A listless 1-1 performance by the Chicago Fire against Real Salt Lake wasn’t much to look at. After Aleksander Katai opened up the scoring with a powerful free kick, and a penalty conversion for RSL, there really wasn’t much happening. But there’s always stuff to learn.
Here are my takeaways from Saturday’s match.
Bronico Is A Right Back?
When the lineups came out, the one thing that immediately struck me as concerning was the question of who would play right back.
The answer, it turned out, was Brandt Bronico.
And he was good! He looked comfortable, both in attack, where he seemed to draw confidence from the space he was able to find both out wide and cutting inside occasionally. He kept his defensive assignments in front of him and made several good plays.
To be clear, Bronico should still not be anyone’s first choice at the position. That should still be Johan Kappelhof, barring any roster moves in the summer. However, if Bronico can keep having performances exactly like that I wouldn’t be terribly upset to see him there in emergency situations.
Corrales Is Improving
He’s not going to be a world-beater anytime soon, but slowly and steadily, every time he steps on the field, I see Jorge Corrales playing better. Much like Bronico on his opposite side, he looked better on the ball than off it. He connected on all but four of his non-cross passes, and none of the misses were in places that could be punished. He only committed two fouls, both in the first half, and was never outrageously out of position.
I do still worry at times he’s going to be made to look the fool. He’s still not especially quick with his feet and looks slightly unstable while defending one on one. However, I no longer dread the ball being on that side of the field. I’m only slightly uncomfortable. And that’s progress.
All of that being said, I feel it important to remind you and myself— especially myself— that this wasn’t an average game. Real Salt Lake came into this game during a run of very poor form. And that pattern continued.
It takes two teams to produce a boring performance like that, and RSL were up for it as much as the Fire were. They were easy to defend, as they created only seven shooting opportunities (six of which came during the first half), while having the lion’s share of possession all night. They seemed content to absorb pressure from the Fire and when in possession themselves, kick the ball around midfield doing nothing in particular.
Both teams looked like they were shaking off a good amount of ring rust. The Fire in particular had a poor first half, completing around seventy percent of their passes and not threatening the goal at all once the penalty evened up the score. However, they looked better in the second half. For RSL’s part, they faded towards the end, which contributed to the Fire’s resurgence.
The Fire had every opportunity to blow this game, and didn’t. That should count for something. But not much.
What did you learn from the draw? Let us know below in the comments.