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New England Revolution 1, Chicago Fire 1: What We Learned

Ruben shares his takeaways from the draw with New England

MLS: Chicago Fire at New England Revolution Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire made it out of Foxboro with a point against the New England Revolution, but it almost wasn’t meant to be. The last kick of the game was a point blank opportunity for Revs forward Justin Rennicks, who inexplicably sky’d it over the crossbar. Regardless of the score, it was a fast paced entertaining affair, and there were plenty of things to take away from it. This is what we learned from the Fire’s 1-1 draw with the Revs.

3-5-2 for What?

I’m not entirely sure I like the Fire playing with three defenders. After the Fire went to three at the back, the Revs got their best scoring opportunities of the night and should have won the game if it were not for that terrible miss. Certainly, making the change to three central defenders in the middle of the match didn’t help. After scoring the tying goal and successfully confusing the Revs for five minutes after the switch, the Revs settled down and started exposing the Fire’s lack of familiarity with the system, and showing why it’s difficult to succeed in a three defender setup.

The average quality of attacking wingers in MLS is disproportionately high when compared to their defensive counterparts. Because of that, most teams find most of their scoring opportunities by playing outside in, not inside out. Instead of attacks coming from attacking central midfielders inside the middle third of the field, they usually start from outside at off angles and work inwards from the wing (This is what everyone means when they say you don’t need a 10 to be successful in MLS). Playing three central defenders lets teams have more space in the areas where they’re already finding most of their success. And in order to properly contest that space, your wingers need to track back and play in their own defensive third taking them further away from where they’re most effective and giving the opposing team the advantage.

It’s an understandable strategy for teams looking to play a counterattacking style. But the Fire are not that. They have players like Medrán and Frankowski who want to get on the ball and control the tempo of the game. A 3-5-2 can make it easier to get clapped back on the counter, just like New England did at the end of the game, and it punishes bad giveaways and loss of focus.

On Francisco Calvo, and Bad Games

Francisco Calvo had an absolute howler of a game yesterday. Despite making a few hero plays off the line, he was largely taken to town by Revs DP striker Adam Buksa, and on the goal he scored, was caught napping. Buksa stepped in front of him to receive the ball, and went around him like he was an orange traffic cone. After the match was over, Fire fans have been telling me that every player is entitled to a bad game. Bronico had one last week and Calvo had one this week. Everything is going to be fine.

Except here’s the problem. It’s not just one bad game from Calvo. It’s a pattern. And it’s been going on ever since he got here last season from Minnesota. At least once a game, he will do something that has the potential to cost the Fire points. Saturday it was ball watching and losing concentration around a DP striker, another time it was a giveaway to the other team leading to an odd man break for the opponent. And sometimes he’s so far out of position, there’s no recovering from it.

It’s always something with Francisco Calvo. Unlike Brandt Bronico, whose bad game stemmed from him being put into an uncomfortable position out of necessity, Calvo’s bad games come from the position where he is most comfortable, and they happen far too often for it to be written off as some sort of fluke.

Francisco Calvo is not good enough to start on a team with championship aspirations. The faster the club realizes it, the better off the club will be.

Help Has Arrived

The spring signings are starting to roll into Chicago, and they’re already having a massive impact. Ignacio Aliseda and Gaston Gimenez dressed on Saturday, with Gimenez getting into the game—and he was fantastic. Despite an early stumble causing a breakaway for the Revs, Gimenez was the best player in white. His pass opened up the flank for Djordje Mihailovic on the tying goal. He also had some wicked shots from 25+ yards that Brad Knighton needed all of his skills to deal with. And later Saturday night, the next round of reinforcements showed up.

Luka Stojanovic and Boris Sekulic have both arrived in the city and should be ready to at least make the 18 against Orlando City next week.

I am curious at how they’re going to figure out who starts and who sits. Obviously Sekulic comes right into the lineup for Bronico, but Stojanovic is a bit harder to place. Do you take off Mihailovic, who’s been playing really well and has an assist already this season? Do you tuck Djordje inside and play him instead of someone like Fabian Herbers? I’m really curious to see what Wicky and his staff can come up with. And much like Patrick, I’m really excited to see what this full roster looks like.