Fire 2 Real Salt Lake 0 - recap and ratings

In recent past seasons, sure victories against wounded or struggling opponents have been hard to come by for the Chicago Fire. Countless late and sometimes fluky goals combined with subpar performances turned many home contests into a study in frustration.

Perhaps the tables are starting to turn somewhat. The Fire took control of this match in the first half courtesy of a backpass, or unfortunately misdirected break-up from Real Salt Lake defender Sunny, that wound up on the foot of Nemanja Nikolic all by himself behind the defense. Nikolic took advantage of the opportunity and cooly finished by the always difficult to beat Nick Rimando. Just five minutes later, in the 16th, shoddy defending by the middle of the RSL defense allowed Arturo Alvarez to double the lead.

The match wasn't pretty given the 28 degree temperature and some struggles to keep possession by the home side in the second half but the Fire capitalized when they had to and beat a team that they should beat. That's something that they haven't done in recent memory. This team has the ability to finish chances when presented with them and that will make them difficult to compete against, even when the overall play isn't consistent.

The Fire are off to a promising start, with a draw on the road and a win at home to start the season but neither opponent has been very good. That may be in part due to Chicago's play, but there's still room for improvement and a long way to go.

Player ratings

GK Jorge Bava (5.5) - Looked to be more confident and in control of this area in this match but he wasn't really tested at all. RSL had one weakly taken shot on goal, which Bava handled easily.

D Michael Harrington (5) - Didn't do anything specific to hurt the cause this time but 20/35 passing isn't good. The Fire and Harrington got a big break by missing Plata.

D Johan Kappelhof (6.5) - After a s0-s0 opener, Kappelhof was the Fire's best player on the backline. A whopping 18 clearances and 8 tackles speaks volumes in numbers that often go unnoticed.

D Joao Meira (6) - Three blocks and 12 clearances in helping to limit a good player in Movsisyan from many clear looks. Missed on an aerial duel or two but it wasn't costly.

D Brandon Vincent (6) - A good day of work in the back with 9 clearances and 11 recoveries. Passing left something to be desired at times. Had a good look at goal in the 87th after receiving a pass from McCarty but his attempt sailed high of the far corner.

M Dax McCarty (6.5) - After two games it's easy to see why he was so effective for NYRB. Keeps the ball moving while directing traffic on both ends even if the Fire are still missing a piece in the final third. Completed 81% of his passes, while the team finished at 70% overall. Laid it out bluntly in post-game by stating that the Fire's possession just "wan't good enough" in the second half. Delivered the pass that resulted in the first goal and started a sequence that could have led to another in the 50th.

M Juninho (6) - Free kick attempt in the 81st forced Rimando into a good save. Some good moments in combination but not quite as proficient as McCarty in the passing area at 76%. The Fire will continue to be difficult to break down with Juninho and McCarty in the middle. even if they still struggle to maintain possession at times.

M David Accam (5.5) - No shot attempts for Accam in this game. That's unusual, whether they're good looks or not. Decent in combination and had some moments on the counter but not enough to generate danger consistently. Did get back to help defensively on occasion. however.

M Arturo Alvarez (6) - RSL defenders apparently didn't hear that Alvarez will cut left almost exclusively and he exploited that lapse to give the Fire a 2-0 lead in the 16th. Also had a handful of decent sequences outside of the goal scoring play.

F Michael de Leeuw (5.5) - The work rate is there but he's miscast as a "play-maker". The Fire will continue to struggle offensively if the link between midfield and the lead attackers isn't more cohesive. He didn't have nearly enough touches to be effective (10/19 passing).

F Nemanja Nikolic (6) - Scored the first Fire goal when Sunny deflected a pass right to him and allowed him to face Rimando 1v1 in what would have been an offside position if a Fire player had advanced the ball to him. Almost scored a second in the 50th forcing Rimando into a diving save of a ball headed for the lower corner.

M Luis Solignac (5.5) - Replaced Alvarez in the 70th minute. Decent effort with Nikolic in the 76th but the chance was defended well.

