Last Saturday’s injury time loss to RSL prolonged the Fire’s misery for another week as the team continues to search for their first win on the season. It doesn’t get any easier this weekend, when the Men in Red travel to Red Bull Arena to face New York on Saturday evening (5:30pm CT on My50/TWCSC). The Red Bulls have yet to really hit the ground running the season and will be looking to repeat the drubbing of the Fire in the last regular season game of 2013.
Here are some tactical observations to look out for on Saturday evening.
A potential shakeup in the back? A return for Segares likely but other changes possible
Frank Yallop didn’t have positive things to say about his team’s defending for the last 20+ minutes against RSL as and I expect him to make one or more changes to the back four for Saturday’s game. With Gonzalo Segares making the 18 last Saturday, one potential switch is at left back in place of Greg Cochrane.
Cochrane’s attacking ability has been a highlight during his stint in the starting eleven but he was caught out defensively on more than one occasion during the last 20 minutes against RSL. From a purely tactical perspective, the return of Segares would boost the Fire’s aerial defending prowess, especially against threats such as Tim Cahill.
A few weeks ago, Frank Yallop spoke about the need to get Patrick Ianni game time with both Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Bakary Soumare in the team’s reserve game vs. Charlotte, in the case he may need to be utilized in a future match.
Some of the mental mistakes made by Soumare last season have crept back into his play of late and this could result in Ianni getting a run Saturday vs. Red Bull. a
New York have scored the most goals in the East this season and the Fire cannot afford to make any more mental mistakes especially against a team boasting the Conference’s top goal scorer in Bradley Wright-Phillips and Thierry Henry, the Fire’s arch nemesis over the past few seasons.
What to do up front? – Will Amarikwa or Anangono partner Magee up front?
In a game where it was imperative that he put in a solid performance, Juan Luis Anangono gave a good shift against RSL last week, picking up a goal and linking well at times with Mike Magee. His competition for a starting spot on Saturday evening is the returning top goal scorer Quincy Amarikwa who missed the match due to red card suspension.
Tactically, there are arguments to be made for both players to get the nod. Amarikwa’s constant high pressure on the opposition’s backline would be welcome against a New York team who continue to be weak defensively in the wide areas.
Quincy is also the more ideal player to have in 1v1 situations, especially if the Fire can get him against one of the Red Bull center backs. In the middle, Jamison Olave has lost a step of pace from his days in Salt Lake and his partner Armando has yet to settle fully into MLS.
Anangono’s size is an important factor to consider, both in the attack, and defensively where he would be useful for set pieces. It is also important for the Fire to start being smarter in possession, especially holding the ball up in the attack.
Anangono has been a mixed bag in this regard so far this season but if he is given his second start in a row, I expect to see an emphasis on this tactic on Saturday night.
Monitoring Lloyd Sam – Stepping out and pressuring the Red Bull winger
Just looking at Lloyd Sam’s four assists this season gives you a good indication into the threat the Englishman poses. From his wide right position, Sam’s crossing is extremely accurate. Not only does he put himself into good wide positions, his ability to still put in a cross while under pressure from a defender makes him even more dangerous. Another problem with the Fire’s late game collapse last week was the lack of urgency by the team’s outside midfielders and defenders to close down the RSL wide players resulting in free crosses.
In Saturday’s game, the Fire must not allow Sam to get similar amounts of space granted to RSL. Stifling Sam will also cut the supply to Wright-Phillips and Henry.
Prediction: If I predict we will win, the team will end up with a tie so I’m going with a 2-2 tie with goals from Quincy Amarikwa and Benji Joya.
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @Irish_Steve.
WATCH: The Centerback