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Columbus Crew 2, Chicago Fire 0: What We Learned

Ruben’s back with some takeaways from this weekend’s match

MLS: Chicago Fire at Columbus Crew SC Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports

The Chicago Fire Football Club are once again coming off of a loss without scoring a goal, and once again looked to be a shambles on defense. While on the micro, things seemed to be just more of the same, some big picture things made themselves evident. This is what we learned from the Fire’s 2-0 loss to the Columbus Crew.

Failure Starts at the Top

In some ways, we saw this coming the second training camp started. I know I wasn’t the only one to throw sus on Georg Heitz and co. for only bringing in four transfer targets before the start of the season, and the recent run of results culminating in last weekend’s loss to the Columbus Crew shows that our doubts were founded. The organization was fooled last year by almosts, what-ifs, and the deads of its streaky striker. The Robert Beric goal factory has closed down and shows no sign of reopening and the only replacement is a 20-year-old who despite showing flashes of talent, isn’t quite ready for MLS’s level of play.

The backline is also suffering from poor roster construction. The only signing made on defense was Jhon Espinoza, a backup and training partner for right-back Boris Sekulic. While that move has actually worked out rather well, Espinoza has been solid when coming in off the bench and Sekulic has defiantly stepped up his game between last season and this one, It was not enough, especally in the middle where all the problems seem to be coming from.

For all of the center-back options the team has, the only one that has shown any signs of improving this disaster has been Wyatt Omsberg. Johan Kappelhof has seemingly lost a step after a horrific set of leg injuries over the last two seasons. Mauricio Pineda has been shuffled back to the six where he played in the Academy and is the most comfortable. Carlos Teran, who got the start on Saturday, made some horrific mistakes before settling in and giving an okay performance.

As for Francisco Calvo, he had a typical Calvo performance. He was good on the ball and was good in the 1v1’s But his communication let the rest of the defense down. There’s not a single dominant center back among the squad, and certainly no one you can trust to be able to anchor the backline.

The construction of the squad is poor and incomplete. Georg Heitz, the scouting office, and any numbers of the coaching staff should be burying their heads in shame at the state of the roster. Then they need to resolve themselves to do better... and then actually do better.

The Midfield is Still Class, And That Makes It Worse

In some ways, The failures of the front office are magnified because we know they can do a good job. The various midfielders they’ve brought in between this season and last have all ranged from fine to very good, depending on the day. And against Columbus, for the most part, they were very good. Ignacio Aliseda’s performance stands out. His ability to keep possession, both by being able to dribble out of trouble as well as having a 90% completion percentage, are things you need to have on a winning team. Luka Stojaionivic as well had a good second half once he came into the game at halftime. The Fire out possessed and out passed the Crew at home in a charged atmosphere, and that should account for something in the long run.

The Scoring Problem

The question now is how to turn these positive numbers into goals. It’s clear with how well the mids are playing together that they have an understanding with each other that isn’t translating to the center forward. Interestingly, the Fire did outshoot Columbus 15-14, however, none of them were on frame. Part of this is clearly a lack of trust between the striker options and the rest of the field. Beric’s struggles and Offor’s slightly overwhelmed performances are resulting in the midfield taking fewer chances and choosing to keep possession instead of risking a key pass to try to unlock a defense.

You can see this also by where the shots are coming from. Until Beric came in and took five shots, all the attempts to score were coming from the midfield, with Fabian Herbers playing as the number 10 leading the way with four attempts. None of this is surprising. Of Robert Beric’s shot attempts, three of them were inside the 18, and two of those three were inside the six-yard box. Beric is just missing, and while the midfield isn’t scoring either, it must be frustrating to see the good service you put in be wasted cheaply.

The only solution is to bring in another striker during the transfer window, which opens July 7th, and hope they develop a better rapport with each other. Offor isn’t ready and Beric has lost the trust of his teammates. If everything stays the way it’s been going, it’s going to be a long hard rest of the season.