The Fire suffered a heavy defeat last weekend in Los Angles and are looking to rebound in the best possible way in the team’s home opener against New England on Saturday evening. The Revs have yet to play a game and will hope to shake off the rust and try and spoil the Fire’s first game at home in 2013. Here are some tactical things to look out for:
Handling Bengtson – how will the Fire’s defense contain the target striker?
In last weekend’s loss to LA, the Fire’s defense couldn’t contain Robbie Keane whose movement led to all sorts of problems for the team. Against New England, the defense will face a much different type of striker in Jerry Bengtson, a giant target forward who will likely play up front on his own.
New England have a host of attacking midfielders/wingers that will be looking for layoffs and knockdowns from Bengtson and the Fire’s defense will need to try and stop the Honduran from linking with his teammates.
LA were able to stop Maicon Santos and Shejill MacDonald from holding the ball up at the Home Depot Center last week and if the Fire’s defense can mimic LA’s, the Rev’s could be in a for a long night.
Who plays behind Bengtson? A wealth of attacking options for the Revs
Because New England did not play last week, the Fire will have less of an idea about who will be playing in the attacking positions behind Bengtson on Saturday night.
Though the Rev’s have lost Benny Feilhaber, they still have many options for the second striker/wide midfield roles. Any combination of Chad Barrett, Andy Dorman, Juan Toja, Ryan Guy and Lee Nguyen could play against the Fire and all five offer something different.
The defense as a unit will be looking for a much improved performance and with Logan Pause and Arne Friedrich’s return unlikely, Saturday gives the back four a chance to redeem themselves against New England.
On the outside, Gonzalo Segares and Jalil Anibaba were caught out a few times with balls in behind them last Sunday and must be aware of players like Nguyen and Toja who look to do that on a regular basis.
Dilly Duka and Patrick Nyarko did a good job tracking back and helping the outside defenders but the emphasis will be on Sega and Anibaba to get forward and put in crosses as every opportunity.
Creating more chances – possession and set pieces
The Fire showed some rust last Sunday, giving the ball away on numerous occasions and completing over 100 less passes than LA with the Men in Red’s pass accuracy at only 74%. Large improvements in that department are certainly needed but the team will also be looking to get more set pieces in the attacking third.
The Fire’s first (of only two) corner kicks didn’t occur until the 60th minute in LA and it almost resulted in a goal for Anibaba after a brilliant cross by Lindpere.
As I mentioned last week, Lindpere’s excellent deliveries from corners and free kicks will create many changes for the team this season. Last week LA started a new goalkeeper and this week, New England may start a new acquisition in the defense Jose Goncalves. The Portuguese newcomer is an experienced defender but as we saw last week, putting balls into a place where it forces the goalkeeper and defender to communicate and make a decision can lead to a mistake and a Fire opportunity.
The Fire only had one shot on target last week but also had some other excellent chances to score, most notably Rolfe’s scuffed shot after the Cudicini mistake and Maicon’s header just wide of the post. Klopas and co. will be looking for the Fire attackers to test Matt Reis as much as possible.
Prediction: 2-0 Fire with goals from MacDonald and Lindpere
Stephen Piggott is a contributor to Chicago-Fire.com. Follow him on Twitter @irish_steve.