It's good to get an idea of why things happened in a game and there's no better match to start with then to break down the events that saw the Fire lose 3-0 at Columbus on Saturday.
I asked Fire assistant coach Leo Percovich to give tactical explanations on three specific instances in the match... Below are his answers.
Jeff Crandall: The team started off the game well, carrying possession before Dominic Oduro's 15th minute goal... What was the game plan to open up the match? How did it change after going down 1-0?
Leo Percovich: We knew the Crew would come with high pressure on us because they were at home desperate to get three points. We opted the first 15 minutes to play long balls from the back, fight to get possession in midfield and from there build our attacking plays.
This high pressure would create spaces behind their lines and we would look to exploit that. We created three chances and earned two corner kicks in the first 12 minutes – a great start for a team playing on the road.
The Crew’s first goal was unlucky for us. Two times a rebound came for them, under a bad defensive position from our left side instead of a product of a buildup or good playmaking for Columbus which means our plan was working.
After going down 1-0 we had to keep the same idea and style of play: the whole defensive block was still playing well. Chicago is a team that is characterized by recovery after conceding a goal, the consequence was to keep the style under pressure even with a goal down.
JC: Explain the play the led to Bakary Soumare's sending off... (what went wrong?)
LP: We were attacking from our left side with Dilly Duka who tried to connect a pass to Alex, but Chad Marshall intercepted and cleared away with a lucky ball that caught us off guard.
It deflected off of Jeff Larentowicz’s head, and went over Austin Berry who was tight with Jairo Arrieta at the midfield line. Jalil Anibaba was supporting the attack so he couldn’t cover the ball and Sean Johnson wasn’t far enough up to clear it.
This led to Baky taking the diagonal run and the risk to stop the play, and before Arrieta came into the box, he decided to committed the foul and was sent off.
JC: Talk about the difficulties of playing a man down on the road and what was the thinking behind pushing Larentowicz to center back rather than making a defensive substitution when Soumare exited?
LP: Playing with 10 forced us to stay more compact to fill and close spaces quicker, which demanded an extra effort from every player. The transition needs to be done with more precision because you have only one man as target and the rest of the players need to move forward quick to support him around the ball.
The expulsion came early in the game so we opted to keep the same 10 players, adjust them on a new tactical position and hold to the first half to see how we were doing.
We went from 4-4-2 to 4-4-1 moving Larentowicz from center mid to center back, Alex from right mid to center mid, and Mike Magee from forward to a wide midfielder, leaving just Juan Luis Anangono up top.
Not only did the tactical position need to change but also the attitude and mentality too -- you have to be more focused to attend your man and the space created for your man down.
You still have to believe you are going to find the way to come back and score the goal.