This past Labor Day weekend I was unable to watch the Chicago Fire earn a disappointing draw against the Houston Dynamo. My typical routine in this situation is to avoid the internet until I can catch the game on MLS Live; however, because it was a "nationally" televised game, it will not be available on MLS Live until Tuesday afternoon. Since I did not feel like waiting that long, I fired up my sparingly used Twitter account to follow the game. While watching my Twitter feed, I came up with the idea that I would abstain from watching the game or any highlights and use observations on Twitter to guide me with this week's Opta Chalkboard.
Chris Rolfe Was....Unimpressive
33'- Chris Rolfe is nearing Dom Oduro land w/ some of these misses. Wide open chance misses near post by a foot. #cf97— FireConf Podcast (@FirePodFC) September 1, 2013
They need to make larger goals for Rolfe. #cf97— Nik Bajaj (@ChiFireEyedBoy) September 1, 2013
As I mentioned above, I haven't watched anything from this game, so I did not get to see how awful some of Rolfe's misses were, but all three of his shots in the game were from the exact same area of the field - top of the eighteen and slightly to the right. Three cracks on goal. Same spot. Only one attempt put on target. That is not good.
To put blame squarely on Rolfe is a little unfair. The Fire out shot the Dynamo 20 to 13 and put 7 of their shots on goal. Missing that many chances on Sunday was a team effort. A kind of effort that would awaken the wrath of vengeful soccer gods.
Fire Missed Chances
Angering soccer dieties is not a new thing for the Fire. While Rolfe has been struggling to put the ball into the back of the net this season, he has not been alone. For this entire season, even before the arrival of Mike Magee, the Fire have been one of the top teams in the league in terms of shots per game and shot quality, yet one of the worst teams when it comes to actually sealing the deal. This was actually something I was going to write about last May after the first loss to the Philadelphia Union this season. During that game, the Fire put nearly fifty percent of their shots on target and still could not hit pay dirt.
There are quite a few teams in the MLS who take less shots per game and put a lower percentage of those shots on goal but are still scoring more goals that the Fire. Here is where the Fire rank among the MLS at the moment in the different categories of shooting:
|Category||Rate Per Game/Percentage||League Rank|
|Shots on Goal||5.12||3rd|
For some perspective, here are the Fire's rates in the shooting categories pre-Mike Magee versus post-Mike Magee:
|Shots per gm||13.27||14.42|
|SOG per gm||4.54||5.57|
|Goals per gm||0.63||1.71|
The Fire improved in all categories with Magee's arrival, but the most significant improvement has been in goal scoring. Now Magee seems to be hitting a bit of a cold streak, and there is no one on the team to pick up the slack.
Alex Looking Good
35' - Another great buildup started by Alex, pushed through for Rolfe to Magee...he lays off for Duka but another save by Hall. #cf97— ChiFireMatch (@ChiFireMatch) September 1, 2013
Alex had some impressive moments today. #cf97— Jeff Crandall (@JefeCrandall) September 1, 2013
There are some games were Alex really show cases what sort of midfielder he can be. If he could do it consistently, then I think he should be put int the middle of the field with Egidio Arévalo Rios once Nyarko gets back to full fitness. Alex had 3 key passes, 3 successful dribbles and won 2 fouls. On the defensive side, he lead the Fire with 6 tackles and had 10 recoveries on the day (see Below).
The one issue I have with Alex was summed up in a Tweet from the Fire Confidential Podcast.
51'- Alex taken down starting a counter at midfield. If he releases Magee when he should've, that foul wouldn't have happened. #cf97— FireConf Podcast (@FirePodFC) September 1, 2013
Alex has a habit of holding on to the ball for just a moment too long. He frequently has a passing option, especially on counter attacks, where he takes an extra touch to draw defenders in to him. By the time he gets to his next touch, either the passing angle he had is closed down be a defender, or he being tackled. If Alex could learn to get the ball out when the opportunity is there, I think he might actually be able to get an assist at some point this season.
Rios Being Rios
Rios making our defense looking top shelf, too bad our offense looking Boones Farm. #CF97— Brian Smith (@olearyscowfc) September 1, 2013
Rios really seemed to take over the center of the field last weekend. His distribution was very Logan Pause-esque, which is nice and safe. The defending part of his game (Sunday's defending shown right) to this point has been ridiculously above anything Logan Pause, Jeff Larentowicz or Pavel Pardo have put together in a Fire uniform. He had 2 tackles, 3 interceptions and 15 recoveries. 15 recoveries is a lot. An average good game in recovery land hovers somewhere around 10. His absence next weekend against the Seatlle Sounders is really going to hurt.
There is not a tweet related to this, but I just wanted to mention that Mike Magee had 5 key passes (see below). For as much credit as he has received for his goal scoring, the rate he has been creating chances has been even more impressive.