Xherdan Shaqiri has been bad.
The expectations coming in to this season were, if not sky high, pretty positive after Shaq was signed during training camp. No one thought the Fire would compete for the Supporter's Shield but we all thought they’d be better than their current record shows. Even when they were playing well, it was their revamped defense that was carrying the load instead of their dynamic Designated Player. The question we all have is: Why? Why has he been so poor? What’s causing the drop off from expectation to reality? And How can it be fixed?
Part of the answer is that, as much as we hate to admit it, MLS takes some adjusting. Shaq hasn’t played in a league as physical as MLS since he played in England, and even then. when playing for a team like Liverpool, there’s so much skill on the squad that he was not the focus of the defense, allowing him to dodge the gritty tackles for the most plat. He’s never been the focus of defensive schemes like this before, and he’s not sure how to deal with it.
The other problem is that he’s not developing a rapport with his players fast enough. At times, he looks unsure about what his teammates are doing around him, causing him to play slower and think more than the short amount of time he has on the ball allows. He’s thinking too much instead of just playing, and it’s costing the club precious seconds and causing promising attacks to fizzle out.
Both of these problems can only be solved with time and effort on the training pitch. Our best hope is that everything comes together before they run out of time. But because it’s MLS, time is the one thing they have plenty of, for now. When it does eventually happen, it’s going to be glorious to watch. Until then it’s just painful.
Chicago Fire away MLS record vs New York Red Bulls: 13W-3D-13L, 1-0 on OT 45 GF / 50 GA, 36 pts out of 93
Since the Fire last saw the Red Bulls two weeks ago, they’ve had a pair of 1-1 draws in the league against Portland and Philly and a win in the Open Cup against DC United. They do, however, have a red card suspension to deal with, as Dylan Nealis got sent off during their game against the Union and will be out against the Fire.
I’ve said for several weeks now that Shaqiri is better on the wing and the Fire should play him there. They will not, but this is what that would look like if they did. Mueller goes off to the left and Torres would come in the middle. Jhon Duran starts up top for Kacper Przybylko who probably is still too injured to make the trip, considering he wasn’t even on the bench this weekend. Miguel Navarro is off yellow card suspension and back in the lineup and Pineda should be in because of squad rotation.
Keys To The Match
Beat the Press: The New York Red Bulls like to pressure the ball, and have for over a decade. There are no secrets here. The Fire need to break the Red Bull lines, and they need to do it quickly. the new wingers should help in this regard, as we’ve already seen Meuller get in behind defenses already. But the center backs need to be willing to bypass the midfield and boot the ball downfield to see what happens. Don’t expect a big game from Shaqiri, but expect greatness in the moments he’s involved.
Don’t Play Out of the Back: The issues the Fire have trying to build attacks out of the defense have been apparent for the last month. The two goals given up last weekend were caused by miscommunication while trying to start the attack from the back rather than just clearing lines and trying to intercept a pass downfield. New York love to punish indecisive and sloppy sides, so instead of trying to play pretty possession football, the Fire should ugly this game up. Boot the ball downfield and play route one Mid 200’s Stoke City football. Not only will that help beat the Red Bull press, but it will give their impact players more 1v1’s and odd man situations of which they can take advantage.
How To Watch
Streaming: CFFC Live/ESPN+ (Out of Market)
This could be when the Fire finally start to stabilize and turn the corner, The Red Bulls have also been very bad at home this season. Fire 2 Red Bulls 1.