Fire 0 Crew SC 0 - recap and ratings

The Fire accomplished what they wanted to do defensively against the Columbus Crew. The 3-5-2 formation, which essentially places five defenders on the field was able to deny the Crew’s wide players the time and space needed to serve balls into Kei Kamara and limit Federico Higuain’s influence in the middle of the pitch. That part of the plan worked perfectly. Unfortunately for Chicago, David Accam’s absence meant that the home team had little to offer going forward.

The Fire managed just one shot on target from four meager attempts on goal. There is clearly creative ability lacking without Accam on the field, but that’s a question for another day.

In the meantime, the defensive efforts have improved steadily since the opening match against New York City FC and this was the team’s best as a unit in three games. “We have to keep our clean sheet, that’s what we wanted,” said Veljko Paunovic after the match. “I’m very happy with what the team did today defensively. Obviously, we always want to win but it was more difficult today but also we had a great opponent.”

Last season’s Eastern Conference Finalists came into the match at 0-2-0 and have yet to hit their stride. It would have been a perfect time to take advantage of a home match against a rival, but the Fire aren’t there yet. Particularly without Accam, the Fire seemed content to take the point and look forward to the next match against the Philadelphia Union at Toyota Park on April 2.

Player ratings

GK Matt Lampson (6) – Credited with four saves but only Ethan Finlay’s shot from distance in the 69th was any real challenge. Did well to work for the clean sheet in his third consecutive start of the season but much of the credit goes to the five defenders and midfield that worked to keep the Crew from many clean looks. Distribution was spotty.

D Joao Meira (5.5) – A few shaky moments but the team delivered as a unit.

D Jonathan Campbell (6) – Solid play from the rookie in the middle of the back line. Didn’t find himself isolated against Kamara as the Fire dropped plenty of help into the penalty area.

D Johan Kappelhof (6) – Other than a dangerous back pass in the 64th, Kappelhof continues all around solid play whether from center or the right side of defense.

D/M Rodrigo Ramos (6) – The Fire’s outside defenders did well to limit the effectiveness of Meram and Finlay. Continues to show promise but passing at 64% must improve.

M Arturo Alvarez (5.5) – Did well on help defense and crowding Crew attackers but there wasn’t much going forward to help the strikers. Corners and set pieces were below par.

M Matt Polster (6) – High quality effort from Polster, who wore the armband again. While the Fire’s team passing was at 76%, he was at 82% in a team high 93 attempts. Under control and committed to the game plan throughout. See his post game comments here.

M John Goossens (5.5) – Like Alvarez, he helped limit the Columbus wide game but wasn’t a factor in the attacking half. Left the match at half time with a hamstring issue.

D/M – Brandon Vincent (6) – Still gets caught by runners in behind on occasion but also contributed to limiting Finlay’s touches in dangerous spots.

F Kennedy Igboananike (5) – Put in the effort but his combination with Gilberto wasn’t effective. Only 18 touches through 60 minutes won’t get it done.

F Gilberto (5) – Registered the Fire’s lone shot on goal. Not much he could do without the ball and no creative force behind him. He and Igboananike did provide support defense on set pieces as the Fire packed the penalty area.

M Michael Stephens (5.5) – Replaced Goossens at half time. Some decent work in combination play but not much in the attacking third. A common theme in this one.

M/F Nick LaBrocca (5) – In a blatant display of the Fire’s lack of depth at the forward position, he replaced Igboananike in the 60th minute and provided little. One decent pass attempt to Ramos in the 82nd was about it.

M Joey Calistri (5) – Subbed in for Alvarez in the 90th minute as both sides played for the point.

Filed under: 2016 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • Guillermo, you are more generous with the ratings than I. Lawson played well but that was about it for me. To be fair the weather combined with the wind may have had an impact because Columbus didn't look much better. A couple thoughts. The pitch looked great but it had been over-watered. Someone could have blown a knee. We can't get the ball out of our end when going into the wind. This is the kind of thing you hear at high school games. We have trouble bringing the ball up the pitch on the right side. We are horrible in the air. Our corners and free kicks are poor and non-threatening. I recall one free kick in the last ten minutes that didn't go higher than a yard off the ground. We still can't string passes together while moving forward. I don't recall seeing so many players whose default is to pass the ball away from goal. It's easy to get behind our left side defense. Frankly, I thought the chances of us scoring an own goal were better than us scoring a goal against Columbus. I'd like to look at the positive but I just didn't see much. It's early , they are young, new coach, lots of new players, etc. It's all probably true but it's an old story that wears thin.

