Chicago Fire soccer returned Saturday and it was a beautiful thing.
The game itself was a bit dreary at University of South Florida with all the rain and the players getting in a competitive match for the first time in quite a while. But it was soccer all the same and displayed some qualities familiar to Fire fans such as the speed of David Accam and the relentless defensive work of Razvan Cocis.
While the result of the game was meaningless, it was a nice 3-0 victory for the Fire that didn't raise any real concerns. The team fielded two different lineups in each half, which is fairly normal in these preseason matches.
Here was the first half lineup: Lampson; Calistri, Keller, Pineda, Harrington; Cocis, Stephens, Alvarez, Accam, Shipp; Gilberto
And the second half lineup: McLain; Keller, Campbell, Doody, Maher; Morrell, LaBrocca, Conner, Mitchell; Fernandez, Igboananike.
With only one camera angle and no replays, some of the action was difficult to see, but here are some of the key observations:
• Trialist Arturo Alvarez made a great first impression with a goal and assist in his first action with the team. It took a while for the MLS veteran to get going, but when he did he was making some creative passes and was clearly at the center of the offensive production. The first goal came on a determined effort from Alvarez, who got in to a good scoring position off the quick restart. Alvarez was denied on his first shot from the top of the box, but followed it up right away and made good on his second effort.
Alvarez again found himself near the top of the box for the second goal, finding Accam for an easy goal after some bungled defending by South Florida. Alvarez showed he is the running for that starting right midfield position.
• Joey Calistri, a homegrown forward, started at right back of all places and looked great. Calistri was up and down the field consistently, looking just as much a right winger as a right back. He got a shot on goal in the first half after a nice sequence of passing and showed no fear moving forward. I don't know where Calistri will find his opportunities, but with the lack of options at right winger, I could easily see him get some time there.
• David Accam was unsurprisingly a major headache for South Florida. He was quick and explosive off the ball and drew plenty of contact, including the foul that set up a quick restart and the first goal. It was nice to see Accam looking fit and dangerous right off the bat.
• Collin Fernandez also had an excellent game in the midfield, delivering the best pass of the day with a gorgeous long ball over the top that fell right to Vincent Mitchell's foot for an easy, wide open goal. Fernandez is definitely getting minutes this year. He's young, versatile and should be a whole bunch of fun to watch. It should also be noted Mitchell was active all second half looking to score and making runs.
• Not much to take away from the defense in this one as South Florida rarely threatened. There was a moment of sloppy passing and communication in the first half, but it doesn't really matter as that combination of players in those positions will likely never be seen in an actual game.
All in all it was a nice start to the preseason for the Fire with not too much to take away from other than Alvarez and Fernandez making a case for a starting midfield role early on.
Did anything stand out to you or surprise you? Were you just happy to see Fire soccer again?