With Saturday night’s last-minute thriller, the Chicago Fire have taken 7 of the last 9 points possible and find themselves only 3 points from the playoff line in the Eastern Conference.
So, what did we learn Saturday night?
Bastian Schweinsteiger Is Still A Gamebreaker
I was critical of Basti as a central midfielder earlier this year, but since the move back to center back he’s been one of the Fire’s most consistent and reliable players, competing at an All-star level and giving this team a lot more confidence to play out of the back. Saturday night he showed that even from the central defense, he can win games like no one else on this roster can.
Schweinsteiger’s composure and vision to find Dax McCarty on the first goal was world class and getting on the end of a Djordje Mihailovic corner kick at the death dragged this Fire team to victory. Hopefully Schweinsteiger has a few moments of magic left here coming down the final stretch of the year; this team will need more if it has any hope of making the playoffs.
Zonal Marking Should Be Banned From The Tactics Board
It’s one of the greatest conundrums in world football for me-how do managers deploy a zonal marking scheme on a corner kick? First, let me play armchair manager here for a second; defensively you should have every attacker marked chest to chest and then have one or two of your best ball winners free to go hunt the ball in the air. Almost every team in the world does this, and time and time again we see zonal marking get beat fairly easily in the air. At least make them earn it.
Second, Montreal did exactly what you are supposed to do against a zonal marking scheme. When the ball goes short to Corrales (of course he makes a difference as soon as he swaps shirts because, ya know, Fire), the Fire defenders are caught in no man’s land: they get stretched and the pockets in the zone open up slightly because now they don’t know where to shift and can’t step as a group, they have no idea where the runners are coming from because now they are focused on the change of angle for the cross coming, and late runs into the area are incredibly difficult when you are just marking space.
It’s a small detail, but those things matter on set pieces. Scrap the zonal marking, please.
Wednesday Night Could Now Be A Tipping Point
Can I say in a “What we Learned” column that we’re about to learn more Wednesday night if this team has a chance to make a real playoff push? Well, I’m going to anyway because if this team really has turned any sort of a corner, then away at Portland in the midweek is going to be where we find out. Were these last three weeks a sign of things to come?
Realistically, this team probably needs all three points before getting the stretch run of their schedule. Stringing together two straight road results and taking 10 of 12 points over the last four games would signal to the rest of the Eastern Conference that the Fire aren’t dead just yet.