Chicago Fire at New England Revolution
Saturday June 2, 2012 (6:30 pm)
Last weekend I was more than a little bit worried that the match against Columbus was not going to end well for Chicago. Unfortunately, I was right. Chicago has been consistently inconsistent to such a degree that their record has become oddly balanced (excluding the US Open Cup failure on Tuesday). The Fire’s form over the last five matches, T-W-L-W-L, is just part of the see-saw season they’ve strung together thus far, and their home/away results are a near mirror image, 3-1-2 at home and 2-3-1 on the road. It’s irksome.
I mentioned last week over at Total MLS, that the Fire’s weaknesses can be pin-pointed. They have been woeful defending set pieces and have seemingly always been behind this season. Updating the states shows us that Chicago has allowed the opening goal nine times this season, which ties the wretched Toronto FC for the most games conceded first in MLS. This is a major problem. Chicago haven’t kept a clean sheet since May 9th which was only the second of the season, the first being against Philadelphia on March 24th.
Still, the Fire have come back to win or draw in most of the contests where they’ve conceded the early lead but how much longer are we going to rely on that strategy? The concede-and-come-from-behind mentality should not be a tactical foundation; 2-1 score lines are quickly taking the place of last year’s plague of draws. Forgive the pun but we’re going to get burnt.
May was a month packed with matches (7) with emotionally draining face-offs with rivals FC Dallas and Columbus. Facing the New England Revolution will be a hard-nosed affair. Neither team likes the other; both will demand a win after embarrassing US Open Cup loses. What hope there might be will rest on whether or not Chicago has enough fuel left in the tank. Or will the knocks take by several players and grueling running of matches leave them lackluster on the pitch. As for New England, the Revolution has suffered losses all over on the road. Coming home will be a welcome relief for them and will make it that much more difficult for the Fire.
If Chicago hopes to get anything out of the match, Austin Berry and Jalil Anibaba will have to stifle Saer Sène. Sene has scored in three consecutive league games, four in the last five. His May was quite a good month: five goals and one assist in six games. Sene has given the Revs attack some serious respectability which had been lacking for the last couple of seasons.
Sebastian Grazzini should be back on, fully rested, and expect him to play the full match. Forward Dominic Oduro, although uninspiring against Michigan Tuesday, looks to be over his hamstring tweak should be jazzed to go all out in Foxboro. Manager Frank Klopas held Patrick Nyarko out of the game against Michigan partly due to some lingering hurt the player is dealing with. Nyarko is not injured but he has been receiving pain shots for just over a week to treat a string of ailments in the hip, hamstring, and ribs.
When Nyarko is on the field, Chicago is a better, more dangerous squad so look for him to start. Things will get physical with the Revolution and he’ll be enduring the artificial turf of Gillette Stadium, thus I wouldn’t expect him to go the full 90. But the person who may come on for Nyarko could really spark the team; Chris Rolfe is match fit. All Fire supporters will be waiting with bated-breath for Rolfe to come on from the bench Saturday night. Let’s hope it happens.
Finally, we need to take a moment and cool down after Tuesday’s loss. The fallout from this US Open Cup defeat has left many and most supporters enraged. A lot of this fuming has been channeled towards complaining about the field. It’s a legit argument…but one that should have taken place the week before when Chicago learned they were going there. To complain about the field after a loss like this is a cop-out, it’s a way to deflect from the real issues that lead to the loss.
One of those real issues is Rafael Robayo. The consensus seems to be that Robayo is a bust of a signing. I’m sure there are still those who think he can still contribute and therefore deserves a place on the squad. I’m not one of them. Robayo came to the Fire as a merc player, looking to raise his profile and move on. He’s done that but not in the way he would’ve liked. But to give Robayo the benefit of the doubt, I’ll say that he just isn’t a good fit with Chicago.
Maybe he’d work out well with Chivas USA (I could live with a trade of him for Casey Townsend) or Colorado (they need a Mastroeni understudy) or Philadelphia (again, a trade for Mwanga? Maybe give them some allocation cash as well). He just isn’t going to play well here unless his attitude and his pitch presence changes greatly before the arrival of Brazilian Alex Monteiro de Lima (or simply “Alex”), who will arrive on June 27th. Look for Alex to be an occasional forward and regular understudy for Sebastian Grazzini (this could also light a fire under Frederico Puppo). And while all this might be speculative, keep in mind that Alex’s signing will max out the squad’s 30-man roster and fill-up their international slots. Maybe if Chicago wants to make some more moves this summer they’ll need to trim the fat.
Written by: Daniel Casey