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Chicago Fire 3, Atlanta United 0: What We Learned

MLS: Atlanta United FC at Chicago Fire Jon Durr-USA TODAY Sports

Don’t Let Calvo Back

The Chicago Fire defense looked so good last weekend.

I will grant you that part of it was because of Atlanta. They’re in freefall and without Josef Martinez in the lineup, don’t really have anyone to support Ezequiel Barco while attacking, leading to a team that isn’t really much of a threat to anyone.

However, on the occasions Atlanta were on the front foot, such as the beginning of the game and the last few minutes of the second half, the Fire were much more organized and looked to be on the same page. There were two reasons for this. The first is that with three center backs, there was much less space for Atlanta to get clean looks on goal with their possession. But also, an even bigger reason was the lack of one Francisco Calvo.

Everything looked better without Calvo in what was essentially the same system they played against Philadelphia. The lines were a little higher and they were always even. There were no stragglers keeping players onside and the passing off of attackers between one defender to another was smooth and pain-free.

The play out of the back was also so much better than in games with Calvo. Every player in on defense had over a 75 percent pass completion percentage and they turned the ball over in dangerous spots much less. Everything was simpler and as a consequence, more efficient.

Yes, this is a small sample size of one, but If the defense stays like this throughout the Gold Cup, you can’t justify bringing Calvo back into the lineup.

Wicky In... For Now

We now have confirmation that Raphael Wicky has not lost the locker room. They still believe in his tactics and it shows. Over the last week, they’ve gone from a 2 center back system to a 3 center back system and have improved leaps and bounds from two weeks ago when they hit rock bottom against FC Cincinnati.

We know this is the system Wicky has always wanted to play. They were working on this as early as his first preseason and they implemented this way back in the MLS is Back tournament, where it looked pretty good except when the forwards couldn’t score against San Jose and Vancouver. Ever since then, he’s not gone back to it for his own reasons. But now that his job is on the line, he’s hail marrying his preferred system and so far, it’s worked.

That doesn’t mean it’s going to keep working for the rest of the season, but whatever he does or whatever adjustments that need to be made, the team believes in their head coach. I’m starting to see fewer and fewer reasons to let him go as long as that remains the case.

Yes I flip-flopped on this issue.

It’s Aliseda Time

Ignacio Aliseda, Alvaro Medran, and Johan Kappelhof all had their best games of the season against the Five Stripes last Saturday. Aliseda especially impressed with his MLS player of the week level performance of 2 goals and an assist.

Part of the belief that the Fire would be good this season was predicated on the Fire’s DP’s play well. That hasn’t come through for Gaston Gimenez who has played well at times but has never been a spectacular example of a 6. And we all know that Robert Beric has had his talent taken away like he was in some soccer version of Space Jam.

As for our designated young DP, Aliseda has had trouble adjusting to life in MLS, and it hasn’t been the easiest time getting used to living in America, especially having to move during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. But now, hopefully, that performance will unlock the missing piece in Aliseda where he can do this on a regular basis.