The Chicago Fire faced their toughest test so far this season against the LA Galaxy, and they passed, but not with an A. Another clean sheet means there were 3 points on offer, but instead they come away with another clean sheet draw, and plenty to learn from.
A Brand New Wyatt Omsberg
Beyond the success of the signings, the Fire’s biggest upgrade has happened internally. In the 2021 season, Omsberg played 754 minutes played in eighteen appearances, and his numbers weren't that great. According to Fbref.com. His tackles won against dribblers was hovering around 28 percent, and his successful pressures were around 22 percent. This season, with just about as many minutes, played in only seven appearances, his tackles won is at a full 75 percent, and his pressures have increased a full ten percentage points as well.
Even if you’re looking at just raw numbers, they’re all up from last season as well. He’s almost doubled the number of players tackled and has surpassed the number of tackles that won possession. Meanwhile, his blocked shot numbers are down from last year, but the Fire are barely allowing many shots in the first place. They’ve allowed more than 20 registered shots only once this season, the game with the red card against Orlando City, and more importantly, only 17 shots on goal in 7 games. They also have the 3rd lowest xG against at 7. Only LAFC and Philadelphia have lower.
Wyatt Omsberg’s improvement is largely the reason the Fire are where they are— why they’re not crumbling into dust due to their ineffective offense. Yes, credit should be given to the new coaching staff, especially CJ Brown as well as Rafael Czichos who has become the team’s leader both by example and vocally. But a player won’t improve without the want to do it, and Omsberg has proven that he wants to do it. It’s paying off.
We knew coming into the season that wing play, especially on the left, was going to be not the best until Jairo Torres was able to join the squad. With a combined total of zero left-wingers and one right-winger (no not that kind) on the roster, the Fire needed to squeeze everything they could out of their one-dimensional attack. Then Fabian Herbers and Xherdan Shaqiri got hurt, and Stanislav Ivanov did not follow through on his first two performances against Miami and Orlando to start the season. What the Fire have been left with then is a whole lot of nothing on the flanks.
Despite coming in late and scoring that one time, Jonathan Bornstein is not a winger. The already slow Fire counter is made even slower with the 37-year-old defensive back out of position, and they don’t have the ability to create from the outside that they would otherwise have. Looking at the Fire’s passing network, there are huge gaps out wide, and everything is coalescing into the middle.
The Fire are easy to stop. Clog the center of the park, and the Fire have no weapons outside to punish, other than Boris Sekulic, who has to be careful going forward. There’s honestly no way to fix this, other than new players coming in or Ivanov all of a sudden deciding to pop off. There are going to be a lot more games exactly like the LA Galaxy game, and we’re just going to have to get used to it.