  • In reply to billj:

    It was ugly and there was little going yeah, maybe the numbers are a little generous but they did execute the game plan that they came in with. They wanted to limit Coumbus, and they did so at the expense of any threat going forward...mostly due to Accam not being available. I can agree there was way too much satisfaction with a 0-0 draw at home but again the players in the field accomplished what was asked if them defensively for the most part.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Let me repeat to myself Guillermo, WE ARE AT HOME, WE ARE THE HOME TEAM. Honestly, I'd rather lose and play well than play for ties. God knows we've had our share of those over the past three years.
    The over-exuberance on display Saturday at the defensive play was very disheartening and maybe points to the shortsightedness and low ambitions of the Team in putting all their eggs (money) in one proverbial basket, i.e., on defense, this year and maybe to the detriment of offensive help. And before anyone says it, yes, I know it was just one game very early in the season, but every game counts, right? And the impotence of the offense due to its reliance on Accam punt-and-chase strategy is equally disheartening yet also exciting because its always a treat to see what King David can do.
    If its a rebuilding year just tell me, I can take it, however I sense that given the low number, sorry "alleged" low number, of season ticket holders, they're afraid to admit to it, lest it affect attendance figures. Help is on the way, however, right? At least that's what I hear. Yet I fear that help will not come until the summer transfer window and then we will hear the same company line we're hearing now, "Defense need time to gel" only then it will be " needs time to......"
    I'd ask you to talk me off the ledge but its a little too late, I've already jumped (put off STH until further notice, and I'm hanging on by the scarf I was supposed to eat four years ago when "We'd spend Keane money for right DP". For the first time in 12 yrs, I will not be in my usual seats and while I was at the first game and will probably see a select few games, I am glad I missed Saturday's display. I refuse to financially support my team until it shows some ambition and commitment to improving the whole team and not just parts at a time, but don't let Don know lest I be labeled an "Enemy of the Fire". I guess only time will heal the trust issues I have with my team but I doubt I am alone in this.

  • In reply to FireRog:

    I'm pretty sure Pauno's constant iteration of "patience, we are building the defense and then working through the midfield to the attack" is the exact same thing as saying this is a rebuilding year. I'm pretty sure they have been pretty honest and straight forward about it. As a fan and a STH myself its frustrating that we are in what feels like year 7 of our rebuilding year, as each new coach says that he's rebuilding the team. From the articles I remember reading before the season started, I think the estimation was that it would take 3 years for this to reach its full potential. So strap in, because this season was probably lost before it started and next season probably won't be much better.

  • Ratings seem high for most, especially Lampson. The fire looked ok, not great but not horrible either. The defense looks like it's doing better but the team as a whole doesn't seem to have figured each other out yet. Especially Lampson and the back line. There were a number of times where Lampson came out of goal to punch the ball away and never even came close to the ball. Not to mention he has no idea how to close down an attacker 1v1.

    Three games in and I'm not seeing anything in Lampson that deserves the starting spot over SJ. If his distribution out of the back is actually better then SJ, then that's the only aspect of his game that's better. If Pauno decides to double down on lampson, then we will have plenty more games where we get 4 goals scored on us.

  • In reply to edubs:

    He's made his bed with Lampson. We are stuck with him. Sean must be playing the ball directly out of bounds EVERY time he tries to make a pass if Lampson is on the field because of his distribution. Polster and Vincent need to be careful now. You leave for national team duty and you might not play again. I mean we do have Labrocca just waiting to take Polster's spot.

  • I guess its a case of be careful what you wish for. I asked for them to keep a clean sheet for once. I didnt expect them to lineup with 5 defenders and 2 defensive midfielders so that they could. Its sad that a team, three games in, has to play a 5-2-1-2 at home so they cannot get scored on. There was absolutely nothing going forward. No width at all. The gaps between the defense, midfield, and front line is going to lose us a lot of matches this year. You cant have 3 players press and 7 players sit back. I sat there in the freezing cold and watched a Yallop performance with new players. When you look at the two teams, from an outsider of Columbus, it looked like they had all 11 starters back this year. We had 3 players on the field from last season. I know we needed the change but at least TRY to entertain. I'd rather lose because we were trying to do something than draw because we had over half of the players on the field that had zero desire to go forward. That is not a change for the better. If one player, Accam, is out we look like we have no idea what to do. That sucks for us because the guy is injury prone and is very hard to depend on.

    Also, I thought Lampson was supposed to be good with his feet? The guy cant make a pass on the ground or in the air. He is no better than Sean with the ball at his feet and Sean is a better shot stopper. It's sad that Sean Johnson has been put to the bench because of a mediocre, at best, goal keeper.

    What the hell is our team going to look like without Accam, Polster, and Vincent next week?

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    We have next week off. Fortunately.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    To make up for offensive shortcomings, Pauno is going to pull another tactical rabbit out of his hat and field a 5-0-5 formation.

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    The lack of roster depth was quite evident, what happens when Accam, Polster and Vincent are gone a weeks for national team duty? Add in the "recovery" from travel and the always potential for injury to the 3, where is the talent to "step in" without missing a beat? Why not bring in more "trialist" so we can kick the tires on what's out worked with Alvarez and Goosens?

  • In reply to Bob Bilocerkowycz:

    There aren't many trialists out there right now who would provide much of anything.

  • So it kind of sucks that the team's offense is so heavily reliant on Accam. One shot on goal and 42% possession at home? That is definitely not playoff caliber numbers.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Makes sense....since this is not a playoff roster at the moment.

