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Is the Chicago Fire Offense Suffering from Miscasting?

Should Marco Pappa's forward spotlight start warming up?
Should Marco Pappa's forward spotlight start warming up?

So let's say you have two players: Player A and Player B. Going back to the beginning of the 2010 season, here are their stat lines in Major League Soccer Regular Season play:

Player A: 2 goals, 19 assists
Player B: 15 goals, 8 assists

Player A profile:

Great goal scorer in college. However, even by his senior year his stat line indicated he might be more of an assist/distributor rather than a prolific forward. Now at 26 years old, his shot power is still well below average for MLS standards. He has almost no ability to head the ball for goals despite being 6'0.

Player A is still very talented though as evidenced by his 19 assists. He has elite dribbling skills that allow him to open up space for himself. He has excellent judgement of when to deploy these dribbling skills vs. when to pass the ball to teammates for help. Overall, player A is a major asset to the team in setting up dangerous situations on the give-and-go and providing first and secondary assists to teammates.

Player B profile:

Now 24 years old, Player B came to the team at the age of 20. He didn't have too much of a track record to accompany him but he had a lot of raw talent. Over the years, player B has become very dangerous with the ball anywhere near the box. His goal scoring highlight reel is full of shots from the top of 18. He is recognized around the league as lethal whenever he has enough space.

Player B suffers from an overconfidence in dribbling skills. It's not that he is far below Player A in that category, it's more so that he suffers from trying to dribble out of problem areas too often. Sometimes you get Goal of the Year material, other times you get a painful turnover. Player B is not known for passes that setup runs for other players. He is known for taking a lot of shots no matter where he might be on the field.

Riddle me this:

Does it make sense to start Player A at forward and Player B in the midfield?

Most of you have these players identified by now. But for those people still in the dark, Player A is Patrick Nyarko and Player B is Marco Pappa. Last week it occurred to me that the two players seem to be miscast in their current roles. Sunday's game played right into the thinking. This is something that almost no one seems to be discussing or even offering as constructive criticism. This might be a cause of ‘if it's not broke, don't fix it' syndrome.

Dominic Oduro - Patrick Nyarko partnership is born

Frank Klopas' first game as head coach was the June 4th match against Seattle. He used Cristian Nazarit as a lone forward as the Fire tied Seattle 0-0. In the next game it was Nazarit and Gaston Puerari up top, after that Puerari and Diego Chaves, after that Chaves and Nazarit, and finally after that, Chaves and Orr Barouch. Five games in and Frank Klopas was 1-0-4 and his team had only scored 2 goals in 450 minutes of play. You can imagine why he shuffled the forward rotation after every game.

Klopas' 6th game on June 26th against the New York Red Bulls marked the first time he could put Pappa into the lineup. Pappa had returned from international duty with Guatemala in the CONCACAF Gold Cup. His return meant Dominic Oduro could be liberated from playing on the wings and move up to the forward position. Oduro has never looked back. He's started all of Chicago's last 21 MLS Regular Season games up top. At first he was like Nazarit moving from a lone striker position to being paired with Chaves and Nazarit himself. It wasn't until August 13th that the lineup released included Patrick Nyarko at forward for the first time in quite a while. Nyarko has not always been listed at forward but it is a regular partnership and one that Klopas has used in the first three games of the 2012 season. Few will complain about the overall 8-3-4 record the team has enjoyed since the 4-3-1-2 has been used on a regular basis. Many do complain about the team's performance and over reliance on Dominic Oduro whenever the Fire fail like they did on Sunday against the Colorado Rapids.

Nyarko Taking Up Valuable Space

Oduro's speed was neutralized on Sunday in two different ways. First, the Rapids have one of the few center backs in the league that can keep up with Oduro's speed: Marvell Wynne. Second, the Rapids employed a deep back line that is becoming more common in any Fire opponent. The closer the opposing defenders are to their own goal, the less chance Oduro has to blaze past them and go one-on-one with the opposition's goalkeeper. The negative aspect to playing with a deep back line is that it opens up space for the offense to work with. Chicago must figure out how to use that space to their advantage. All the Fire did on Sunday was continue to lob passes up to Oduro. Wynne was there to beat him on the track meet every time.

If Marco Pappa is given a green light to play as high as Oduro does, he can use the space Oduro creates to get his own shots. Some might call Pappa a selfish player who is a little trigger happy but sometimes that is what makes a great striker. Pappa is not afraid to shoot.

Patrick Nyarko is the opposite and is almost too unselfish. The opposition is not afraid of him making a strike from distance. Nyarko looks to pass and create for his teammates. This is a weakness that allows defenders and goalkeepers to cheat and prepare for a pass. For all of the talk of the Oduro-Nyarko Ghanaian partnership, Nyarko has only assisted 2 of Oduro's 9 goals that have taken place since they both started playing forward. It's more a Grazzini-Oduro partnership because the Argentine midfielder has assisted four Oduro goals.

Grazzini an Equal Threat with Oduro

While on the topic of Grazzini, it's important to note that Montreal and Colorado completely shut him out from even taking a shot. He managed 2 shots against a very poor Philadelphia squad but he's still well off his pace from last year. The only time Grazzini was held shotless in 11 appearances in 2011 was in his second Fire regular season game. He played 56 minutes in the disaster that was the 4-2 loss to Vancouver. If Oduro's speed can be contained and Grazzini's shots can be prevented, the Fire are in a whole world of trouble. One of the two players has scored in 11 of the Fire's last 15 games. The other four games include two shutouts (last Sunday and vs. San Jose on 9/10/11) and wins where Marco Pappa scored a hat trick and Jalil Anibaba had a brace.

Opposing defenses have every reason to put everything into shutting down Oduro and Grazzini and taking their chances they won't get burned by other players. Pappa and Nyarko switching places would at least give them a new wrinkle to figure out. Can anyone tell me why we shouldn't at least give this a chance since Marco Pappa has scored more goals in a single game than Patrick Nyarko has scored in his last sixty?