Gameday Worry, MLS #3: Cover Those Flanks!

Keeping Thierry Henry from getting isolated against a single defender on the wing will be important for the Fire today.

When I woke up this morning, I had visions of 5-2 dancing in my head

I have a confession to make: I'm a crappy fan.

I mean, support the Fire, sure. Wear the gear, honor the tribe, disdain the enemy. I embrace the mystical power of Malort and know that Columbus, whatever happens with their rebrand (heh), will always be that f**king yellow team. I sing the songs, even when I'm watching from my bedroom. I'm committed.

What I can't do, ever, is feel confident. I never get to that magical place where one feels sure that victory is just around the corner. There's reasons - I'd lay a lot of blame at the feet of the baseball team on the north side, honestly - but I'm not here to get into that. I'm just here to confess: Gamedays stress me out. I carry the weight of potential bad outcomes around. I worry myself into grumpiness.

So this short piece is nothing less than an attempt to exorcise a demon. This morning, I awoke with visions of last season's 5-2 pasting in my head, visions amplified by endless rumination on six words in the scouting report: Gonzalo Segares, doubtful; Lovel Palmer, suspended.

Chicago's options on the flank of defense aren't plentiful, and those two have been the lockdown starters for the first unit since the first day of preseason. They've taken basically every rep with the centerback tandem of Bakary Soumare and Jhon Kennedy Hurtado all season; this week, we'll get a chance to see how much that matters (he said, wincing). Which leaves us with four options for those two slots:

  1. Hunter Jumper: Last year's backup left back has gotten more time as a centerback in practice in 2014. Tall and rangy, but lacks foot speed and will likely struggle against traditional wingers.
  2. Greg Cochrane: Acquired late in preseason, Cochrane will obviously start. Everything out of camp about him is positive. Can he play both right and left simultaneously? C'mon, dude, get with it!
  3. Patrick Ianni: Played 20 minutes in relief of a cramping Palmer last weekend, gamely holding on for dear life. The prospect of Ianni tracking Henry as he floats left has a gorilla-hunts-gazelle feel to it.
  4. Marco Franco: Or we could go with the untested rookie. Fortune favors the bold, amirite?

See, this edition of Red Bulls is built to cause problems down the flanks. On the right, it will be either Lloyd Sam, a pure winger, or Eric Alexander, whose tearing-us-a-new-anus bona fides were on display in that 5-2 drubbing last fall. On the left, probably Bobby Convey. Oh, and a striker named Henry who likes to drift into the wide spaces to create.

The Fire are trying to play a compact, high-pressing style. The obvious release for the opposition - when CF97 set up properly - will be long, angled balls toward the wide areas. We'll need a great defensive effort on the flanks to win today. I'm worried.

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