Fire 1 Crew 0 - recap and ratings

There’s no question that the Fire needed this win at home after starting the season with the same amount of points after four games as last year. After a good first half, there was some retreat in the second while Columbus controlled most of the ball and the chances, but the Fire held on where they likely would not have in years past.

Home wins against conference competition are imperative to playoff hopes, especially with favorable early scheduling about to turn following another match at Toyota Park against New England. The Fire will travel to Los Angeles, New York RB, and Toronto FC after facing the Revolution next weekend.

These were three important early-season points. They needed them….and they got them.

Player ratings

GK Jorge Bava (6) – Save for a few errors in distribution, Bava displayed a much better presence in the box on aerial balls than he has in the first four games of the year. A 70th minute save to deny Hansen from an angle was his best stop of the three made in the game.

D Johan Kappelhof (6) – Did well to team with Meira in limiting looks for Kamara. Also provided help on the right against Meram.

D Joao Meira (6) – There was no standout defender but Chicago picked up a hard earned “team” clean sheet. Had a very good stop in the 82nd to halt a Crew chance from the right side.

D Jonathan Campbell (5.5) – Kamara’s best chance came against Campbell in the 12th but the shot was saved easily by Bava. Replaced in the second half as Paunovic looked to regain possession of the ball.

D/M – Michael Harrington (5) – Harrington chipped in offensively in the first half but did have issues against Meram, fortunately the Fire managed to provide help coverage for him to limit the damage. Paunovic did well to get him assistance and limit opportunities for Columbus to expose him.

M Dax McCarty (7.5) – An impressive 61 out of 76 passing with several chances created outside of the lone goal. 12 defensive recoveries is also an unusually big haul. Provided the assist on the Fire’s goal….McCarty was the biggest reason for the victory in this game. Dominant in the first half.

M Bastian Schweinsteiger (6.5) – Wasn’t as influential offensively as he was in his debut but his presence allowed McCarty free reign to confidently boss midfield in the first half. The Fire struggled to keep possession in the second half, however. His well struck free kick from 20 yards out in the 76th forced Steffen into a big save.

D/M – Brandon Vincent (6) – Some good work on the ball in the first half and early in the second in particular. Decent performance in match-up defensively with Finlay, although there were a couple of lapses.

F Michael de Leeuw (6) – Very good two way work for the entire match. Played wide right in a 3-4-3 early in the match as the Fire looked to deny the Crew’s wide game. Moved closer to goal in the second half as the team shifted to 4-2-3-1. Didn’t have many looks offensively, but his all-around work should be appreciated.

F Nemanja Nikolic (6) – His best all-around game in a Fire shirt. Scored the goal in the 22nd and attempted five shots all together, with three on frame. Headed a cross from Vincent in the 14th that pushed Steffen into a save. This could be a sign that he’s getting comfortable.

F/M David Accam (5) – Touch just a bit off for most of the match. Forced a save in the 28th that led to a corner kick.

M Drew Conner (6) – Replaced Campbell in the 55th as Paunovic looked for a tactical change to turn the possession back in Chicago’s favor. Sat back with McCarty in an effort to push Schweinsteiger higher, but got forward a few times on his own. Forced a foul just outside the penalty area in the 75th and had at least two other instances where he created a chance.

M Daniel Johnson (6.5) – Subbed in for Accam in the 73rd. Accepted a pass from Nikolic in the 81st that almost resulted in the Fire’s second goal but Steffen got a piece of his chip attempt and the ball was cleared just before it got to the goal line. Active in the 85th and provided a threat in the game that was missing.


Filed under: 2017 Regular Season

Tags: Chicago Fire


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  • I found the formation very interesting to watch in the First half. I saw Dax, Basti, and Kappelhof all exchanging positions and going forward at different times. Allowing each of them to do what they do without being in the way of the other and having continuous coverage. Also it felt like Harrington and Vincent were playing very much as wing backs. Even though Harrington "technically" was in the midfield, I saw him taking a lot of defensive responsibilities. It felt more like a 5-3-2 instead of a 3-4-3 to me with how deep Harrington and Vincent were coming back. Looking forward to seeing this formation more often. Maybe with a different right wingback...

  • In reply to edubs:

    I had a different view of this formation. I thought with the 3 CBs and the 2 wings didn't work that well. Columbus was crowding the middle and that it seemed like the first 15 minutes was just passing between the "back 5" with no chances going through our 2 best players. It clearly was not working in the 2nd half and we became more dangerous when they took Campbell off and replaced him with Drew Conner which enabled BS to have a little more freedom. I hope Pauno sticks with the 4 in the back and a 5 man midfield.

  • In reply to penapirata:

    Agreed that there was trouble penetrating through the middle in the first 15 minutes, but that's when Basti and Dax started dumping perfect passes over the top and splitting the defense. Which btw lead directly to Niko's goal. Everyone is talking about that pass from Dax. After the fire started showing Columbus that they didn't need to play through the middle to get around them, the game opened up more. Attacks started coming from the wings, perfectly weighted balls were coming over the top and splitting the defense.

    Personally I felt the first half was stronger than the second half. But everyone sees things differently.

  • In reply to edubs:

    I agree, I liked it. I saw lots of flexibility and possession. And I loved seeing Pauno change things up in the second half after Columbus had adjusted. Connor and DJ really had an impact as subs.

    I'll be interested to see the formation this week with Juninho back.

  • I really enjoyed watching Drew Conner and Daniel Johnson. They each added a lot of spark. Johnson is going to be very good. He needs more minutes, but he is nowhere near starting caliber yet. I thought the team looked to Basit whenever they needed a solution. In years past whenever someone dribbled into a box, they would lose possession. With Basti, he was always there with an option. Columbus could not take the ball from him no matter how many were on him. It was terrific to watch. Very enjoyable day.

