Since the resumption of the MLS season, the games have come thick and fast one right after another. That being the case, there hasn’t really been time to sit and think about what’s been going on with the club and take in their performances. But now that’s there’s a full week between games, It’s given me time to reflect on a whirlwind of a restart to the season. This is what we learned from the Fire’s first five games back.
Robert Beric Is Probably a Bust.
It’s unfortunate for everyone involved that we once again have to talk about a high profile Fire signing not living up to expectations. It hurts all the more when we realize it is yet another striker. When Robert Beric joined the team, there was a lot of hype behind his signing. He was coming from a top European league, though on the second tier in League 1, and it was predicted by fans and pundits alike that he would have a better scoring output than Nemanja Nikolic.
To be fair to Beric, that wasn’t totally out of left field. After his Golden Boot winning season, Nikolic’s production kept falling year after year. His goals fell by half in two years, going from 24 in 2017 to just 12 in 2019. It seemed that the league figured out Niko and it was time to make a change in the club’s lead forward spot.
However, Beric has failed to live up to the relatively short bar of double-digit goals, but it’s not just his lack of goal production that is worrying. The attack looked substantially better with Elliot Collier, an obviously less skilled player than Beric. They created more scoring opportunities with Collier in the game. Collier’s runs were more dynamic and he required more attention from the defense than Beric did when he came into the game.
There’s still time for Beric to right the ship. MLS is planning on two more pods of six games to bring the post MLS is Back game count to eighteen. However, for now, you can’t call his signing anything other than a failure. CJ Sapong can’t clear quarantine soon enough.
Francisco Calvo Is Not Good Enough To Be Captain
It seems ludicrous to me, knowing what we know about Francisco Calvo and how he left Minnesota, that he could possibly be the club captain. He was benched by Adrian Heath for poor play and threw a fit, eventually being traded to the Fire. While here, he has continued to make mental and positional errors that have cost the Fire games. Every game, there's at least one missed run or misplayed ball or poor tackle that costs the team. If he were anyone else, he’d be benched by now. But since he was named captain you can’t bench him and not risk another situation like what happened with MNUFC. This is one of the few things that Raphael Wicky has gotten wrong as far as player management goes this season, and I’m not sure what to do about it.
The Other Signings Have Been Excellent.
On to something much more positive. Other than Beric, every other signing Georg Heitz has made has been a good one. Gastón Giménez has been the best, most consistent performer on the team. Through these five games of the restart, he’s played every minute and has almost never put a foot wrong. He’s owned the central midfield and when the Fire have been playing well and have been competitive, he’s largely been the reason why.
Ignacio Aliseda, after a slow start, has come into his own. Spearheading the Fire’s three person central midfield, Aliseda has more often than not been the Fire’s most dangerous attacker. His penetrating runs on and off the ball has provided constant pressure on opposing defenses, and created space for other players to potentially take advantage.
Boris Sekulic has been steady. It’s hard to judge him fairly, considering the state of the defense as a whole and the fact that for the last half decade or so before he got here, the right back position has been the location of some of the most productive and exciting players on the roster. Sekulic isn’t like that though. He’s a steady hand who isn’t going to wow you with his play, but he will more often than not do the job.
Álvaro Medrán has been good as well, if also a little unspectacular. He’s a solid box to box midfielder and fits in well within the double pivot alongside either Giménez or Luka Stojanović, who was playing well until an unfortunate injury all but ended his season.
All in all, we can say that Georg Heitz did a decent job putting together this roster, despite the striker position being a bit of a dud, everyone else he brought in has been solid, and if they ever figure out the number 9, the club could be really good.
Fabian Herbers Is Not A Winger
I never really knew what to make of Fabian Herbers since Nelson Rodriguez brought him in from Philadelphia. Both Veljko Paunovic and Wicky started him playing out on the wing with largely a distribution role. It would be an understatement to say that it didn’t go well. Herbers just isn’t a good passer of the ball. His distance control and accuracy aren’t where an MLS level player’s should be and often times a good run of play or a counter attacking break would just die once the ball got to his feet.
Since he’s been pushed forward, though, it’s been a completely different story. He’s scored two goals since the return, both at Soldier Field. The first was a spectacularly controlled touch into a half volley against Cincinnati and the second was a right place at the right time goal off of a second ball in from a corner kick against New England. He’s found his place in the squad as a finishing winger, crashing into the back line as a receiver of passes, instead of someone who makes them.