Chicago Fire: First victory reveals defensive mishaps, offensive potential

Chicago Fire’s first victory of the season exposed multiple defensive issues, but unveiled intimidating offensive potential.

In what would go down as one of the craziest games in Major League Soccer history, the Fire took down last year’s Supporters’ Shield winner in a 9-goal thriller. This victory is the perfect confidence builder as Chicago tries to break into the Eastern Conference playoff picture.

Chicago Fire

Jeff Larentowicz

Defensively, Chicago was horrendous. They conceded four goals that could have easily been avoided. They showed weaknesses across the back line, especially in the middle. The defensive triangle formed by MLS veterans Patrick Ianni, Jhon Kennedy Hurtado and Jeff Larentowicz were torched by New York Red Bulls’ attack.

On New York’s second goal, Thierry Henry unmasked Hurtado’s mediocre one-on-one defending after a turnover in the middle of the park. After Chicago failed to recover defensively, the French legend sprinted down the left side, crossing the ball in to a wide-open Bradley Wright-Phillips.

Chicago’s entire defense went missing for Wright-Phillips’ second of the game. A cross was sent into the top of the box for Lloyd Sam, who chested it down for Wright-Phillips. Not for the first time this season, Chicago’s center backs forgot how to defend crosses, as they left the league’s leading goal scorer wide-open to smash in a rifle shot.

The Fire’s biggest issue (communication) was revealed when Hurtado unnecessarily took down Henry inside the box. Failure to communicate stretched Chicago’s defense and Henry took advantage of the wide-open space inside the box. New York’s captain received a long throw-in and put his body between the ball and a recovering Kennedy.

Offensively, Fire players blossomed despite having only approximately 40 percent of possession. After a lethargic first half, Chicago came out firing in the second. The central midfielders played quick and intricate passes and the wide players linked up well with the forwards.

Offensive pressure seems to be the key for Chicago who hasn’t struggled to find the back of the net this season. When they attack in numbers and keep their opposition locked down on the other end of Sean Johnson’s goal, players like Mike Magee are capable of doing damage.

Their pressure on New York’s error prone defense is what led to four goals in the first 19 minutes of the second half. Rookie of the Year front-runner and man of the match, Harrison Shipp, resiliently chased down Red Bulls defenders. On his way to recording a hat trick and an assist, the youngster terrorized Kosuke Kimura and Luis Robles with his deceptive movement and precise finishing.

Magee was a non-factor throughout the game, but Quincy Amarikwa continued his stellar goal scoring form. The forward’s speed and never give up attitude proved to be a burden for New York’s center backs.

The 27-year-old was the catalyst behind Chicago’s comeback. Four minutes into the second half, he energized his teammates after scoring a typical number nine goal. He made a smart run into the box and flicked Larentowicz’s cross past a clueless Robles.

If Chicago is to stand a chance against Eastern Conference leaders, Sporting Kansas City next weekend, the defensive mishaps have to be fixed and offensive pressing has to be developed.

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