The Chicago Fire have an absolutely huge match coming up— at least hype-wise— against the Seattle Sounders at home this weekend. Seattle is always a huge name in MLS Land, and with the kind of power they possess on paper, it’s fair for the Fire to be a little frightened that their excellent home form could take a hit on Saturday. Seattle also might be in for a hard time, as they’re trying to figure out how they want to go about the season as well.
Take Advantage Of: Seattle Attacking
If you peruse any Sounders news right now, there’s a bit of panic about how their season has started, with a big knock being their lack of a nose for the goal. They have 14 goals so far, with 9 games played, which puts them at 4th in the Western Conference. They have also scored a goal in every game but two this season. Yet, by Seattle standards, that’s really disappointing. If you look at their passing map from their last game against Toronto, there might be a few reasons why that is.
For your reference, on the left side, number 33 is a defender. Yes, most of their action on the left wing is with a defender. The right wing is a bit more varied, you can see by their where their crosses are coming in from that Joevin Jones gets a bit deeper into the zone than the others do. You can also see that the Sounders had a hard time getting some successful passes going in the box. Maybe they had some good crosses go in?
Not really. A lot of these crosses really are going into dangerous positions, but when you look at the shots on target and the score line, they never amounted to anything. Let’s see what was going here, what in the world is happening here?
We’re going to Blue-skiddo over to the 27th minute, where Joevin Jones played a ball towards the center of the box. This seconds before the ball went into the box.
That setup is pretty bad. The play before this was an excellent ball that got the open position you see here. There’s only 3 people in the box as opposed to what looks like Toronto’s entire team. That isn’t the biggest problem though, of course you wouldn’t want to go number for number in the box, take a look at this well edited revision to this.
Seattle aren’t displaying a good nose for when to attack and how to attack, and while they try to figure that out in the Fire’s final 3rd, the Fire can make steps to up the scoreline.
How Can The Fire Work This? Counter Attack
Even though Seattle has the midfield clogged up a lot, particularly in that halfway area between the box and the midfield line. The Fire have one of the best on paper midfields in the league, and they should easily be able to take advantage of Seattle’s preference of having a defender play up on the wing. Seattle’s given up a league high 2 goals from a counter attack, and considering 14 teams in the league have 0 given up, this would be the Fire’s best option to get ahead. Take a look at the dribbles chart for the Fire against the Galaxy last week for where the Fire’s firepower were.
They’re mostly on the left side, which would be Joevin Jones side. If the Fire can use the passing prowess of their midfielders to pierce through the crowd that Seattle leaves in the midfield and set up David Accam and Nemanja Nikolic (It’s Your Cousin, Let’s Go Bowling), the Sounders are going to be in for a rough time. They have to turn all the missed chances that the Sounders are leaving and turn it into their own chances.
Take for example, this counter attack that the Revs pulled off and turned into a goal. What side are they on?
This is easily a play I can see the Fire making with the power and creativity of their midfield, along with the speed and finishing ability of Accam and Nikolic.
Watch Out For Late Goals
Don’t let the record fool you. Of their last 5 games, they’ve scored 6 goals at the 75th minute or later. This is barring the shellacking they gave the Los Angeles Galaxy, where all 3 goals were scored in the first half. Why do they get so many late goals?
Let us fly away, to a distant land. A distant land called CenturyLink Stadium. It is in this magical place where they came back against the New England Revolution in the last 20 minutes of the game to draw the Revs.
All three of these goals come from lazy defending and lack-a-daisical marking on New England’s part. Considering the last game the Fire played against the Galaxy, where terrible marking on set pieces led to two second half goals, this upcoming second half could be a bit of a hard time.
If you don’t think that the Fire should be a little nervous about a team that can feast on bad defending, look at this shot of Daniel Steres after just waltz’ into the exact spot where he scores.
There’s six people just staring at him as he heads the ball into the back of the net for the first of the Galaxy’s two goals. Even the equalizer scored by Giovani Dos Santos was egregious.
That’s a lot of open space to give someone in the box, number 4 doesn’t really have a body on him, which could be the result of Paunović’s love of zonal marking. João Meira does challenge him a bit, but Dos Santos already had his progress towards the ball. The only other way he could have been stopped at that point would be to give up a foul.
This type of marking and defense could be real trouble for a team that has firepower just waiting to go off like Will Bruin and Clint Dempsey. While these examples were from set pieces, it could easily translate to open play like it did when the Fire played Toronto.
How Does One Survive Such Power: Stay consistent with defensive efforts, do better set pieces
Seattle clearly doesn’t quit, so neither should the Fire. They have to adapt to any changes that will definitely come with Seattle’s nose for closing time goals. This will especially be true as any fouls late due to fatigue or what have you could result in an excellent set piece opportunity. And with the Fire giving up the second highest set piece goals at 4, it’s probably best that they stick to adapting their formation and substitutions to the onslaught that will likely awaken in the second half.
They don’t have the same defensive ability that Toronto showed in their game against the Sounders, their well organized tactics didn’t leave a whole lot of quality chances for Seattle to take advantage of. However, the Fire can take something from Toronto in that they really can’t leave the middle open, and they need to stifle any opportunities in their own third with sublime marking.
Well That Was A Lot Of Information
Paunović’s going to be locked in a tactical chess match with a team that’s frustrated and looking to get some wins going. The Fire also need to get back on their high horse, and also get back some of the confidence of Bastian Schweinsteiger (which always gets marked by autocorrect) and Dax McCarty that may have been lost over this recent road trip. Nothing would be more embarrassing than getting demolished at home on national TV, since this game got bumped to ESPN 2.
Insanely Stupid Stat of the Match
With nationally-broadcasted games since 2014, the Fire have won only 7 out of 32 games. In that span, they’ve never won on any ESPN affiliated broadcast of the 5 times they’ve been on. Seattle won 5 of their 14 nationally broadcast regular season games last year.