After the Fire's Saturday night’s 2-0 home win over the Houston Dynamo, it’s safe to say the situation is starting to look better with every game.
A switch to a single-striker formation has created four goals – including three from the run of play – in the last two weeks. Krzysztof Krol’s emergence at left back has coincided with more than 180 consecutive minutes without allowing a goal.
And two wins are helping the team forget about a 0-2-1 start. It took five weeks into the year, but the Fire may have finally started to turn a corner.
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“Right now we’re starting to come together,” forward Brian McBride said. “We talked plenty of times before about how things still needed to be worked on – and that hasn’t changed – but we definitely have something to build on here. Things are moving forward and that’s a very good sign.”
The Fire registered the victory Saturday night courtesy of a 45th-minute goal from Baggio Husidic and a 67th-minute strike from Peter Lowry.
“I took it and just saw the [Houston defender] come in a little too hard so I cut back and shot it and Baggio did great to follow it up and put it in,” defender Tim Ward said of Husidic’s game winning goal.
But Lowry and Husidic did more than put the ball in the back of the net. The two central midfielders, who are only starting because normal first-teamers Logan Pause and John Thorrington are injured, did well to control the tempo of the match. They played well in possession in the opening 45 minutes and – when Houston put the pressure on after falling behind – they made things difficult for the Dynamo offense.
“First half, we did really well, I thought we controlled the game,” Lowry said of his partnership with Husidic. “Second half, we knew that they were going to be an edgy group and tough to play against, and they brought that fierce competitive edge. It was just a battle for second balls and less about playing and more about winning the dirty tackles and I felt we did that pretty well tonight.”
Another positive for the Fire was the play of outside backs Ward and Krol. Ward, who wasn’t even on the game day roster for last week’s match at D.C., played his best game of the season Saturday night against the Dynamo. Along with Krol, Ward got up the field nicely, hitting numerous crosses and setting up the Fire’s first goal.
“They had great games both of them,” McBride said of Ward and Krol. “I think they caused a lot of problems.”
But things weren’t all positive for the Fire on Saturday night. Krol drew a red card in the 84th minute for a headbutt against Houston forward Luis Ángel Landín, meaning he’ll face a one-game suspension for the team’s May 1 match against Chivas USA at Toyota Park.
“We hope to continue to improve, eliminate a few mistakes from our game and hopefully keep continuing [to get good results],” midfielder Patrick Nyarko said.
Sam Stejskal covers the Chicago Fire for MLSsoccer.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.