Three points on the road and a second clean sheet in as many games has me feeling good. It wasn’t a chore to go back and watch it again so I can tell you what I learned from it.
Once is Chance, Twice is Coincidence, The Third Time is a Pattern
This is two clean sheets in a row. Something has happened since the acquisition of Jonathan Bornstein and his insertion into the starting lineup.
The thing is, he hasn’t done much on the pitch. In the two games he’s been on the pitch, teams have largely gone away from his side of the field. Johan Kappelhof and the right side of the Fire’s formation have been taking the lion’s share of pressure from opposing offenses. And they’re not crumbling.
Maybe it’s a confidence thing. The fact that they have someone with defensive instincts defending crosses means they can finally close in and not have to worry about runners getting positive position in the box. They’re also more focused when defending. Francisco Calvo has not fallen asleep once, nor has his tendency to overplay in 1v1’s been taken advantage of by opposing playmakers.
Bastian Schweinsteiger, too, has improved seemingly overnight. His decision making is better and he seems more confident that he’s making the right moves. Having another person with him on the back four who can defend means he can push forward with confidence, helping a struggling offense to try and score goals.
Everything is better with Johnny B in the lineup.
The true test is this Saturday against Montreal. If they get a third clean sheet in a row, in what would be the game that makes the idea of them making the playoffs seem more than just whistfull what ifs and if thens, then we can say with confidence that the Chicago Fire have managed to bail the water out of the boat and keep it afloat.
Kronholm is Still a Problem
It could have almost been for naught. Because despite the seemingly miraculous turn the outfield defenders have taken, there’s still anxiety whenever there’s a dangerous play or a small chance at a counter, because the Fire STILL have a goalkeeping problem.
Kenneth Kronholm is is the single greatest cause of high blood pressure in the Chicagoland area.
He has the uncanny ability to turn a routine back pass into an excruciating drama filled four seconds before he inevitably gets pressured down into kicking the ball out of play. he’d rather punch the ball or knock it aside rather than catch and hold on to it. Maybe it’s me being old fashioned, but I’d rather a goalkeeper have more confidence in their hands than their feet. Every time he gives up a rebound, I want to look away because I just know that an opposing attacker is going to pounce on it and put it in the back of the net. That it hasn’t happened in two games just means it’s going to hurt more when he does it again after giving the club false hope.
I Need the Old Nemanja Nikolic
Even when he’s on form Niko is a frustrating player. In form, He’ll still blow chances and he’s just as likley to be offside as he is on. However, when he’s on form, he’s almost guaranteed to put one passed the keeper. And Saturday, he was absolutely on form.
It was nice to see him score for multiple reasons. Obviously going up 1-0 right before the half was a huge morale booster, not just for himself and the club, but for the supporters as well. It gave the Fire some much needed momentum going into the second half and was proof that yes, the Men in Red can in fact score goals.
Also, it was personally gratifying to see him score. By all accounts, he is a fabulous human being, and seeing someone like that rewarded with professional accomplishment is always good to see.
However, this can’t be a one off appearance of the ghost of goalscorers past. The club and the fanbase need this kind of performance from him every game for the next nine games until the season is over. Not just for his sake or even the team’s fantastical playoff rally, but for our mental health. We need something good. And Niko has the ability to provide it.
So that’s what I took from the 1-0 win at Houston. What about you? What were your takeaways from the game? Let us know in the comments below!