Perez vs Berry and Anibaba
It seems like every new game the Fire plays, Frank Klopas is forced to start a different center back pairing. Sunday’s game against Portland was the first start for the pairing of rookie Austin Berry and sophomore Jalil Anibaba. Unfortunately for the young defenders, they came up against Kris Boyd, a veteran striker who knows all the dirty tricks of the lone striker trade. Boyd used his body to perfection against Anibaba and Berry, constantly using his arms to prevent them from getting the ball from him both in the air and on the ground. A more wary referee wouldn’t have let Boyd get away with as much as Sunday’s ref did but it was still a tough day at the office for the youngsters. Wednesday’s game against Dallas poses a similar challenge: Blas Perez. Perez plays in a similar role to Boyd and was a handful for the Philly defenders last weekend. I look for a big improvement from both players in their match-up against Perez Wednesday night.
Defensive Set Pieces: Follow Your Marks!
Another thing that has been repeated (too often for my liking) in my tactical previews is properly defending set pieces. Both of Portland’s goals came off corners and what’s more disturbing from a Fire perspective is that the team allowed Portland to successfully run the same corner play AFTER they had scored from it on two occasions. The first play is a long ball to the back post which is then headed back into the 6 yard box and attacked. Boyd’s knockdown allowed Eric Brunner to scramble it in. Later in the match, Portland ran the same play from a corner with less devastating results but that should have been addressed. Portland’s second goal resulted from Boyd peeling away to the front post and flicking on a corner which took a wicked deflection off Logan Pause into the net. Unfortunately, Boyd was allowed to break free and flick on another corner later in the second half. Sticking with the runners who peel off to the front and back post on set plays must be addressed against Dallas.
Patrick Nyarko: High Pressure = Success
In the Fire’s last home game, with minutes to spare, Patrick Nyarko hunted down Kei Kamara and blocked his attempted clearance before neatly slotting the ball across the box for Dom Oduro to bundle into the net. Nyarko was at it again against Portland, constantly pushing forward from either his wide or central positions to pressure the defenders. Many of the times he or another of the forwards/mids pressured the Portland defenders, it resulted in panicky mistakes from the team wearing green. Interestingly from a tactical perspective, Dallas will be also applying high pressure to our team when they lose the ball Wednesday night. It will be interesting to see how each team copes with the pressure from the attacking players.
Oduro and Sega – Differing Fortunes
Over the past few games especially, the Fire have tried to get the ball to Oduro with his back to goal but, unfortunately for the Ghanaian, his first touch lets him down on too many occasions. Instead of taking one touch to control the ball, Dom often takes two or three which allows defenders to take the ball away from him. Often times, his first touch also doesn’t allow him to link the play quickly, something the Fire are clearly looking to do. I believe this will change when Rolfe comes into the team, freeing Dom up to make his runs off the ball which he is so good at. Asking him to hold the ball up constantly is necessary at this point but not ideal. Switching to the opposite side of the field, Gonzalo Segares has been enjoying a fantastic season to date and was involved with some of the Fire’s best attacks against Portland on Sunday. At times, there was some beautiful combination play between Sega and Nyarko/Pappa which was a joy to watch. Pappa at times would push inside allowing Sega to take his space and get forward which created massive problems for Portland. More of the same against Dallas please!