The Chicago Fire are on a roll with a two-game win streak and a three-game unbeaten streak. With the victory over FC Dallas on Saturday, the Fire are now 3-1-2 over their last six matches. Kenny Copper's goal in the 63rd minute broke a 156 minute shutout streak for the Fire.
Earlier in the week, I had made the comment that if the Fire made the playoffs, I would be happy but that it would be a hollow happiness. Forget that. I was incredibly pumped after the Fire's performance in the first half, and if they can hang on and make it to the playoffs, there would be no hollowness.
Chicago is now tied with the Montreal Impact in the standings. Montreal has a game in hand, but that game will be played away against the L.A. Galaxy this Wednesday, which will not be an easy task. If the Fire can finish the season strong, it's possible that they could be hosting a playoff game at Toyota Park.
Anyways, thinking playoffs might still be a little premature, even with two games left in the season. Here are a couple of observations from Saturday night against FC Dallas in Frisco, Texas.
With Egidio Arévalo Rios away on international duty, Frank Klopas started Alex in the midfield alongside Jeff Larentowicz. When Alex and Larentowicz have started together in the central midfield earlier on in the season, they have played in the pivot system that Frank has implemented. On Saturday, however, Chicago deployed a diamond midfield with Alex playing in an attacking role and Larentowicz playing deeper in the midfield.
Above: Alex's Passing vs. FC Dallas
Above: Larentowicz's Passing vs. FC Dallas
Both Alex and Larentowicz are able to play as be box-to-box midfielders, but they are more specialized midfielders (especially Larentowicz). Playing the diamond midfield allowed Alex and Larentowicz to play to their strengths and be more effective in playing through the midfield.
Alex had 5 key passes on the night and was technically credited with the assist on the Mike Magee goal. Larentowicz had 11 recoveries, 4 clearances, 2 interceptions and a tackle. Larentowicz also had 2 key passes the game.
While Larentowicz was playing deeper in the midfield, 25% of his completed passes were to Juan Luis Anangonó.
FC Dallas' First Half v. Second Half
I can think of a couple of explanation of why this was happening, but none of the explanations are really that good. In the first half, FC Dallas completely avoided going down the right flank.
In the second half, Dallas attacked the right side and found some success.
in the right corner of the attacking third, Dallas completed 4 out of 9 crosses and had 4 key passes. Even though Dallas found more success on the right in the second half, overall, the team struggled all night to crack the attacking third. Dallas had a total of 75 passes in the attacking third and managed to complete 50 of those attempts (64% completion rate).
FC Dallas centerback, Matt Hedges, carried a large brunt of the workload for Dallas' backline and had put out a number of fires for the team. Here is how he stacked up compared to the rest of the back line.
|Tackles||Def Block||Interception||Clearances||Recovery||Blocked Cross||Corner Conceded|
|Rest of FCD Defense||5||2||0||11||13||1||2|
Austin Berry's Bicycle Kick
While Jalil Anibaba's goal will be a Goal of the Week nominee, below might have been more of a surprise.
That is Austin Berry's bicycle kick that he attempted in the 78th minute. It's not often very often you see a 6'2" centerback attempt a shot like that.
After Saturday's victory, the Fire have 180 minutes left to their season.