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Seattle Sounders 2, Chicago Fire 1: What We Learned

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Ruben Tisch brings you some takeaways from the season opener

MLS: Chicago Fire at Seattle Sounders FC
Fire head coach Raphael Wicky
Jennifer Buchanan-USA TODAY Sports

The MLS season is long. It’s months of grueling soccer and each game has more pressure put on it than the last. Don’t get me wrong, every game is important. But, the fact is teams at this stage are still getting to know one another, which means that early on, there are more important things to take away from the games than just the score. So, here’s what we learned from the Chicago Fire’s 2-1 loss to the Seattle Sounders.

This Midfield is For Real

The one thing I was absolutely sure of coming into the season is that the midfield would be great. The movement, poise under pressure, and understanding with each other against the LA Galaxy in their final preseason game had me asking only one question “How long would it take for this to show itself in real games?”

The answer: about one minute.

Mauricio Pineda stole the ball just outside the Fire’s penalty box. Fifteen seconds and seven passes later, Djordje Mihailovic was sending in a tantalizing cross just out of the reach of Przemysław Frankowski at the far post. That set the tone for what was about as close to a dominant first half you could have without a goal. The Fire had the majority of possession of the first half and if the strikers had stayed onside, Chicago could easily have been up by one or two goals at the half.

Álvaro Medrán had a really good debut. He showed himself well in the attack, where he was contently putting himself in good areas, making decisive runs, and making passes quickly and accurately. Mihailovic and Frankowski were finding space in behind on the flanks as Seattle was pressing high, and Herbers and Pineda were breaking up every attack that came through the middle.

With the reinforcements of Ignacio Aliseda, Gastón Giménez, and Luka Stojanović on the way, the midfield is only going to get better as the season goes on. For right now though, they’re going to be just fine.

Brandt Bronico is Not A Right-Back

On the other side of the spectrum, you cannot expect Brandt Bronico to keep playing right back if you want to win games. It’s unfortunate, because as big of a Bronico detractor as I was, by the end of last season when he was playing defensive midfield, he proved that he belonged. He’s a legitimately good No. 6. He can confidently step to players taking him on and steal the ball, knowing that there’s another player behind him, and he’ll take calculated risks to get forward, where he can be effective.

Put him at right back, however, and he’s as lost as a baby duck without his mother. On the tying goal Seattle scored, he was caught ball watching by Jordan Morris who snuck in front of him to put the ball in the net. A few minutes earlier, he was blown passed by the very same Morris, who slid a pass into Cristian Roldan who scored, but the goal was disallowed for an offside.

Ultimately, this failure is Georg Heinz’s burden to bear. He failed to have a proper right back with the team and eligible to play by opening day. The Boris Sekulic signing was a good one, but this fix needed to be more than one person to prevent this exact scenario. Once we get to the end of the season, this loss may not matter as much, but if these three points do end up mattering, then we know who’s at fault.

In Wicky We Trust

My thoughts on how Raphael Wicky fared in in his first match as manager of the Fire can be summed up in a tweet by my colleague here at Hot Time Mick Maley:

I was absolutely blown away by how the Fire played. They were confident in what they were doing, and that lead to smooth passing and movement. They looked self assured. They believed in their game plan and had zero problems executing it. Yes, the club lost some of its edge toward the end of the match. But, with how thin the roster is, and with reinforcements already signed and waiting for work visas to go through, I have every confidence that Wicky can make this club a winning one, if not one can challenge for trophies... and I wouldn’t rule that out either.