Three straight losses against beatable clubs (including the U.S. Open Cup defeat to a USL team) does not do wonders for confidence. Both the Chicago Fire squad and fans had to feel pretty low heading into the international break. Fortunately, the squad found motivation during the two weeks off, and they came out with their best performance of the season, and arguably, their best performance in the last two years.
This win helps relieve some of that pain and regains some of that confidence. After a win like this, this squad should have a little bit of swagger about it. One can't help but think that Columbus is going to get steamrolled next weekend. A little revenge would be nice.
Without further adieu, here is a look at some of the details from Sundays trouncing of the Red Bulls.
Red Bulls Formation
The first thing I'm going to mention in this post is my preview to this game. I missed on a number of things leading up to this game. The biggest thing I missed was the line up the that Red Bulls were going to put out on the pitch. I was feeling confident that Hans Backe would play a 4-1-4-1, but the guys over at Once A Metro were't entirely sure of what to expect.
I had based my assumption on Dan Ferris's comments about Heath Pearce in last week's 5 questions. It seemed natural that Heath would take the left back spot to make way for Wilmen Conde. Instead, Hans Backe rolled the dice and decided to trot out a diamond 4-4-2 and put Pearce into the defensive midfield role and put Dax McCarty into the attacking mid role.
In the first half, Pearce did not seem confortable playing as a defensive mid and did not seem capable of keeping a mark on Grazzini. It's hard to blame Pearce for this since he's primarily a central defender. There are some central defenders that are able to switch into the role of a defensive midfielder, but it's not always a smooth transition. After the poor performance of the defense in the first half, Backe was forced to make a move. Pearce moved to left back to replace Roy Miller while Mehdi Ballouchy came off the bench to take over Pearce's role in the in the midfield. Still, this change didn't manage to stop the force that was the Chicago Fire attack.
The Chicago Fire had their best attacking performance of the entire season in this game, especially in the second half. In the second half, Chicago only had a measly 37% of possession, but when they had the ball, 21.3% percent of the time it was in the attacking third. For reference, here's where that ranks among possession in the attacking 3rd in any given half this season:
During the second half against New York, Chicago was completing their passes at a rate of 66.67%, which is a bit above average. Out of the four halves listed in the table above, only the season opener in Montreal had a higher completion percentage (at a ridiculous 80.8%). Then when it comes to shots, there were 8 shots in the second half against New York (8 shots, 5 on target). Only the 2nd half of Columbus match had more shots (12 shots, 6 on target). Of course, the biggest difference between the 2nd half of the Columbus match and the 2nd half of the New York match is the 3 goals to 1 (yes, I'm counting it).
I guess I could've summarized it like this: During the short amount of time that Chicago did have the ball, they did what they wanted to do with it.
There have been quite a few people who have made dismissive comments towards the Fire's win because they beat a depleted Red Bulls team. That's not a fair assessment. This depleted Red Bulls team has not lost since April 28th in league play, and they've done most of it without Thierry Henry and Rafa Marquez in the lineup.
The Engines In Tee Midfield
When it comes to the fire power (sadly, that pun was not intended) of the offense over 90 minutes, much of the load was carried on the shoulders of Marco Pappa and Patrick Nyarko as the two of them combined accounted for nearly half of all passes out of the midfield at 46.73%. Along with that, they managed 5 shots, an assist and a goal.
It's good to have Nyarko and Pappa picking up the slack as Grazzzini didn't have the best match. He had the early assist, and he had a shot around the 25th minute that forced Ryan Meara to make a diving save. Outside of those moments, it was a bit of frustrating match for Grazzini overall, which is why he seemed to get subbed off a little earlier than he typically does. Another person who steeped up to help was Pavel Pardo as he pushed forward early on and got involved in the attack. Here is the breakdown of the midfield's production:
I should make a note here that by rate I mean passes per minute. The best statistic available for determining offensive involvement in OPTA is passing, so I like to use that as a benchmark for involvement. Since not all players get equal amounts of minutes, I divide the amount of minutes by the amount of passes attempted. The obvious odd man out here is Logan Pause. This is because Logan laid deep in the midfield and focused more on the defense end of things.
The Rolfe Effect
Using the above chart for context, here is what Chris Rolfe did on Sunday at Toyota Park:
Yes, he had a higher rate of touches and higher completion percentage than everyone besides Marco Pappa. He also had a goal and an assist (remember, I counted it). I'm still skeptical about whether or not Rolfe is going to be a viable option for this team going forward, but Sunday definitely brought me a lot closer to being a believer.
Dax McCarty's Goal
Did anyone notice the height difference between Dax and practically every Fire Defender around him? it's ridiculous that McCarty even got to the ball. As the NBC commentator noted, Gargan was covering McCarty before he got separated. I don't think this is the first time Gargan has lost his man on a set piece. I'm not totally sure (because I haven't gone back to look at this), but I think I recall that it was Gargan who lost his man in Portland on the first goal Portland netted.
In conclusion, the Fire rolled through the Red Bulls and seem to have a renewed confidence. If the Fire can ride this momentum into next week, Columbus is going to be in trouble.