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Chicago Fire vs Toronto FC: What We Learned

MLS: Toronto FC at Chicago Fire Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports

The Striker Problem Has To Be Solved

The striker situation is rapidly reaching crossroads. Once again, Robert Beric had a poor showing, scoring zero goals and even preventing teammates from scoring at times in the game against Toronto FC. In his hour on the field, Beric had an xG of .82, the second-highest on the team, and came away with nothing. Also in that time, he had only one shot on goal in 4 attempts. I don’t know what to do about it other than having him ride the pine. Beric has not shown the goal-scoring potential he showed last season and despite some good performances with hold-up play and the like, his lack of goals alone justifies his removal from the lineup.

Meanwhile, in half the time, Chinonso Offor had twice as many shots on goal and two more shots in half the time Beric had. I don’t know if he’s the solution to the problem, but Offor has at least earned the opportunity to start a match at some point. At the same time, we need to realize that he’s still a 20-year-old playing in a high-level league for the first time after having to deal with both the political conflict in Nigeria and the Illinois Secretary of State office. He’s going to have growing pains and plenty of ups and downs while trying to figure out how to play at this level.

However, at this point, I’ll take his raw talent and potential along with the mistakes over Robert Beric’s bumbling around any day. Give me the kid until they can get a reliable goalscorer on the roster.

The Frank Klopas Problem

The last game I saw before I left on my week-long Vacation was the 5-1 loss to Nashville SC. In it, nothing went right, true. But the real problem was the game planning and line-up selection by Emergency Manager and first assistant coach Frank Klopas. It started with the decision to give Jonathan Bornstein a rest against a team with infinitely more attacking power than any of the other two teams they’d face that week. I get the argument for this move, that Bornstein is older and couldn’t go three times in a week. That’s a fair argument. But then, why you rest him against the best offensive team you’d face in the week, especially after a 10-day layoff? Would it not make more sense to rest him in the midweek game at home when you would have to do less defending on balance?

The next two games were bad for the same reasons that all other Fire games were bad, so you can’t exactly blame Klopas for those games in a vacuum. But still, as a first-team coach, he is responsible for the lack of development in the first team re: eliminating the mistakes at the back and the lack of finishing that plagued the team even at his first go around with the Fire.

And speaking of his first stint with the club, the fact that he’s 4th on the all-time Fire wins list with a less than 50% win percentage says more about the club’s fortunes over the last decade-plus than it does about his quality as a manager. His 28% winning percentage as manager of a Montreal Impact team that was arguably better than the Fire team he managed before should be all you need to know about his ability.

The Good Stuff

I’m happy to say there was more stuff I liked from the Fire’s loss to Toronto than stuff I didn’t, although the stuff I didn’t like (the lack of finishing, the slow transitions from defense to offense) contributed more to the result than the stuff I liked. That’s not to stay that the stuff I liked wasn’t important though. Álvaro Medrán continues to play phenomenally and with a resurgence to Gastón Gímenez’s form, they look like the peak 2020 best central midfield combination in the league again. I think that these two are playing like guys you can build around, and good things could happen for the club if they decide to stick around.

Ignacio Aliseda also had a great game and did everything but stick one past Alex Bono, but it wasn’t for lack of trying. 5 of his 6 shots were on target and if one of those had been able to sneak past Bono, who made 13 saves, by the way, the game would have been completely different. If he keeps playing like this, an argument could be made even for starting him up top instead of Beric or Offor.

Lastly, the defense looked pretty good in transition, which has been their biggest issue of late. They won more tackles and duels than TFC, and didn’t let the dangerous TFC players get in the game. Pozuelo only was allowed two shooting opportunities and Dom Dwyer only got 1 shot off the whole game. All things considered, I’m not that upset with the way the team played on defense.