Promises left undelivered for Fire
The Fire is an organization that is unafraid to take
They showed that this offseason, making numerous changes to
a squad that finished the 2009 season a shootout short of an appearance in the
MLS Cup Final.
They showed it on Monday, when they released veteran
goalkeeper Jon Busch and promoted 24-year-old Andrew Dykstra to the starter
And they showed it again Saturday night, when Head Coach
Carlos de los Cobos made some surprising lineup decisions for the Fire’s season
opener at the New York Red Bulls.
Perhaps the most surprising decision de los Cobos made
Saturday night was starting natural midfielder Mike Banner at left back ahead
of defender Krzysztof Krol.
Banner was exposed in the 40th minute, when his
failed clearance lead to New York striker Juan Pablo Angel feeding Red Bull midfielder
Joel Lindpere at the top of the box. Lindpere made the Fire pay for Banner’s botched
header, quickly controlling the loose ball before blasting an 18-yard volley
past Dykstra for the only goal of New York’s 1-0 victory at Red Bull Arena.
But the decision to start Banner is far from the only
question de los Cobos will have to face regarding tonight’s defeat. Fire faithful will also be left wondering
what happened to the new, “attractive” brand of attacking soccer they heard so
much about this past offseason.
Little resembling an attractive, possession-based attack was
on display for Chicago on Saturday night, as the squad struggled to create any
real, clear-cut chances. Not helping the
cause was the Fire midfield, who was outplayed by their New York
First teamer John Thorrington missed the match with a quad
injury, but the collective midfield’s play will have to improve should the Fire
continue to be counted amongst the league’s best teams.
Also puzzling was de los Cobos’ decision to sub midfielder
Justin Mapp on for forward Brian McBride while the team was down a goal with
only 10 minutes to play. McBride led
Chicago in scoring in 2009 and his strong aerial presence was missed when
Patrick Nyarko – who replaced McBride at forward – was unable to put away a 79th
minute free header in the box. One can
only wonder what McBride – who was subbed off literally seconds before Baggio
Husidic played Nyarko the ball – would have done with the chance.
Nyarko did play very well in his 90 minutes of playing time,
and was the only Fire attacker that looked dangerous throughout the entire
match. Physical forward Collins John also did well in roughly minutes of action
in the second half, disrupting the New
York defense and creating numerous half-chances for the Fire. It will be interesting to see how John and
McBride – who combined for 20 goals at Fulham during the 2005-2006 English
Premier League season – will play when given a full 90 minutes together.
Despite these few bright spots, it was ultimately a night to
forget for the Fire. The team will
certainly have a lot of work to do – and a lot of questions to answer – before
they travel to Colorado for next week’s game against the Rapids.