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2016 Fire Defense, Has It Really Improved?

Adam Merges says barely, if at all.

Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports

As the season progresses through the first 9 games I have heard of a much improved defense that the Fire have throughout the cf97 circles. All throughout social media there have been supporters and media alike who have said that this season's defense is a vast improvement over the previous years teams. But really, has it improved all that much? Here are a few points to consider when you make your mind up:

1) What exactly is your definition of defense or what a defense is actually supposed to do?

The reason I ask this is because some may define defense as "the action or role of defending one's goal against the opposition". Some may be fine with that definition but I'm certainly not. I would make the definition read more like "the action or role of defending one's goal by limiting the opposition's chances against one's goal".

In hockey or basketball do the defending teams just sit back and let the opposition take chance after chance? No, otherwise the defending team would lose almost every time. In those sports and along with soccer there has to be tactics that can control the opposing team and put pressure on the opposing team's players. If the defending team isn't tactically prepared and does not have the proper tactics employed to defend than those tactics are completely useless. So far Fire coach VeljkoPaunovic has been saying that they prepare for each game differently and that he takes everything on a game by game basis. But when you employ the same tactics week after week with no change the opposing teams will change their attacking tactics to take advantage of a stale defensive setup.

Normally Paunovic has employed a 5-3-2 formation on the road with an emphasis on the defense. Some may argue that he has employed a 3-5-2 formation but let's be honest, when they lineup the wing backs in midfield they end up spending the majority of the game in the defensive third, not in the midfield or attacking third. When you apply pressure on the attacking team it makes them create their own errors. Paunovic said he wants to play a high press and possession filled game but it has been far from it.

The high press is non existent because so many players are in the defensive third because of the 5-3-2 system that Paunovic employs. Something isn't working, whether it be preparation or the plan heading into games it just isn't working. Lazy defending, ball watching, errand passes, awful giveaways and miscommunication is causing a defense that is supposed to be better digress into something that will hinder this team from winning consistently.

2) "What about the numbers?" some may say.

What about them? So what if the team has given up 12 goals in the first nine games. It still doesn't mean we are winning. That number can be a guise that can give some the feeling that the defense is getting better. If you want to go by the first definition then so be it but if you like mine better then that number means jack. Through the first nine games, the Fire's defense has allowed 139 shots with 60 of them on goal. That is roughly an average of 15 shots with seven on goal per game. That is exactly why the Fire's defense will not be able to help win games. As long as they are giving up this amount of shots there will be times when the opposing teams will start putting more chances away. This will more or less eliminate the chances of the Fire being able to get all three points. Yes, the offense is definitely not helping the cause but neither is the defense in limiting the opposition's opportunities.

So whether you think that defense has improved through the argument of the shutout streak that happened earlier this season or goals given up through the first nine games, I guess it is all a matter of perspective. From my perspective the way the defense has played so far and the way it has been playing lately, I would not count on them to keep the Fire in many games.