Welcome to the Analyst’s Corner where I take a look at the previous matches and find some things to talk about.
We Need to Talk About Boris Sekulic
It’s no secret that for the last several games, opponents have been attacking the Fire on their right more than their left. Some of that has to do with the injury to Wyatt Omsberg and the desire to play away from Rafael Czichos. But Carlos Teran, for the most part, has stepped into Omsberg’s spot well and has gotten more comfortable as the games go by. However, a lot of the reason teams see that as the Fire’s weakest side, despite Miguel Navarro being out for the better part of 3 weeks is the play of Boris Sekulic and his propensity for being caught upfield.
We should start this by concerning that Sekulic is a good asset to have in the attack. His overlapping runs are intelligent and good enough to create space for the winger on the ball and his crossing ability ranges from fine to pretty great. Not having him push forward would be wasting a resource that the Fire can’t afford to waste. We can’t complain about finishing if there’s no chance creation, after all.
The real problem comes from the fact that after an attacking movement, he doesn’t hustle back to his position. There were plenty of times against both San Jose and Philadelphia where Gaston Gimenez had to cover him for multiple minutes as he worked his way back into position. You could see Ezra Hendrickson visibly upset with him on the sideline, waving at him and screaming for him to get back.
The lack of awareness or whatever is going on with Sekulic is getting to be unsustainable. At some point, you’re going to need to make a decision regarding him in the right back spot if he doesn’t get more disciplined. I don’t think Jhan Espinoza is the long-term solution, as he has similar issues to Sekulic defensively and is worse going forward. I think there’s going to be a new right back in 2023, but unfortunately in 2022, it probably just is what it is.
Kacper Przybylko Did Nothing Wrong... But Should Probably Be Benched Anyway
The most frustrating thing in the world of soccer/football is a striker who does everything right except for scoring goals. And that’s what the Fire have in Kacper Przybylko. If you only see the buildup play, you’d think that the Fire’s line leader was having a great season. His hold-up play and link-up play with his midfielders has been excellent. His passing has been good too. However, the fact that he’s not finishing makes almost all of that irrelevant.
This isn’t just a Kacper issue. If others around him were scoring goals, his lack of finishing would be mitigated by his facilitating. But they aren’t. So it’s not.
I’m not sure if removing him from the lineup would make things better or worse. We know from earlier in the season that their options off the bench, Chinonso Offor and Jhon Duran, are capable of scoring. We also know that the Fire create fewer chances when he’s not on the field. But the fact of the matter is he’s not scoring. A chance not finished is the same as a chance not created on the scoresheet, so if there’s someone on the bench who can convert, despite creating fewer chances, they should be playing instead.
Brian Gutierrez Needs More Minutes.
I don’t particularly care that Xherdan Shaqiri is the highest-paid player in the league, or that he wears the 10 shirt. The fact of the matter is the team is better when Gutierrez is on the pitch than when he’s not. Their consolation goal came at Guti’s feet, his first goal in MLS. He has a better connection with Mueller, Herbers, and Ivanov. Even when he’s playing with Shaq, the game just looks and feels smoother with him in it. Whether they stick Shaq on the wing, play Guti out of position, or not play Shaqiri at all, Brian Gutierrez needs to be on the field for the majority of games.