The Chicago Fire finally won a game on the road against the New York Red Bulls. Here’s how they did it and what it means on this week’s What We Learned.
The Defense Bounced Back
One of the biggest concerns going in to the match was how the Fire would handle the transition offense of the Red Bulls, and whether or not they’d be able to control the game. The answer was to remove the Fire’s most aggressive defender, Francisco Calvo, and replace him with a steady workhorse, Jonathan Bornstein. And it payed off in spades.
Bornstein was everywhere in what would have been a Man of the Match performance on any other day. He was always in the spot he needed to be in to make the correct play, and he always made the correct play.
The other thing they did well was that only one fullback was forward as an attacker at any given time. The strong side fullback was always forward, while the weak side one was playing farther back, ready to support but equally ready to drop back and help on defense. That prevented odd man situations in favor of New York, keeping the Fire up or even on defenders. It worked so well that Bobby Shuttleworth didn’t really have a lot of work to do all night, and the Fire’s clean sheet was acquired.
The Fire Can Do This
According to FiveThirtyEight’s MLS Playoff predictions, have just a 6 percent chance of making the playoffs. They currently sit 6 points back of DC for 7th, and 4 points back of Columbus and Atlanta who are tied on points for 8th. The Fire play DC in two games on September 15th, three days after they play the best team in the league on the 11th. Their new #6 Federico Navarro will have passed quarantine and should be available to start against DC, if not SKC.
Meanwhile, DC play the Red Bulls before the Fire match, so they should be run ragged by New York’s energetic style of chaos soccer. There is a real possibility that the Fire could be drawn even on points against DC, and maybe surpass Columbus (Who play Inter Miami and Orlando) and Atlanta (who play Orlando and Cincinnati) in the standings. Essentially, the Fire legitimately are in the fight for the final playoff spot in the East, and they have the talent to go on a run and get some wins. They just have to do it.
MLS is Weird and Wonderful
Robert Beric did the thing! For the first time in 10 games, the Fire’s bad but also talented striker put the ball in the back of the net from an offside position, but it was off of a long throw in that was only touched by three New York Red Bulls players and not a single teammate, so the goal stood, because a) you can’t be offside on a restart from a throw in, and b) if the ball is last touched by the defending team, you’re also not offside.
It was inevitable that something silly was going to break Beric’s goal scoring drought. And it was inevitable that it was going to happen against a team like the New York Red Bulls. They more than any other team in the league are chaos merchants, and I love them for it. They’re a throwback to the MLS of old in a way that’s charming and fun, and it’s what makes MLS one of the most entertaining leagues in the world dollar for dollar. I think, at times, we take for the league for granted and forget that just because it isn’t in the top 5 leagues, that doesn’t make MLS bad. MLS is a league with both good football and wacky hijinks, and that’s just how I like it.