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Chicago Fire 2, New England Revolution 2: What We Learned

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MLS: New England Revolution at Chicago Fire Eileen T. Meslar-USA TODAY Sports

The 2021 season is officially underway, and as a lot of us predicted, the Fire are going to be extremely entertaining to watch. Their 2-2 draw left a few things to chew on and so for the third season in a row, I’m going to talk about three of my takeaways from each game in an article series we call “What We Learned.”

This Team Is Good

If you watch back the first 15 minutes of the match, there are two things that stand out most.

  1. The movement and spacing of the midfield.
  2. Their ability to win second balls off of clearances to keep possession.

Right from kickoff, it was apparent that this was a different team even from the final preseason game a week before. The Fire took the opening kickoff, won the ensuing duel of midfield headers, and won a corner all inside the first minute. From there the tone was set, and 3 minutes later the Fire scored one of the most beautiful goals of all time. You know that goal Argentina scored at the 2006 World Cup that took 26 passes and perfect movement?

The Fire did almost the same thing.

12 passes alongside some clever runs put the Fire up 1-0, and they continued to display the same on-ball dominance throughout the first half. Six minutes after that, a sweet little sequence on the left between Offor and Frankowski lead to a cross to the back post that Robert Beric pulled back into the middle, and Luka Stojanovic finished the move off to put the Fire up 2-0.

They managed to completely dominate the ball in the first half, too. They ended the first stanza having possession close to 60% of the time, and ended the game outshooting the Revs 20-13. If you were wondering how good this offense is, The answer is “very.”

This Team Is Bad

The Fire’s defense, on the other hand, continues to give out cheap goals like those Pepsi trucks were giving out free samples of Mountain Dew Code Red in the early 00’s— which is to say, as many as you want, whenever you want. The Fire gave up 2 goals off of restarts after going up, and they followed largely the same pattern. An innocuous-looking throw-in from around midfield found the foot of a hustling Tajon Buchanan, who muscled by Jonathan Bornstein, and played the ball to Gustavo Bou for the game-tying goal.

I said in the preview for the first game that the Fire needs to play with max effort for 90 minutes because they’re not quick or athletic enough to be able to recover lapses like this. For this to happen not once, but twice on largely the same type of play is inexcusable and is something that needs to be corrected quickly.

While individually, the back four played well, Jonathan Bornstein specifically had a good game, the communication and mental errors need to stop happening, and have needed to stop happening for years. It’s a long-suffering problem with the club and it needs to stop if the Fire ever wants to get anywhere close to winning a trophy.

Fans are Back and It’s Glorious (for the most part)

Piped in crowd noise stinks. It’s something we’ve struggled with all throughout the pandemic and while we’ve gotten used to it, the artificial reactions still ring hollow. That’s why seeing all the photos and selfies on Twitter of people going to the game, and then hearing them cheer and sing and drum and trumpet was so emotionally satisfying.

However, with that being said, the return of fans in the stands means that some of the undesirable things come with it. In the second half, the homophobic goal kick chant that starts with a P could be heard coming from behind the Revolution goal. Personally, I’m sick of writing about this but will continue to call out this behavior as not acceptable as long as it keeps happening. These people should be identified and banned from attending games in the future.