M Brandt Bronico (5) - Subbed in for Nikolic in the 85th.

M Djordje Mihailovic (5) - Appeared as a late game substitute for de Leeuw with seconds left in stoppage time.

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Tags: Chicago Fire

Comments

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  • What a difference having better players makes. Juninho and Dax controlled the middle very well yesterday. I'm still not a big fan of Alvarez but he's a decent enough player. I'd love to see a Polster, McCarty, Juninho midfield with Polster playing as a defensive mid. It would do wonders for our possession and would allow Dax and Juninho to have more creative freedom. I thought the team played well and looked in control for most of the match. I left feeling optimistic about the season for sure. 4 points through 2 games seems like something we haven't done ina while.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    Agreed. Anyone know when Polster is expected back?

  • Solid play for the most part across the team. That Bronico kid impressed me with his speed and control at the end. Nice change of pace.

  • Cautiously optimistic. Juninho and Dax bring a type of professionalism not seen in Toyota Park in a long time. Nice to see Niko open up his Fire account.

  • Undefeated in two games. So far so good.

    I was concerned about Nikolic's offsides against CLB, but outside of his goal - where he was in an offsides position had deLeeuw made the pass - he was not called off once yesterday. Of course the Fire didn't have much offense in the second from what I saw in the condensed highlights, so we'll see.

    It's good that we could handle RSL, especially at home. But they have to continue picking up points through the end of April with opponents who have a lot of questions marks of their own.

  • I have been pleased with the defense thus far, despite having to settle for Harrington at RB. After last year's near constant ordeal absorbing their opponent's offensive pressure, Kappelhof, Miera & Vincent seem to have grown into a cohesive unit. Playing behind Dax and Juninho has lifted some of the pressure off the backline, contributing to the improved defense.

    Meira has always been fairly solid but Kappelhof and Vincent looked noticeably improved yesterday. Both looked confident and comfortable.

    Still very early but the squad is much improved over last year. Much will now depend on injuries (or, I hope, the lack thereof), how well the offense jells, and what, if any, summer window addition(s) materialize.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    Adding either Dax or Juninho to the midfield would have made the backline steadier - putting both of them in their gives even more protection.

    There's a reason RSL was trying to go down the wings in the 2nd half to cross into the center.

  • In reply to Arklow:

    I sadly have to say, I didn't "Hate" Harrington at RB Saturday. But I think he should have lost .5 point for that Man Bun...

  • Another thing I notice yesterday was Dax, Joao, and Kapplehoff getting heated at each other for about 5 minutes around the 60 minute mark. Dax was visably annoyed with their positioning and he was letting them know. I don't remember seeing another player lay into another player like that since CJ. It was great to see.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I recall seeing that too. Agreed. It's a healthy relationship.

  • Relatively early in the first half Dax really layed into Bava as well when he booted the ball downfield rather than a short pass to himself (as he was wide open and not being marked).

  • In reply to Marlin:

    I noticed that too

  • Great to be able to watch the Fire have a good midfield again. Great atmosphere in section 8 as always. Great to get a win the first game at home.

    I agree that a 3 man midfield of polster, juninho, and mccarty would be fun to see, but imo we dont have the depth to risk playing all 3 of those players at once with goose out. The center of the park is our strength right now. We cant risk losing that if one of those 3 goes down.

  • In reply to AJties:

    Wait, you're saying you would bench a player you otherwise think should start, in order to have depth?? I don't understand this idea at all. If you think it would put the team at a disadvantage to have one of those guys hurt, i.e. not playing, how is that different than benching them? This makes no sense.

  • In reply to manyou07:

    No it's not benching a player. Between the long mls schedule and open cup games, there are plenty of minutes to go around. Mccarty may miss games on international duty too. I just mean that pauno should be smart with his squad selections and rotations to ensure we dont run out of midfielders. Dont treat every game as a must win by always playing the only people on the roster that are competent center midfielders. One of those three goes down, someone gets a red card, we're starting a trialist at midfield.

