I may have spoken too soon about the Fire not having a problem scoring goals. Neither Robert Berić or CJ Sapong are that good at creating their own shot, and when confronted with pressure or an unfamiliar defensive scheme like what San Jose threw at them, they’re both ineffective.
Likewise, the wings and midfield aren’t likely to let one rip with any consistent accuracy from outside the box, either. Medrán is more provider than goalscorer, and as for Frankowski, while he has the potential to score a goal here and there, he cannot do it on a consistent basis.
The fact is, this team doesn’t have a guy who can create a goal scoring opportunity for themselves. As we saw against the Quakes, that means the goals and scoring chances won’t come as easily as they had in years past.
We can talk about how to rectify this roster hole after the tournament, but for now, this team is going to have to live with it. They’re going to have to work harder and figure this out if they want to have a chance at winning this tournament.
The Whitecaps have had a torrid time this tournament. They’ve lost both of their group stage games and have given up seven goals while scoring three.
I thought about putting this in the keys to the game, but It’s more appropriate here: Stop with this wing back nonsense. Play four at the back. While Francisco Calvo may be an important vocal leader in the locker room, his tendency to switch off means that you need all the help you can get while also not sacrificing potency going forward. Having a stable set of four full time defenders should help with that, and the Fire’s center backs will be left on an island less.
Also, with the unfortunate situation of Luka Stojanović being flown back to Chicago with a knee injury, It’s time to bring Djordje Mihailovic back into the lineup.
Keys To The Match
Under Pressure: Vancouver are a team that are easily broken. The Fire need to break them early. Pressing when they don’t have the ball and bringing numbers forward when they do have it is how they’re going to walk away with three points and a second place finish in group B.
Play Possession: Raphael Wicky’s philosophy for this team is to be disruptive on defense in order to force a mistake, then counter attack swiftly and with purpose. And that’s fine. Generally speaking, having a tight defense and knowing what to do when you have possession is a good thing. It makes for exciting soccer while also making sure to minimize holes in the back.
However, with games like this one against an opponent like the Vancouver Whitecaps, you want to have as much of the ball as possible. The Fire should be looking to create scoring opportunities early and often. They need to step on Vancouver’s neck early and smother the game late. I want to see some ruthlessness against a lesser opponent and for the team to show me that they can win the tournament.
Be the Early Bird: I’m not talking about being first to 50-50 balls and winning all your duels, although that’s also important. An interesting wrinkle of this match is that it takes place at 9AM Eastern. Vancouver has not gotten up early to play a game in the tournament, but the Fire has. They have a massive advantage here, and they need to figure out how to use it. Play at a high tempo before the ‘Caps wake up and get into the game, or wear them down late into a last minute collapse—use the game time to your advantage.
How To Watch
Streaming: ESPN app
There’s no reason to suggest that the Fire shouldn’t win this one going away. It is MLS though, and anything can happen, and usually does. I think it’s going to be closer than it should be: 2-1 Fire.