It is sometimes hard to believe this team is still in the playoff hunt. But here they are, only a point out of a playoff spot even after getting drubbed by the Columbus Crew. Thankfully for the Fire, goal differential does not mean a whole lot in the standings these days.
With that said - on to the chalkboard!
Columbus essentially shut down Chicago's wingers on Saturday. Alex put in 59 minutes and Dilly Duka put in 70 minutes. Between the two of them, they completed 21 out of 33 passes, they completed none of their crosses (out of 2 attempts) and none of their passes or crosses created shots. Duka and Alex did combine for 5 total shots, with only one shot on target and only one shot from within the penalty area. All in all, neither Alex or Duka never really got involved in the game.
With the wings taken away, the Fire's only real threat on the field was Mike Magee. Unfortunately, even Magee was pretty much shut down in Columbus. He still managed to create 6 key passes in the game, but he was unable to do much else.
Pwnd In The Midfield
Over at Chicago-Fire, Stephen Piggott highlighted Tony Tchani in his tactical preview as being a key to this game, and key he was. Here is all of the Fire's passing for the entire game:
I figure most everyone who reads this would spot the obvious, but I still took the precaution to highlight the center of the Fire's attacking half just in case. In that yellow box, the fire completed 32 of 44 passes. Those 44 passes accounted for just under 13% of all Fire passes. That is a large, important area on the field to get shut down in. What happened? Tony Tchani and Will Trapp happened.
The two center midfielders combined for 8 tackles, 2 interceptions, 6 clearances and 21 recoveries. Throw in the support of Chad Marshall and Agustin Viana, the centerbacks, and there are 15 total clearances and 33 recoveries. Frankly put, the Fire were out manned.
And with Columbus' defense being so hard to break down, the Fire struggled to even get a decent shot on goal.
Out of the 6 shots the Fire did put on goal, only 2 were taken from inside the penalty box. Considering the total amount of shots the Fire had, over half of those shots came from outside the penalty area.
Unfortunately, with the defensive pairing of Egidio Arévalo Rios and Jeff Larentowicz in the center midfield, the Fire do not have an offensive threat that could have challenged Tchani and Trapp and broken them down. When it comes to the Rios/Larentowicz partnership, it seems like Larentowicz (first figure below) sees very little action because Rios (second image below) covers so much ground.
It almost seems redundant to have these two on the field together. Unfortunately, I think it might be too late into the season (and too close to a playoff spot) to start making formation changes, but the Fire might not really be benefiting all that much from playing two defensive midfielders.
A Bit Off Topic
Although, Bakary Soumare's suspension could possibly change things up as Frank Klopas is considering the possibility of playing Larentowicz at centerback over Hunter Jumper.
For those of you who are concerned about how little playing time some of our players get, I will copy and paste that sentence again: Frank Klopas is considering the possibility of playing Larentowicz at centerback over Hunter Jumper.
I know this topic is outside of the realm of the chalkboard, but I had a good 10 minute conniption this morning when I read over this article, and I have not been able to get it out of my mind. I can understand that, with the importance of this upcoming match against the Montreal Impact, the presence of Marco Di Vaio might make Frank a little gun shy about putting Hunter Jumper in. But is putting an experienced player who normally does not play centeback better than putting in an inexperienced player who normally plays centerback?
Of course I'm joking about the formation change. If Larentowicz gets the start at centerback, it will just mean that Logan Pause will get to start next to Rios in the midfield.