  • The line up , style of play and actual game reminded me of some provincial team playing away to a big club in an European league. Problem is Chicago isn't Verona , Norwich or Mainz and it was a home game. When nick la brocca is your go to offensive sub you have problems. Alex , shipp ,nyarko , Magee and dare I say it some., Quincy time, would all be an improvement to this offense.

  • We were out shot 12 - 4 at home. The team has absolutely no roster depth. Again, why did we get rid of Harry Ship? I realize that player additions are coming. But, tickets are being sold to fans now to watch a total sub optimal team. All we have is hope that the future players that we sign will completely change the team. Isn't that the hope for every team? We are already three games into the current season. These early games count just as much as games played later in the season. Why is there not more recognition that things are not well with the Chicago Fire. Has there ever been a Fire home game when we were out shot by a ratio of 3 to 1? I can't remember one. Things are not good.

  • I think to hope for more than what has been shown up to this point is a bit overly optimistic. Nelson and Pauno talked during offseason about this being a process, and a 3 year plan. This is pretty much what is to be expected with the group they've put together up to this point. It's a group that is still trying to get to know each other, and there are still pieces missing. Tempered expectations should be the m.o. this season.

  • In reply to Jeff Krause:


  • In reply to Jeff Krause:

    I understand lowering my expectations for the season. I fully understand that they are not very good and will be working through things this season. If we could fast forward to this time next year, I think everyone would agree to that. What I will not accept is a team that plays with 7 defenders for 90 minutes at home. That is what a team will do if they are trying to earn points right now. This season, results dont matter. Developing an identity and figuring out who can play and who cannot is what matters. We didnt learn anything from this game. Nobody was entertained and nothing positive came from the game. We looked like a scared team that doesnt know what to do when 1 of their injury-prone players is unavailable. That is unacceptable. Pauno prided himself on being adaptive to situations. Is this him showing that he can have his team drop deep and defend for 90 minutes? If so, I'll pass. I would much rather lose because we came and tried to win the game instead of hoping to earn a point. We had 2 DP's on the field on Saturday and they didnt do a single thing.

  • Accam has reportedly pulled out of appearing for Ghana in the Afcon qualifiers vs Mozambique. Wonder what this means about the severity of his injury and his timeline for returning to the Fire lineup?

  • In reply to Modibo:

    Accam won't be available for Ghana. The Fire expect he'll be okay for the Philadelphia game.

  • Guys I am so glad that Nelson was honest about not expecting anything for at least three years. That statement is hard to understand when you think of two completely new teams in Orlando and Nyfc going for the championship but this is the fire under Hauptman. It will take sometime for Nelson and Pauno to realize that the ownership is the problem.i hope the two young guys realize the truth about the fire under Hauptman and move on like other good coaches and GMs have done. I cancelled my 20 year season tickets until Hauptman has sold the team and made his windfall on the backs of those midwest fans.

  • I thought I saw a comment somewhere (from Pauno? - not sure) suggesting he is expected to be ready to go for the April 2 match against the Union. Still, one never knows for sure with an injury.

  • Not a great game to bring someone to who has never watched an MLS game before, cold and absolutely no offense...I apologized to the group I brought multiple times, at least there were $2 beers

  • In reply to AJties:

    Hauptman should be apologizing for you.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    It's funny you say that because all I could think was "cash them checks Andy" as I walked around the stadium shaking my head feeling like I keep falling for the same trick over and over

  • Two thoughts: the players were on the same page (good) and the page was ugly (bad). Parking the bus is ugly soccer, but unfortunately is one of the few ways to successfully bridge a talent gap.

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    I know you can't really talk much about upcoming signings publicly until they're official but I was wondering if you think the reason we've been held back on one was to wait for CO to get Howard and us to get back up to the first allocation spot? Also do you envision Philly holding de Leeuw's discovery rights will be much of a hindrance for us? Wow this is stuff that should have been worked on months ago...

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    I have no reservations about potential signing discussion once I have information from trusted sources.
    The reason that there haven't been any signings recently is that they haven't finished any deals. They were close on Enoch Adu a few weeks ago and that fell through. They were close on another center mid last week, Khaly Thian, and that may get done soon.
    The discussions with de Leeuw have continued into last week but there's nothing done there either. The fact that the Union hold his discovery doesn't appear to be a big issue. The hold up seems to be what Groningen's asking price is. The Colorado signing of Howard also has no impact on Fire negotiations.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Do you think they will actually use that top allocation spot or trade it for more TAM?

  • In reply to penapirata:

    I wouldn't be surprised if they trade it.

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    So can we conclude that the Fire place higher value on signing one of these international midfielders than having the chance to snag a returning USNT player?

    Hypothetical situation. If Alejandro Bedoya wants to play in MLS, the Fire would have first crack at signing him. Would they really prefer one of these international midfielders over Bedoya? Would there be enough allocation money to sign both?

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    In reply to Guillermo Rivera:

    Thanks for the response GR! You're the one who most of us get our news/updates from first and I greatly appreciate your work.

  • In reply to Joe Brancato:

    Thanks for reading Joe!

  • In reply to Guillermo Rivera:


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