A boring scoreless draw wasn’t what anyone had in mind for a match against DC United. But in hindsight, there was some interesting things that deserve a second look.
This is what we learned.
The Fire Played Natural Defenders And it Showed
Who knew that playing defenders on the back line instead of converting midfielders to play defense would work? The Chicago Fire played three natural defenders last night— Johan Kappelhof, Francisco Calvo, and the debuting Jonathan Bornstein, and they played near flawless defense. DC United had a lot trouble finding shooting lanes, and while they had the majority of possession, the Fire kept them to only ten shots and they only had one shot that managed to register as on target.
This was probably the best defensive performance all year and one has to wonder what would have happened if they played like this all year. Fire GM Nelson Rodriguez said in the press release sent out with the Bornstein acquisition that they tried to get the deal done in January, but it fell through. What if Bornstein was here from the jump? How many points that the Fire conceded due to defensive errors would have been draws or even wins if the Fire had a proper left back? This season could have been completely different and we’re talking about playoffs and moving back to the city as the next logical step, rather than as a band-aid to cover up everything being bad.
The moral of the story is “Play defenders on defense.”
I’ve Given Up On The Offense
Meanwhile on the other half of the pitch, I’ve thrown my hands in the air. I’ve decided to stop trying to figure out why the team hasn’t scored any goals. The poor finishing and lack of coordination in front of goal defies all logic and sense. There’s no explanation for what’s happened to Nemanja Nikolic this year. It’s not like he’s forgotten how to play the game. His movement is the same as it always has been, and he’s working just as hard, if not harder, than he did in years past. But there’s something slightly off of everything he does. That killer edge the had in 2017 and 2018 is gone, replaced by indecisiveness and second guessing.
Przemysław Frankowski has been a disappointment this year. After all the hype had settled down and the first few games of the season has passed Frankie has stayed largely in the good but unspectacular player camp. Normally that would be just fine, however with the hope of his signing being a game changer coming into the season, his performances haven’t reflected the expectations placed upon him by the club, the fanbase, and the media. He’s been a good piece for the club but when you expect an impact player, being good isn’t good enough.
There’s Something Wrong With Nico Gaitán
Ever since he’s come back from injury after his initial few games with the club, something about him feels off. Against DC, he only completed sixteen of thirty-one passes by my count (this does not include corners). That’s a success rate of about fifty one percent— not even close to a number one expects from a transcendent playmaker.
He seems to go for the spectacular play, rather than the high percentage pass. Some of that is good, you want your creative players to take risks sometimes, as that is where a lot of the art and magic of the game lies. However, having your most important midfielder completing only half of his passes is not a recipe for success.
Either he needs to be more controlled in his risk taking, or someone else needs to play. The Fire will not find success with Nico Gaitáns current level of play. He needs to step up if the Fire want to have any chance of salvaging some dignity from this nightmare of a season.
That’s what I learned from this week's game. What about you? Leave us a comment below with your thoughts.