, getting forward consistently, and scoring goals since the Montreal game. You could have said that the Montreal game was an anomaly before, but I'm starting to see the team gel'ing finally. Unfortunately, short of a miracle run we are out of the playoffs. What I'm hoping for is that the team continues to grow and play like this throughout the rest of the season.

    What I'm more worried about, is we've been down this road before. We get to the end of the season, we finally find the piece we need for the team to click and play well, we barely miss the playoffs, the season ends, and the next year starts out just as bad as the year before.

    The off season will hopefully be pretty telling on whether paunovich has improved the team or not. For now I'm going to enjoy the end of the season as long as we are fielding a decent team again.

  • The Fire played decently well on Saturday. I enjoyed watching the match. I think the biggest problem that we face is consistency. We have zero idea of what team is going to show up. We don't know what type of performance we are going to get from majority of the players too. The only consistent players that we have are Polster, de Leeuw, Johann, and Sean. We have no idea with everyone else. That's why we can go and lose 6-2 one week and then win 3-0 the next. We need to find consistent players that will put in a performance every week. I understand that that is hard to do but that is why we need to be looking for this off season. With that being said, I would love to see that Fire team play every week.

  • I saw this result as part of a general improvement as well. I'm not sure that this was because of the absence of Accam, but in his absence the team now has the offensive cohesion to make up for his explosiveness. Solignac and DeLeeuw are both smart players, smart enough to play well with Accam (particularly Solignac) and with each other. Alvarez has also shown he can play.

    The missed clearances (some of them shocking) and surrendered possession were a bummer, as Klinsi might say. And SJ saved our skin several times - but that's why he's there.

    Unlike wins last year, which seemed like random occurences, the two 3-0 wins and the present five-game record seem at this point like part of a general upward swing. So, yeah, let's hope we don't lose a bunch of good players over the break to international deals, the double expansion draft, lightning strikes, etc., and can add more quality to the roster.

  • I will be honest, the last game totally made me feel great. While the possession percentage was not great, the possession the team had was terrific. Chances were created rather than long balls sent to no one. Passing was better, but more importantly creative passes that were fun to watch were attempted. Solignac is a great hold up forward who can also race forward in attack. Watching this current group blend together is great. I would love to see them reach the playoffs, but I won't be disappointed if they don't. I remember NR saying that successful teams in MLS have a solid core group of players that stay with the term for several years so that the team develops an identity, a unity of play. This team is developing that. This is the first team in a long time that I would not want to make wholesale changes to. There are holes, but that is all they are. We no longer need to see 80% of the players moved out. Instead, it is the opposite. This year has seen ups and downs but the trajectory is positive. Don't get me wrong, AH is still an AH. NR still is not transparent and comes across as a smarty pants. The stadium is great, but its location blows and the parking attendants need to go back to parking lot school so that it doesn't take 20 minutes to drive in to a spot.

    Here is the biggest test for me: Is this team better than last year's team? Absolutely

    Is this team better than the team that started this season? Without a doubt.

    I am happy about the state of the team, but because I see positives does not mean we don't need more.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    "AH is still an AH". I love that.

  • In reply to Krasov:

    Consider the lineups in the April 2nd match vs the September 3 match:

    April 2: Matt Lampson, Rodrigo Ramos, Johan Kappelhof, Jonathan Campbell, Michael Harrington, Arturo Alvarez (John Goossens 62), Matt Polster, Michael Stephens, Kennedy Igboananike, Razvan Cocis © (Nick LaBrocca 87), Gilberto.
    Shots: 10; Shots On-Goal: 2; Saves: 3; Fouls: 16; Corners: 2

    Sept 3: Sean Johnson, Johan Kappelhof (Michael Harrington 66), Jonathan Campbell, Joao Meira, Brandon Vincent, Matt Polster, Razvan Cocis ©, Arturo Alvarez (Joey Calistri 90+2), John Goossens (Michael Stephens 73), Luis Solignac, Michael de Leeuw.
    Shots: 16; Shots On-Goal: 5; Saves: 5; Fouls: 16; Corners: 3; Offsides: 3

    No David Accam in either match, which is interesting in and of itself because you can't point to him as a factor. The defense has been reshuffled, with Ramos and Harrington moving to the bench, Kappelhof moving outside, and Meira coming on. Of course SJ was back from his temporary exile. The biggest changes are in the midfield and frontline - Mikey Stephens moved to the bench, Kennedy and Gilberto gone, and DeLeeuw and Solignac filling in. Arturo Alvarez was still starting, and Goosens started instead of coming in off the bench.

    The game in April was awful, except for the scoreline. The September game showed how far we have advanced with a few changes, IMO - consider the shots and SOG. Who would have thought that AA would have 5 assists and 5 goals at this point in the season? Not me. And I think stats like that are due to improvements in the supporting cast.

  • In reply to Modibo:

    I don't know what it is about solignac, but I feel that from the moment he stepped on the field the team looked completely different. It really surprised me, because from what I had read about him and from the stats he posted in colorado, it seemed like he was an OK player at best. But he really seems to be thriving here, and his presence has opened up the attacking third,. giving De Leuw, Accam, and Alvarez more space to work with. .I've been especially excited to watch Alvarez since Solignac has come. I think his play has greatly improved.

    Maybe that's what Gilberto and Igbo (I still like him though :) ) were missing. They weren't getting into dangerous enough positions to stretch the field. We essentially have the same people doing distribution as when Gilberto and Igbo were here. So its not like we found that Michael Bradley type player to improve that facet of the game. Now that teams have to worry about more then 1 attacker, our midfield has more space to develop the attack, and thus are being more successful.

  • Can someone explain to me what this "playoffs" thing is? I'm not familiar with it.

    On another note, it'll be interesting to see who we have as a starting goalie. (Isn't McClain out on loan in USL?)

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