Nashville SC 0
The Big Headline is that Bastian Schweinsteiger has concluded his rigorous and iconoclastic shin-rubbing portion of preseason in favor of a quixotic substitute performance. Even Basti’s presence as a halftime substitute in the Chicago Fire’s preseason match against Nashville SC in Brandenton, Florida couldn’t summon a goal, as the game ended in a scoreless draw.
The Men in Red stay in Bradenton for another three days, ending their stay in Florida with another friendly, this one a closed-door match against Orlando City Saturday in their cavernous purple cathedral. This team may not be ready for the season, but we really won’t know until it starts. Huzzah!
Here’s my game notes, for the true cognescenti:
Fire XI (4-2-3-1): Cleveland; Vincent, Dean, Campbell ©, Conner; Bronico, Castro; Campos, Bakero, Ruiz; Collier. Dean and Vincent the only starters in the XI - commenters saying Dax is rested too. So it’s almost a straight B-team today, especially in central midfield where even Mo Adams isn’t starting.
Healthy MIAs include Richard Sanchez, Johan Kappelhof, Dax McCarty, Mo Adams, maybe Basti? Apparently he was goofing around with them during warmups
Early stages have Fire setting a challenge line about 10 yds above midfield stripe. Nashville not as naive as the college teams, handling the compressed field well, hitting the Fire on quick attacks once just through the pressure zone.
12- Campos’ corner is headed away.
14- Nashville able to create dangerous situations by springing quickly the moment pressure is broken but Fire defense look coherent and well-drilled in those
19- Campos creates a little space, crosses back post but Pickens is strong in the air to take it down.
22- Terrible giveaway by Bronico? Puts Nashville #8 alone in the area - dances back and forth looking for a shot as Cleveland dives TWICE to no avail, taken down by Conner no call, chance goes away. That looked pretty crazy
Fire front 6 are combining well as they move into the attacking zone, with Ruiz and Campos able to get free to deliver crosses after those combos. Crosses haven’t amounted to much but tame corners, but it shows they’re getting a good look
26- Cleveland comes for a bouncing ball but gets beat to it again by #8. His attempt to chip from an impossible angle goes out for a throw. Cleveland not inspiring confidence right now - doesn’t even have the sun in his eyes at this point.
29- Campos fouled on wing. Free kick wide on the left and Vincent (or Campos?) puts a lovely curling ball on frame. Pickens punches away and is he just better than any of our keepers? Damn it.
30- Campos fouled again almost same spot, back post curler caught by Pickens.
36- Little stretch here where we see the pros and cons of Bronico’s game. He’s covering a lot of space and showing for the ball well, trying to link the defense and attack and doing so with some success when he finds space. But he’s not hard to pressure off the ball when he’s caught flat-footed, and his
39 - Dean with a yellow for a professional foul; if he doesn’t make that foul, Nashville are in behind the very high line the Fire are playing. Just a moment before, Campbell committed an obvious but uncalled foul, pushing a guy in the back while stepping almost into the attacking channel to pressure.
TACTICAL NOTE: Fire seem to want to compress the space in which the opposition can play but aren’t pairing that with intense pressure from the front-runners. Is this a long-term adjustment to last year’s late-season fatigue and injury crisis? Or is the pressure from the frontrunners just not integrated into the gameplan yet?
Peep peep, that was the half that was. Nil-nil and deservedly so. If anything, Nashville has edged this by creating a couple of near-misses on the break, while the Fire have had moments where the combinations and runs came close to clicking but haven’t gotten even a half chance out of it.
Performances: Positive - Campos and Ruiz both look tricky and able to make things happen when the get a bit of space. Campos in particular makes up for his less-than-explosive speed with an array of little flicks that allow him to invite then dance around pressure. Dean and Campbell seem in decent sync, and Dean’s good preseason form continued through the half, although each of them has gotten caught out by the very high line at times.
Negative - Collier and Bakero basically invisible. Bakero seems to replicate de Leeuw’s reluctance to get involved in keeping possession, which ok
Holy shit starters! Sanchez, Kappelhof, Adams, SCHWEINSTEIGER, Ramos, Nikolic all come in at the half. Bakero moves to the right wing and Campos stays on the left. Probably a midfield three of Adams, Conner and Basti now.
Bakero is immediately more involved playing with a little more breathing room on the wing
51- Campbell absolutely crushes a dude on the sideline, apparently. In any case, he’s injured on the play and NSC have a free kick. Here’s hoping Campbell’s okay; Dean comes back on and now we really do have something like four-fifths of the likely starting defense out there (if Vincent had stayed on, it would be all of them)
57- Basti wins the ball and puts on a little show for the Nashville boys, stutter-dribbling through a sideline trap to reverse the ball back to Sanchez
60 - Nashville subs in some folks, apparently
64- I think Basti just megged a dude to escape another double
70- <MISSED IT!> Fire fouled juuuuust outside area but I don’t know who, could’ve been a PK pretty easily. Maybe Bakero? It was on the right wing where he’s been playing. Anyway, Campos’ set piece cross to the back post is headed away
75- Nashville getting good looks off pressure, scoops a clear chance well over the bar
77- Sanchez doubles back to save a deflected shot as Nashville again having the better of play
79- Nikolic fouled in good spot for free kick. Basti steps over the ball to wrong-foot the defense and Campos rifles a vicious shot that Nashville’s CJ Cochran lays out to save
80- When will our midfield decide it wants to control the run of play? Because we’re still deep in preseason mode, letting Nashville win second balls and playing like the resulting situation is a training exercise
82- Drilled corner from Campos bounces around in front of goal, but again Nashville wins all the second balls and the chance goes
84- Campos and Bakero switch sides. Campos’ cross slices behind the runs of both Niko and Bakero; Vincent swoops in to keep the attack alive but isn’t awake to Bakero’s thru ball
85- Basti? I think? Wallops a shot that Cochran saves. After the corner, Basti, Conner & Ramos work a three-man combo to spring Ramos for a short cross that’s behind everyone
The wind has been crazy all game. I haven’t mentioned that yet, and I should’ve.
Fire look like they’re doing a possession drill but they keep missing connections. Then, in the 90th minute a Nashville player pressed Basti deep into defense - after getting rid of the ball, Basti looked like he was hurting a bit, which is Not Good.
Peep peep peeeeeeep - yippee-ki-yay for another preseason bore draw. Here’s to hoping the film teaches everyone something important.
Today’s Player Of the Match has to be Diego Campos, for my money, but if you were looking for a player who announced his arrival on the MLS stage, there weren’t none o’ them.