  • Defense looks solid. Possession numbers were startling. I watched the NYCFC match against D.C. On a small field against a veteran opponent New York was able maintain possession, generate chances, and finish them even when up by 2, 3, or 4 goals. That's what quality looks like.

    And another thing ... now that Campbell is a back up the Harrison for Vincent and Campbell trade loses significant luster. Harrison looks very good.

  • In reply to jlatwell:

    Fire had 61 clearances to RSL's 15.

  • GR, saw your tweet re Basti. Where would he fit in? Do he, Dax, or Juninho have the ability to shift either to a wing or up the field into a more 8/10 role?

  • In reply to Shinny:

    Possibly in a 433?

    Accam-Nikolic-de Leeuw
    BS-McCarty-Juninho

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    But is he a creator? I thought he was more of a D-Mid.

  • I noticed as I'm going through all the post-game material, a shift in perspective from "can we win" to "can we continue winning" (which carries with it an expectation of winning that we haven't had in a loooooooooooooong frickin time.

    Good to see the defense hold solid (enough) and the fantastic coverage and positioning of Dax.

  • I hate how Kappelhof is so underrated in the Mls. The top cbs in the league that we know even if they are past it get more recognition then the developing ones going in their prime which is so annoying. We Fire fans last year could definitely relate to this last year with the development of Campbell

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Kappelhof made MLS.com team of the week along with Dax.

    http://www.mlssoccer.com/post/2017/03/13/2017-team-week-wk-2-atlanta-chicago-represented-after-big-wins

  • Trials have ended for both Chad Barson and Ryan Taylor without a contract offer.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Was this due to lack of ability or lack of resources i.e. were they asking too much financially? For Taylor, was there an issue with an international spot?

  • In reply to Krasov:

    They'll have an open international spot with Goossens on the DL and Dekovic heading to Tulsa but that spot will be used for someone else (probably someone German).
    Perhaps they thought that Taylor's salary combined with having to buy or trade for another spot didn't add up.

  • Another thing I've notice lately is that when I'm watching a Pauno interview/post-game presser, he doesn't seem like he is carrying all the weight for the team like he did last year, ie, some of that got transferred to the players with leadership qualities. I'll take it.

  • Thank you Chicago Trib for showing what a lazy, shitty paper you are. Can't even be bothered to cover the Fire themselves, but they'll copy and paste an Atlanta primer whose only intent is to trash our team ahead of the upcoming Match Up. Its gonna feel good if we snap that annoying Road Winless streak in Atlanta just so we can tell the Trib where to shove it.

  • In reply to edubs:

    [Reminder that we broke the winless streak in Montreal 3-0 last year]

    yw =)

  • In reply to BrianC.:

    Point... But you know what I mean :)

  • Hate to sound like a quisling. But, it was interesting that they put it on the front page. Other than the occasional John Kass column, there is never any opinion material in the paper. And the criticism is all valid. Baby steps.

  • In reply to Doug:

    That article pissed me off a bit. It's OK if you're family calls you a piece of sh--. It's not OK when a stranger calls you a piece of sh--. Even if you are one.

  • In reply to go fire:

    The only issue I had with the article is that it was written from Atlanta's point of view. I would be happy to see a local writer step in and describe the debacle that has been taking place in Bridgeview. I think, like most fans, that the team has improved, but let's be honest this team is not as good as either team in New York or any team on the West Coast (maybe as good as the Quakes), so a scathing article or two in the Trib is OK by me. Just make it a Chicago article where the point is that the writer is heartbroken over the state of the team rather than excited that his new team is not repeating the mistakes of the Fire.

    The stadium in Bridgeview is a great place to see a game. I love my seats and the experience at games. It is a pain in the butt to get to for many (not all). But I can live with that as long as the team is good. I would probably go to more games if the stadium were closer. But that is the least worry for the Fire.

  • The guy to do it would be Steve Rosenbloom and he hates soccer.

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