  • I feel like the pieces are starting to fall into place, and even GR's ratings bear this out -- Bava and Vincent starting to settle in and develop, respectively. I always loved the Ginger Ninja even when he played for the opposition, and now to see him playing in red is really fun. Him, combined with #31 and Niko -- they're giving me a reason to slog out to TP for the first time in a few years.

  • This team has the potential to be VERY good. We clearly lack at RB and GK which will limit performances here and there but Dax McCarty is possibly our best player. He is an absolute animal on the field. I would be interested in seeing how much he ran on Saturday. BS is going to love playing next to him every week, that's for sure.

    The formation is not a formation we should be running with. I would have rather seen Johan or Meira at DM than that 5 in the back thing he tries to say is a 3-5-2. It just doesn't do it for me. It also forces the 2 players in the middle to be covering way too much ground.

    This could have been Accam's worst performance for the Fire. He was miserable on Saturday. Tripping over the ball, terrible passes, simple passes to his feet and him trapping the ball over his head, running the ball out of bounds while trying to dribble, and not going at players when 1v1 on the wing. He simply needs to be better than he has been so far this season. I think, with the clear upgrade in players around him, he will fall back to the pack and be just another decent player. These past two season have made him look a lot better than he is because the level around him was so miserable. If it came down to a renewal DP contract for him or a DP contract for Dax, I would give it to Dax every single time.

    I would also say that Sean Johnson is better with the ball at his feet than Old Man Bava. #jussayin

    Drew Conner also looked like he belonged on the team as well. Very pleasantly surprised by him. Daniel Johnson has very much impressed in his two little stints. Add Polster in there and there is a decent amount of young players to look forward to here. The hopes are slowly getting higher and higher with each game that they are playing. I have enjoyed watching this team these past two weeks, which is about two weeks more than I have the past three years.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    A great game/win. We definitely have some young talent, Connor/Johnson along with Polster, but Polster is not a right back and, in a way, technically last player (outside of Accam) from prior coaching staff. I think he had like 24 starts last year out of being eligible (injuries) for 27 games, played over 2,400 minutes, our one bright spot last year yet, they brought in three #6's. He's not part of their future, trading window closes May 7th - expect to see him in a different uniform.

  • In reply to TNail:

    Polster did play defense in college tho. If I was Pauno I would bring in Polster at rb in the 2nd half the next game he is fit and see how he does. Right now that looks like the best thing for him seeing our defense is crowded with mids that are better than him. He ddid my do that bad when Yallop played him there 2 years ago. Definitely improved his defending since then but his pace/positioning may need to be improved if we want an attacking rb going forward sort of what Vincent is doing at the moment.

  • In reply to Firefan5819:

    Polster is not a defender. It doesn't matter to me if he played there in college. He played two professional seasons at CM and was arguably our best player for both of those seasons. When Yallop put him at RB, everyone called for his head. It was the final straw in the #Yallopout campaign. Why would it then be okay for Pauno to put him there 2 years later? There are definitely minutes for Polster in the middle of the field. Juninho, Dax, and BS cannot be playing every minute of every match. Making him play at RB would be detrimental to his future because he will be playing an entire season out of position. It would change him as a player. Just training along BS, Dax, and Juninho for an entire season would make him a better player. I'd rather him training next to, and learning from, those two than having to be around the defenders all of training. If Pauno puts him there, it is a clear sign that he is in over his head.

  • In reply to TNail:

    We collectively may not agree with all of NR/VP's personnel moves over the last year and half but they have been consistent about stating their goals as 1) starting to win now and 2) building a winning culture so that 3) the team can continue to win in the future. In my opinion they definitely see Polster as part of #3. He may not get as many minutes this year but the time will be spent helping him learn how to continue the winning tradition once the older players have left. Just one man's opinion.

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    In reply to TNail:

    Trading Polster would be a huge mistake. Our glut of DMs are not getting any younger and Polster is the future.

    As has been pointed out he did play along the back in college and I'd be more than willing to bet that we haven't picked up another defender to replace Harrington because the plan is to move him into the defense (RB or CB). My money says we end up trading Accam before Polster.

    As far as I can tell the biggest liability currently is Pauno. He's simply not a professional level soccer coach. I question his general judgment of talent and just about every single starting 11 (and even game day 18s) has at least one serious head scratcher. Wing backs? Really? It would help if we had any of those on the roster... If we brought back Bob Bradley this team would be dangerous.

  • In reply to Rubberbandman189:

    I agree, Accam was a disaster and needs to learn how to trap the ball. He hurt the Fire on a few chances. GR was way to generous with a 5

  • Very nice to see Dax get TOTW for the Columbus game. That's his second one - along with Kappelhof in the same week earlier in the year and last week for Schweini. It's a good sign when we have players consistently getting weekly league honors.

    Daniel Johnson again impressed on the ball. I like that he's getting time early in the season. He's a radically different player from so many on the field - in some ways he replicates Shipp, but I think he has more capacity to disrupt and unlock defenses than Shipp. It's encouraging to see this in a 1st rd draft pick if only because it indicates that the skillset Shipp possesses is appreciated by the current regime. He also gets more liberty than Shipp did playing in front of a midfield with such quality, meaning that he can focus more on offense without being as much of a drag on the team.

  • GR any update on Polster's health?

  • In reply to Shinny:

    He's in full training and should be in the 18 this weekend. I'd look for him at right back when he's ready to start.

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