The Chicago Fire had to face on the Montreal Impact last Saturday in a very important match to keep their playoff hopes alive. The Fire got the job done and came away with three huge points in the standings without Chris Rolfe, Patrick Nyarko and Mike Magee in the starting line up. Below is a few observations from the game through the Opta Chalkboard.
The midfield of the Montreal Impact is driven by Patrice Bernier. On Saturday, Bernier had a difficult time getting involved in the game during the first half.
In the first half, Bernier had attempted 23 passes, most of which were either to the back or to the side and from deep in the midfield. Bernier did not help much on the defensive side, either as he only recorded 2 recoveries along with an interception and clearance.
In the second half, Bernier attempted 42 passes, two of which were key passes. Bernier's passes were more offensive and coming from around the center of the field. Bernier even stepped up the defensive part of his game during the second half with 3 interceptions, 7 recoveries and a tackle.
One thing that is noticeable about Bernier's passes in the second half is that he's sending quite a few of them off the the right flank where Justin Mapp, Hassoun Camara and Felipe Martins combined completed 3 of 9 crosses. All of their completed crosses were registered as key passes as they lead to shots on goal.
The Fire Attack - First Half
One of the reasons why Bernier had trouble getting into the game was because the Fire offense essentially circumvented him in the center of the field.
This sort of thing should be familiar as the Fire tend to rely on playing down the flanks. Without Mike Magee and Chris Rolfe in the line up, it becomes a lot harder for the Fire to attack through the middle. While Magee might be known for all the goals he's been scoring, he is also already 4th on the team in key passes after only playing ten games. One of the three players ahead of Magee is his partner up top, Chris Rolfe, who actually leads the team in key passes.
Both Magee and Rolfe drop into the midfield and provide that pivotal link between the midfield and the attacking third of the field. Let's look at last week's game in Philadelphia.
Combined, Magee and Rolfe completed 37 out of 56 passes (66% of passes completed) and had 3 key passes. Magee and Rolfe essentially fill in the void of where there could be an attacking central midfielder.
With both Magee and Rolfe out of the starting line up, Frank Klopas slotted in Alex as a withdrawn forward/center midfielder and newely acquired Juan Luis Anangono as the lone striker. Below is how the two of them fared together.
Alex and Anangono were 25 out of 41 on passing (60% of passes completed) with 3 of their passes being key passes. It was not a bad effort, but it is still a step down from the pairing of Magee and Rolfe.
Individually, Alex was 11 out of 20 on passing (55% of passes completed). A couple of his passes that were incomplete could have been dangerous ones if he had executed them better. For me, the jury is still out on Alex as an attacking midfielder, and I would not mind seeing him get a couple of more chances at playing that role.
Jalil Anibaba had a pretty big game against Montreal. He was completed 19 of 32 passes (59% of passes completed), which was not spectacular, but he did have a key pass in Bakary Soumare's shot in the first half and lead the team in successful dribbles with 2. On the defensive side of the ball he recorded 2 tackles, 2 interceptions, 2 blocked crosses, 5 clearances and 4 recoveries.
Bakary Soumare and Austin Berry
Bakary and Austin had one of their better performances recently. Their biggest contributions came with clearances, most of which where done inside the penalty box through winning the ball in the air.
Together, Bakary and Austin had 18 clearances against Montreal.